PUC Regulatory Reform in Maine: Putting the ‘Action’ in Climate Action Plan
Reforming Maine’s PUC is a key step to meeting the state’s climate goals
On December 1, 2020, the Maine Climate Council launched “Maine Won’t Wait, A Four-Year Plan for Climate Action,” which outlines an ambitious set of pathways for Maine to meet is climate requirements and make significant cuts in economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The legislature, governor, and state agencies are now turning the Plan’s priorities and strategies into action. A key step will be to ensure that the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is well-positioned to help the state meet its climate goals.
One significant barrier to implementing pathways laid out in the Climate Action Plan is the fact that Maine has not explicitly empowered key agencies that impact carbon emissions – including the PUC – to prioritize climate and equity in their decision-making. Today, the PUC is limited by its mandate to reduce the costs of energy, ensure reliability, and guarantee utilities the opportunity to earn a profit on their business. The PUC cannot regulate utilities in alignment with state climate targets or make decisions that prioritize reducing greenhouse gases.
The decisions that Maine’s PUC makes over the next few years will determine the type of energy infrastructure that gets built over the next few decades. Those decisions will play a significant role in determining whether the state meets its 2030, 2040, and 2050 climate targets. Maine’s PUC must prioritize climate and equity in its decision-making today and must stop making decisions that are inconsistent with Maine’s climate goals. The PUC should be more empowered to support a rapid transition to clean energy resources and to move away from default approvals for fossil fuel investments. By reforming the PUC’s enabling statute, legislators can give the PUC the tools to effectively carry out the Plan’s vision and strengthen its role as a key partner in support of Maine’s climate goals.
An Act to Require the Public Utilities Commission to Consider Climate Change and Equity in its Decision-Making
The Act to Require Consideration of Climate and Equity Impacts by the Public Utilities Commission (LD 1682) will reform the PUC’s mandate to require it to consider greenhouse gas reductions and compliance with Maine’s climate statute, alongside equity and environmental justice, in its decision-making. Aligning the PUC mandate with Maine’s push for dramatic emission reductions will enable consideration of the full costs of energy investments in all decisions and require the PUC to minimize climate impacts. This will allow utility regulators to make decisions that support greenhouse gas reductions and that appropriately value climate justice issues, societal health impacts, job creation, reliability, and other quantifiable benefits. This screen will minimize long-term costs to ratepayers from climate and other impacts that now fall outside the scope of the PUC’s responsibility in just keeping the cost of energy low. By prioritizing climate, equity, and environmental justice, Maine’s PUC will be better positioned to act on climate and meet the goals of the Climate Action Plan.
For more information:
Jeff Marks, Maine State Director, email@example.com, 207.236.6470 ext. 304
Oliver Tully, Policy Strategist, firstname.lastname@example.org, 860.246.7121 ext.202