Farmington Selectboard hears climate pollution bill proposition

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FARMINGTON – Fen Fowler attended Tuesday night’s meeting of the Farmington Board of Selectmen to introduce a federal proposition known as the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act which has been designed to reevaluate Maine’s approach to renewable energy by charging an additional fee for coal, oil or natural gas to enter the U.S. economy. The idea behind the bill is to direct Maine towards a more permanent and absolute position of using renewable energy. Fowler brought the bill to the board, seeking their approval to take the warrant to the public to acquire their input.

“This has been an agreement floating around the state of Maine for about a year now. We’d like to start a conversation about what’s currently happening for climate mitigation and what needs to happen in the future,” said Fowler.

Fowler anticipates that the fee placed on larger fossil fuel companies would cause them to raise prices of goods. To circumnavigate this, the bill would also include a stipulation for “equal carbon dividends” which would be paid to the consumers to compensate for their added expense when purchasing emission-intensive goods. Currently, 14 towns have adopted this bill and 40 are considering it. According to Fowler, six other bills similar to the H.R.763 bill have surfaced for consideration just in the last three weeks. Canada has instituted such a bill and Mexico uses what Fowler calls “a hybrid” of the system as well.

“We need a national strategy. This solution would help us make that transition away from petroleum towards renewable resources, and it would strengthen our economy over time,” said Fowler, who hoped that with the board’s support, the bill could be taken to Maine’s higher state government and eventually to Congress.

Most of the concern from the board was regarding the possibility of this bill introducing too much bureaucracy and leaving the consumer vulnerable to a severe economic impact.

“What about the local businesses? In the end, the consumer will always be paying more,” said board member Josh Bell.

Though Fowler believed that the dividend in-place in the bill would offset the expenses consumers and other residents would face, the board wasn’t convinced. There was a general consensus that the approach to climate pollution demands an agreement between local and national governments, however the H.R.763 bill was deemed too vague and exclusionary of community input.

“How do we get it to the citizen to get them involved in the discussion?” said Representative Scott Landry.

With the lack of a traditional in-person town meeting, during which bills such as this would be discussed by the public, another obstacle is imposed on the consideration of the H.R.763.

“It’s a debate we need to have, but I don’t think this is the right vehicle to have that debate,” said Chairmen Matthew Smith.

Bell made a motion to not support the climate pollution resolution. The motion incited a 2:2 vote, meaning that the board will revisit the motion when selectmen Michael Fogg is in attendance and there is a full board.

The meeting also included a vote to approve town Manager Richard Davis as the Voting Delegate. Vice Chairmen Stephen Bunker was also voted in as the alternative for the Maine Service Centers Coalition.

A special selectboard meeting will be held on Feb. 2 to discuss the proposed departmental budgets.

Jennifer Savage, who has been serving as the Farmington Parks and Recreational Department’s program assistant has been promoted to the Assistant Director position. A current teacher, Savage will begin her new position on June 21.

With the search for the new police chief fully underway, Davis, who has been overseeing the search committee, believes that he will have a public announcement regarding the choice for the position on Feb. 9.

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