AUGUSTA — The state Senate on Tuesday sustained three of Gov. Paul LePage’s vetoes, including a bill that would have created energy efficiency standards for projects that receive state funding. 

Each veto was sustained largely on party-line votes. 

The efficiency bill, LD 1264, passed the Legislature with unanimous votes in both chambers last year but was held by the governor until this year. LePage vetoed the bill last week, arguing that the proposal would mandate higher costs and give rule-making authority to Efficiency Maine, a quasi-public body.

Sen. Phil Bartlett, D-Gorham, the bill’s sponsor, argued that the bill was designed to give government entities, such as school districts, access to financing that would lead to efficient public buildings. The bill also encouraged the use of so-called load management, a mechanism in which high energy users use electricity when it’s least expensive. 

However, LePage said the bill would cause government entities to consider a number of “expensive management policies without clear definitions or short-term cost impacts.”

The governor also took issue with what he viewed as a mandate for load-management to be incorporated in public buildings.

“If it makes long-term financial sense for a new building project to incorporate load management into the design, then it will be included in the design,” LePage said. 

Bartlett argued that the state Bureau of General Services is already required to develop rules around energy efficiency and that his bill would only add load management in the design process for consideration.

“The bill does not require any government entity to include load management in the final design,” Bartlett said. 

He said the rule-making portion of the bill was consistent with current laws at the Bureau of General Services, an executive branch agency. He said the only change was that instead of consulting with the Public Utilities Commission, the bureau would consult with the Efficiency Maine Trust. He described the change as “a housekeeping matter.”

LePage also opposed what he viewed as the bill’s lack of oversight, from the Bureau of General Services to the Efficiency Maine Trust.   

“Giving away that responsibility to the Efficiency Maine Trust places an additional barrier between the people of Maine and the laws they have to live by, something I simply cannot support,” the governor said.

Bartlett countered that the bill only mandated the bureau to consult with Efficiency Maine. 

Despite the bill’s unanimous support last year, Sen. Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, thanked the governor’s office for spotting what Thibodeau described as a new mandate.

The Senate also sustained the governor’s vetoes on a bill that would have provided an income tax credit for logging companies that hire Maine residents. Another proposal would have provided a sales-tax exemption for nonprofit performing arts organizations. 

The vetoes are expected to be taken up Wednesday by the House where they will likely be sustained. 

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