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Politics

LePage’s Energy Chief Stepping Down

Gov. Paul LePage's energy director is stepping down. The LePage administration announced today that Patrick Woodcock will leave the position effective Dec. 9.

 

A statement released by the administration described Woodcock's departure from the governor's energy office as a transition, but officials later confirmed that Woodcock is not moving to a new position in the administration, he's leaving it altogether.

 

"Patrick Woodcock has done an outstanding job, not just for the state of Maine, but also for the New England region," LePage said in a statement. "He has been at the forefront of discussion on how to lower energy for the Maine people and the people of New England. ... Although his departure is a sad day for our administration, we are proud of the job he has done for Maine, and we wish him well in his future endeavors."

 

Woodcock began overseeing the Governor's Energy Office in early 2013. He joined the LePage administration after nearly seven years working for former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe. He was Snowe's senior energy advisor on energy and environmental issues from 2005 until he joined LePage's team.

 

Since joining the LePage administration, Woodcock has sought to implement the governor's goal of expanding natural gas capacity in the state and cutting prices for ratepayers. That role has often put him at odds with the state's environmental groups, as well as renewable energy advocates.

 

Woodcock also played a role in helping the administration negotiate the 2013 omnibus energy bill that sought to increase natural gas pipeline capacity while also bolstering efficiency programs. Woodcock said the administration's work with efficiency including the increased use of heat pumps was among its biggest achievements during his four-year tenure.

 

Despite those gains, Woodcock expressed some frustration with the political divide in Augusta and his inability to bring about more change.

 

"I've worked in this position for four years. I think we've made a lot of progress as a state. You also kind of recognize when it's time for somebody else who might be more effective at moving things forward," he said.

 

He also lamented the sway interest groups have over state lawmakers, adding that the high stakes of energy policy can often produce gridlock. "It has been a very divisive political situation and there has been collateral damage from moving constructive policy forward with the situation in Augusta."

 

One of the LePage administration's key energy goals is to increase natural gas capacity. Woodcock said the state is poised to do that and work with its New England neighbors. However, that effort has also stalled amid successful legal challenges to infrastructure upgrades financed by ratepayers.

 

Woodcock said he does not have any immediate plans for his next job. However, he said he hopes to stay in the energy sector.