May 2021

By Ramona du Houx

The facts are in. The climate crisis is real and Maine’s temperatures are rising. In 2020, the state suffered a devastating drought. Northern Maine had to declare a climate emergency and FEMA helped suffering farmers.

Since the Baldacci Administration, state government has been working to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Even though, while in office, Republican Governor LePage tried to stop the momentum. But too many plans were already in motion and law, like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that Maine is a part of, weatherization of homes and buildings, windmill development and critical research in offshore wind. Governor Janet Mills has taken up the torch and with her plans intends to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions 45 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050, and commit to preparing communities for rising sea levels, increased flooding, droughts and wildfires.

The Mill’s administration has developed a proposal to allocate the $1 million investment funds from the federal government’s American Rescue Act. This Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan makes historic investments in unaddressed to achieve three goals: 1) immediate economic recovery from the pandemic; 2) long-term economic growth for Maine; and 3) infrastructure improvements.   

The proposal is now in the hands of the legislature. Lawmakers can amend it before approving the measure.

In Biden’s Rescue Plan allocated monies specifically for climate action. For Maine, that boils down to helping the objectives of the state’s four-year climate action plan, Maine Won’t Wait. 

Former Governor Baldacci talks with Dr. Habib Dagher of the University of Maine’s composite laboratories, where Dr. Dagher and his team developed floating offshore wind turbines. The 2008 state house press conference discussed the measures scientists are taking to ensure the turbines do not disturb the wildlife and ensure safe fishing zones for Maine’s lobstermen. Photo by Ramona du Houx

These include :

  • helping Maine’s communities become more resilient to climate change,
  • increasing energy efficiency,
  • growing the clean energy economy, and
  • expanding clean transportation options across the state.  

President Biden specifically injected significant funds for Research and Development in his American Jobs Plan, which the Maine Won’t Wait plan lacked. That measure has yet to be voted on in Congress, but would inject needed stimulus funds for the clean energy economy of the future. It highlighted what Maine lacked on a comprehensive state information sheet, showing exactly where funds from the American Jobs Plan would help.

Former Governor John Baldacci, on the eve of Earth Day, talked about the American Jobs Plan and its importance for the Maine economy, moving forward.

He pointed out that Maine, on average, is poorer than the national average, has lost many manufacturing jobs to overseas and is in great need of high-paying union jobs.

“Asthma is a big issue in terms of the ozone that comes into our state from the Midwest power plants,” said Former Governor Baldacci. “So we try to recognize that health care and clean energy are tied together, from the air we breathe and the water we drink.”

Baldacci was enthusiastic to have a partner at the national level, again. During Baldacci’s second term the recession hit. Needed stimulus funding was allocated to the state from Obama’s American Recovery Act (ARA), including a large infusion of federal research and development funds that helped the University of Maine advance their development of the only offshore floating turbine’s in North America, the VolturnUS. The ARA funding got many of Maine’s big manufacturing companies, like Cianbro, to turn their attention more to the growth of building windmill components.

“I always felt that we were importing too much of our fossil fuels and not creating enough renewable energy and doing it with our own people,” Baldacci explained in the radio interview. “Having them build the windmill blades and the component parts and to be kind of a center of excellence.”

The ARA also helped with infrastructure jobs across the state. Biden’s American Job’s Plan is significantly larger at around $2 trillion.

To listen to the radio report go HERE.

The following are measures in the Rescue Plan align with Maine’s climate plan:

Strategy A: Embrace the Future of Transportation in Maine 

  • Establish the Maine Connectivity Authority to Achieve Universally Available Broadband ($150M)   
  • Launch A Workforce Transportation Pilot ($5M)  
  • Expand Municipal and Public EV Charging ($8M)   

 Strategy B: Modernize Maine’s Buildings  

  • Build More Affordable Housing for Maine’s Workforce ($50M)   
  • Save Money Through Energy Efficiency ($50M)   

Strategy D: Grow Maine’s Clean-Energy Economy and Protect Our Natural Resource Industries 

  • Jumpstart Research and Development ($80M)  
  • Invest in Heritage Industries ($50M) (fishing, farming and forestry innovation and processing) 
  • Create Clean Energy Partnerships: ($8M), a focused workforce and innovation effort to bring industry and training together around clean energy jobs and innovation  
  • Train Workers Through Maine’s CTEs & Higher Education Systems ($105M)  
  • Advance Equity ($8M) 

Strategy E: Protect Maine’s Environment 

  • Bolster Fisheries and Wildlife Infrastructure ($20M)   
  • Improve Fishing Industry Infrastructure & Monitoring ($16M)  

Strategy F: Build Healthy and Resilient Communities 

  • Ensure the Safety of Drinking Water ($25M)   
  • Repair Wastewater Infrastructure ($25M)   

Strategy G: Invest in Climate-Ready Infrastructure 

  • Protect Infrastructure from Climate Change ($20M)