AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler rolled out a plan Tuesday to encourage renewable energy generation, cut carbon dioxide emissions and provide financial support to projects that can help lower homeowners' energy costs.
Cutler, who's seeking to unseat Republican Gov. Paul LePage in November, pledged that if elected he would implement an energy policy focusing on the future by creating incentives for the development of onshore and offshore wind, solar power and others renewable sources.
"One of the big problems with Gov. LePage is that his investment horizon and his sense of obligation to the state of Maine extend only so far as his term in office," Cutler told The Associated Press.
Cutler said LePage's criticism of wind and solar power for its high costs was unwise.
"If we simply develop or make investments according to what it is cheap today, we are not going have in place the energy generation resources that we need tomorrow," he said.
Cutler's energy and environmental plan also calls for an overhaul of Maine's Department of Environmental Protection and to modernize an "often-cumbersome review process" for energy infrastructure. He vowed to help Maine municipalities to rebuild or replace aging sewer systems and to implement regulations that will permit mining in the state while protecting the environment.
Cutler also called for the creation of the Maine Energy Finance Authority, which would offer capital for energy projects that aim to reduce energy costs for businesses and homeowners. Among other things, that could encourage companies to expand natural gas pipelines into more regions of the state, lowering energy costs and attracting new companies, he said.
Energy has become one of the key issues in the three-person race for the Blaine House between LePage, Cutler and Democratic candidate Mike Michaud.
U.S. Rep. Michaud touted his energy ideas last month, like cutting the state's dependence on heating oil in half by 2030 by implementing mandatory energy efficiency ratings for new homes and boosting the state's use of renewable energy resources.
His campaign said Tuesday that Michaud is the only candidate in the race with the "necessary experience and proven track record of bringing people together from all parties and backgrounds to implement common-sense policies that protect our environment and invest in clean, renewable energy."
Since taking office in 2011, LePage has pushed to expand natural gas infrastructure in the state and promoted policies to help reduce utility bills, like a measure he sponsored this session that would offer financial help for Mainers to install heat pumps. The proposal was defeated in the Democratic-led Legislature.
Meanwhile, LePage has blasted environmental groups and Democratic lawmakers for encouraging wind and solar policies that would be subsidized by hiking utility rates.
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