Currently showing posts tagged University of Maine

  • New National Offshore Wind Strategy to Drive Deployment Great for Maine

    by Ramona du Houx

    In Sepyember, 2016 U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the publication of a collaborative strategic plan to continue accelerating the development of offshore wind energy in the United States, the National Offshore Wind Strategy: Facilitating the Development of the Offshore Wind Industry in the United States,which could help enable 86 gigawatts of offshore wind in the United States by 2050. The strategy details the current state of offshore wind in the United States, presents the actions and innovations needed to reduce deployment costs and timelines, and provides a roadmap to support the growth and success of the industry.

     This new wind energy strategy is a part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan that will create American jobs and cut carbon pollution by developing America's clean energy resources.

    The strategy builds on DOE and DOI’s first joint offshore wind strategy, published in 2011. Since then, the Energy Department has allocated nearly $200 million to support three cutting-edge offshore wind demonstration projects led by the University of Maine, New Jersey’s Fishermen’s Energy, and Ohio’s Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation, and research and development investments in technologies that specifically address the opportunities and challenges across U.S. waters.

    “This Administration has made significant investments in clean energy technologies, supporting a diversified energy portfolio to help meet our Climate Action Plan goal of permitting 20,000 MW of renewable electricity generation on public lands and waters by 2020,” said Secretary Jewell. “Thanks to involvement by partners at all levels of government, community stakeholders, tribes and the public, we've been able to stand up the first federal offshore wind energy program in the history of the U.S. and we are confident the strategy we're outlining today will chart a course for additional investment in clean energy technologies that can help power America's future.”

    Since 2010, the Department of the Interior has issued 11 commercial leases for offshore wind development, nine of which generated approximately $16 million through competitive lease sales and covered more than one million acres of federal waters.

    “Offshore wind has experienced enormous progress during the Obama administration. The first offshore wind farm has now finished construction, and we have gone from zero offshore wind areas leased before this administration to eleven areas that total the size of Rhode Island,” said Energy Secretary Moniz. “Today’s collaborative strategic plan is part of a long-term commitment to support innovation that enables widespread offshore wind deployment and shows how offshore wind will benefit our country with new jobs, less pollution, and a more diversified electricity mix.”

    The National Offshore Wind Strategy identifies key challenges facing the industry and more than 30 specific actions that DOE and DOI can take over the next five years to address those challenges.

    These actions fall into three strategic areas:

    1. Reducing technical costs and risks. DOI proposes the joint development of standard data collection guidelines to foster predictability and inform safe project development  and DOE will work to increase annual energy production and reliability of offshore wind plants.
    2. Supporting effective stewardship. DOI commits to numerous actions to ensure that the regulatory process is predictable, transparent, efficient and informed by lessons learned from regulators in other countries. Additionally, as the first generation of installed projects come online, DOI and DOE will collect field data on parts of offshore development including impacts on marine life and turbine radar interference in order to support future offshore wind siting and plan reviews.
    3. Improving the market conditions for investment in offshore wind energy. Studies are needed help quantify the broad grid integration impacts of adding significant amounts of offshore wind energy to the power system. Such information could significantly benefit the offshore wind community by informing state policies critical to supporting development.

    DOE has found that developing 86,000 MW of these offshore wind energy resources by 2050 would support 160,000 jobs, reduce power sector water consumption by 5 percent, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.8 percent.

  • Free Poetry Festival at UMA with inaugural poet Richard Blanco

    Friday, April 8, 2016 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
    Saturday, April 9, 2016 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    Location: University of Maine at Augusta, 46 University Drive, Augusta, Maine

    The University of Maine at Augusta will hold its 14th annual Terry Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival 5-9 p.m. Friday, April 8, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, April 9, on the university’s Augusta campus, 46 University Drive. Keynote speaker will be poet Richard Blanco, who read at U.S. President Obama’s second inauguration.

    Blanco is the fifth inaugural poet in U.S. history; he is the youngest, first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role. Born in Madrid to Cuban exiled parents and raised in Miami, the negotiation of cultural identity and place characterize his body of work.

    Blanco’s many honors include the Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize, the Beyond Margins Award from the PEN American Center, the Paterson Poetry Prize, a Lambda Literary Award, and two Maine Literary Awards. He has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning and NPR’s Fresh Air. He has been a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow and received honorary doctorates from Macalester College, Colby College and the University of Rhode Island. He has continued to write occasional poems for organizations and events. He currently shares his time between Bethel and Boston.

    Festival activities will include a performance by Brio (formerly members of Improvox), local student poetry award announcements (both high school and college level), a panel discussion about Richard Blanco’s poetry, memoir and integrated themes, readings by local poets and students, as well as a musical performance by UMA Jazz Students.

    The Terry Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival, held in April each year to honor the memory of Terry Plunkett, a former English professor at UMA, encompasses diverse Maine voices young and old, emerging writers and those who are well published. The festival is free and open to the public.

    For more information:

  • Locally grown food for UMaine campuses offers sustainable food path and helps farmers

    Photos and article by Ramona du Houx

    The “Maine Food for the UMaine System” coalition released its recommendations to the University of Maine System for its upcoming food contract, backed by more than 150 Maine producers, 50 individuals and organizations, and 1,500 students and University of Maine System community members. 

    The number of Maine farms has increased to 8,174, up from 7,196 in 2002. This growth coincides with renewed consumer interest in locally grown foods.

    “Maine’s local foods economy has grown in leaps and bounds over the last decade, which was the last time the University of Maine System signed a food contract.” said John Piotti, President of Maine Farmland Trust. “The University of Maine System has a tremendous opportunity in its upcoming food contract to take advantage of, and further catalyze, Maine’s local foods movement.”

    As restaurant tours and cooking classes increase, accross the state so has the demand for locally grown food, and serving the UMaine system would be a natural fit for many farmers. Most of the problem for a farmer is getting their goods to markets far away. WIth the UMaine system spread out accorss the state, there will be more opportunities for local farmers.

    The University of Maine System (UMS) will put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a new food service vendor contract this coming month, and will accept proposals from Vendors in late 2015. UMS’s current contract, which will come to a close at the end of the 2015-16 academic year, was a ten-year, $12.5 million annual contract with the food service corporation Aramark. The current contract is for to all of the campuses except for the main campus in Orono, which operates its own food service.  

    “Up here in Aroostook, there are a number of farmers like myself who are ready to go on selling to the University,” explained Sam Blackstone, a fourteenth-generation farmer from Caribou whose family began farming in England in the early 1600s. “If the University System made a commitment to spending some of its food dollars locally, and partnering with farmers like myself, that could be a gamechanger.”

    Locally grown food has become more accessable and desirable. Approximately 100 Maine farms that will participated in Open Farm Day in July and 58 percent of tourists  cited food and/or beverages as a reason for staying overnight in Maine, according to a 2014 Maine Office of Tourism.

    The recommendations by the “Maine Food for the UMaine System” coalition, submitted to the UMS Office of Strategic Procurement and the Food Service Request for Proposal Committee, set four high-priority recommendations: a quantitative commitment to 20 percent Maine Food and 20 percent ‘Real Food’ by 2020; the establishment of a UMS Food Working Group; transparent tracking and metrics; and a commitment to a supply chain partnership with Maine producers. The recommendations also detail suggestions for sustainability expectations, equity and diversity, menu planning, and education and marketing.

    “The Maine Food for the UMaine System recommendations reflect a shared vision for what Maine’s public university system can achieve,” said Riley Neugebauer, Farm to College Coordinator with Farm to Institution New England.  

    More than 1,500 students, faculty and community members of the University of Maine System across six campuses have supported the Maine Food for the UMaine System effort.

     “Students across the University of Maine System want to know where our food comes from. Local, regional and ‘Real Food’ offer great value to students, chefs, faculty and community members. We want to be proud of the University System supporting Maine farmers and purchasing food that’s grown and produced in a just, fair, sustainable way," said Bobbi-Jo Oatway, a junior at the University of Maine Presque Isle.

      “Maine’s local foods movement is a bright spot in our economy, and more and more young people are choosing farming as a viable career. The University of Maine System has a pivotal role to play in shaping the future of Maine’s farms and fisheries, and we can make a big difference by being smart and strategic about shifting our purchasing policies,” said Mark Lapping, Professor and former Provost of the University of Southern Maine, who served as the Principal Investigator of the Maine Food Strategy.  

    More than 150 Maine producers also signed onto a letter of support that encouraged the University of Maine System to adopt Maine purchasing goals and to involve and communicate more directly with producers each year.

    Mary Margaret and Gene Ripley are first-generation, organic farmers from Dover-Foxcroft who signed the letter.  Mary explained that the University of Maine has an opportunity to help shape markets through a commitment to local food.

    “For farms like Ripley Farm, the University of Maine making a commitment to supporting Maine farmers would give us the confidence to make investments on scaling up our operations,” said Ripley, “Our farm is right on the cusp of being able to supply institutions, and we’d be thrilled to provide food for Maine students.”  

    “The University of Maine System should reflect and contribute to our state’s strengths,” concluded Sam Birch, a rising junior at the University of Maine Farmington. “This is a win-win-win opportunity for Maine’s farmers, the University System, and students.”

    Maine Food for the UMaine System is a coalition made up of organizations and individuals who are working to build a stronger and more sustainable, fair and resilient food system in Maine. The steering committee organizations are Farm to Institution New England, Maine Farmland Trust, Real Food Challenge, and Environment Maine.


  • Ramona du Houx: No more tax shifts

    Ramona du Houx
    Columns & Analysis | 
    Sunday, February 1, 2015

    Cutting taxes, most everyone would agree, could be a great idea. But how do you go about it without placing more of burden on the middle class?

    Not with Gov. Paul LePage’s plan.

    While LePage is trying to tackle the issue, his plan is focused on benefiting the top 2 percent. With his proposal those earning $50,000 to $175,000 will be taxed at the highest tax rate. And those earning about $10,000 to $50,000 would pay the same tax rate as the top 2 percent.

    So a schoolteacher earning $26,000 will pay the same rate as a successful investment banker who would get a 2.2 percentage-point cut to his tax rate. With the elimination of the estate tax, the top 2 percent will see a boon.

    LePage already cut the tax rate for the wealthiest. This is the second round and, again, the middle class will carry the burden. But then he plans to stop sending funding to municipalities for essential services. This cost-shifting will end up, as it has been, in property tax increases.

    When LePage was Waterville’s mayor, he ranted against any mention of cutting revenue sharing. Oh, the costs that shifting circumstances have on some politicians.

    What will hurt people daily is the sales tax increase to 6.5 percent. While I love going to the movies, I do not relish paying an expanded sales tax for my ticket. People will have to pay sales tax to have their hair done, go to a concert or visit a museum. Just to get the snow removed, hire an accountant or lawyer, or get a tow to the mechanic will cost people that sales tax increase.

    That tax plan is backward.

    Back in 2009, then-Gov. John Baldacci and Democratic lawmakers came up with a similar plan. The big difference was that the plan did not stop revenue sharing, increase property taxes or cut back on essential services. Yet it cut taxes for all tax-paying citizens, eliminating them for the less fortunate.

    But real tax relief for all never happened, as the right wing ad factory led the public to believe they would be paying a lot more because of sales taxes.

    A recent analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy evaluated the local tax burden in every state. According to the study, in 2015, the poorest fifth of Americans will pay on average 10.9 percent of their income in state and local taxes; the middle fifth will pay 9.4 percent; and the top 1 percent will average 5.4 percent.

    From the report: “States and localities have regressive systems because they tend to rely more on sales and excise taxes, which are the same rate for rich and poor alike. Even property taxes, which account for much of local tax revenue, hit working- and middle-class families harder than the wealthy because their homes often represent their largest asset.”

    This ideological battle is being waged across the nation and involves the right wing promoting the economics of austerity over investing in people and programs in innovation that can grow the economy.

    Baldacci had it right. He consolidated administrations from school districts to branches of state government. He got the prison system to work together, and stopped agencies from duplicating work, all while getting bond initiatives passed that would go on to help research and development — the type of research that led to the University of Maine’s breakthroughs in bio-fuels and composite technologies.

    Maine’s innovative technologies began to really take off after 2007 with voter-approved bonds. The $50 million investment became known as the Maine Technology Asset Fund and nourished growing sectors of high-wage jobs.

    The funds were rewarded on a competitive basis. The recipients of the fund’s grants secured more than $80 million in matching funds. A 2011 evaluation of Maine’s research and development investments found that those 29 projects, that were granted funding by mid-2011, had directly created 289.5 jobs and preserved 303 in traditionally higher-paying sectors. Nineteen of those projects led to the creation of a new product or service.

    It is interesting to note that the MTAF hasn’t received any new funding since 2010.

    Maine's community colleges also received bond funding for their expansions, which has enabled thousands to get good-paying jobs

    Cutting taxes for the top 2 percent has not yielded jobs for Maine, or the nation. Meanwhile, America has experienced job growth for more than four years with Obama’s policies.

    Maine has been held back because of the trickle-down economic mantra LePage follows.

    Ramona du Houx is a published author and has written about Maine politics for 10 years. She is co-owner of Polar Bear & Company publishing and owns the news magazine Maine Insights. She lives in Solon.