Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Better air can boost productivity

By Edward D. Murphy Portland Press Herald Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Businesses can provide workers with the latest technology, ergonomic equipment and eye-friendly lighting, but they may be missing out on a key ingredient of a healthy workplace -- air.

New studies suggest that healthy air quality, as measured by the proper air temperature and the correct amount of ventilation, is an important determining factor in productivity. The concept will be one of the topics explored next week at a conference in Augusta sponsored by the Maine Indoor Air Quality Council, the American Lung Association of Maine and Efficiency Maine.

Richard Shaughnessy, who will be the keynote speaker at the conference and is director of indoor air quality research at the University of Tulsa (Okla.), said people know intuitively that healthy indoor air is important, but the latest research that shows a direct, quantifiable link between poor indoor air and worker productivity provides an opportunity to compare the cost of improvements to the benefits of increased output.

"In an office setting, we're talking about productivity, and (with poor air quality) you've got people being out sick, and it impacts the ability of people to perform properly on a daily basis," said Shaughnessy, whose research also has found a correlation between the quality of the indoor air in schools and student test results.

Shaughnessy said air quality has been a factor in the design of buildings for more than a century, but the technology to maintain a balanced temperature, the introduction of fresh air and filtering out contaminants has gotten better over the years. However, older buildings haven't necessarily been upgraded to reflect those advances, he said.

Christine Crocker, executive director of the air quality council, said Maine may face more challenges with maintaining healthy indoor air than many other states because of the need to balance proper ventilation and temperature control with energy efficiency.

"You can have a green, efficient, healthy building," she said. "Any building always has the risk of an indoor air problem. It's how you operate and maintain a building that determines whether it becomes a (health) risk."

Many building owners upgraded insulation and buttoned up buildings in the 1970s, when energy prices went through their first significant upward spiral, Crocker said. Subsequent research, however, has shown that super-insulated buildings can become unhealthy because of a lack of fresh air being brought in and related problems, such as mold growth and trapping pollutants inside.

A big part of the council's mission is making sure that the same mistakes aren't repeated, she said.

"Our message always is that education is a pretty big key -- as we're working with new products and processes, we need to be mindful of the consequences," Crocker said.

Shaughnessy and Crocker said businesses need to recognize that ignoring those consequences carries a cost.

The latest research strongly suggests that lower productivity ends up costing businesses more than investing in equipment and making changes that improve indoor air quality, Shaughnessy said.

"The ability to concentrate -- the inability to even show up on a given day -- all of these things add up," he said.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

British say reducing emissions aids growth

Portland Press Herald
March 14, 2007

AUGUSTA - The governor and members of the Legislature hosted a friendly British invasion Tuesday as four members of Parliament arrived to support Maine's plans for a European-style carbon-trading system.

The four MPs, members of all three major parties, urged lawmakers here to move forward with a plan to cut carbon-dioxide emissions and slow global warming. Such action in the United Kingdom has made Britain a leader in renewable-energy development and helped, not hurt, its economy, they said.

"We have managed to both cut emissions and have dramatic economic growth," said Lord Robin Corbett of Castle Vale, a member of the House of Lords from the Labour Party.

From 1990 to 1999, Corbett said, emissions declined 13 percent and the economy grew 49 percent.

The British government proposed legislation Tuesday that would set legally binding, long-term limits on carbon emissions and make it the first industrialized country to spell out such long-range goals. Maine's Legislature is preparing to implement the first carbon-trading market in the United States.

Maine is one of 10 Northeast states that are committed to capping on carbon-dioxide emissions from large power plants and then allowing the plants to buy and trade pollution credits. The market-based system creates financial incentives for the plants to reduce their own emissions over time. It is similar to a trading system that's in place in Europe, and some see it as a model for a national system here.

The British lawmakers said the public and each of the major political parties -- Labour, Conservative and Social Democrats -- strongly support efforts to slow global warming and shift to cleaner energy sources. But it was an incremental change and began with modest steps such as encouraging improved home insulation and efficient light bulbs, they said.

"The whole key to this is taking public opinion along with you," said the Honorable Greg Knight, a member of the House of Commons from East Yorkshire and a Conservative. "There is still a lot of debate going on, but the debate is not about the direction, it's about the means" to move there.

The United Kingdom became a leader in wind-energy development and is investing in tidal-energy technology, both of which are considered opportunities for Maine.

The United Kingdom, like the United States, has large coal reserves. But it has chosen to leave the coal in the ground until it can be used without harming the environment, Knight said.

The British spent most of Tuesday in Augusta. They also are visiting Massachusetts during their brief trip. They wanted to come to Maine because the state is considered a leader on the issue in this country and they wanted to offer support and share ideas.

The MPs were careful not to give too much specific advice about how to implement the system in Maine, saying that it needs to be homegrown and that even the European scheme is still an experiment.
"It's a suck-it-and-see thing," said Lord Colbert, using a British expression that means trying out something new -- like a candy -- and hoping for the best.

"Our knowledge is still developing," Knight said.
They emphasized, however, that concerns about hurting the economy should not get in the way.

In fact, the United Kingdom now has a thriving environmental industry with some 400,000 employees, said the Honorable Greg Mulholland, a member of the House of Commons and a Liberal Democrat from Leeds.

"There are economic and business opportunities around this whole issue," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:

Wind farm rejected in Freedom

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel
March 10, 2007

FREEDOM -- The town's Board of Appeals has rejected plans to erect three electricity-generating wind turbines on Beaver Ridge, putting in doubt the future of the controversial project.

After four weeks of hearings and deliberations, the board late Thursday found that Portland-based Competitive Energy Services' turbines would not meet town standards for noise, according to Addison Chase, chairman of the town's appeals board.

The decision overturns the Planning Board's approval of the project. CES has 30 days from next Thursday, when appeals board members plan to formally sign the decision, to appeal to Waldo County Superior Court. The company also could start the process over with the Planning Board, Chase said.

"If the ordinance doesn't change I can't see how the appeals board would change its ruling on the sound," Chase said.

It was the second blow for Maine wind power in the last two months. On Jan. 24 the Land Use Regulation Commission voted 6-1 against a proposed 30-turbine wind farm on Redington and Black Nubble mountains west of Carrabassett Valley.

Steve Bennett, whose property abuts the proposed site for the Freedom wind farm, led a group of neighboring landowners in bringing the appeal.

"We're quite pleased," Bennett said. "The impact on our property values could be extreme."

Calls to CES seeking comment were not immediately returned on Friday.

The Planning Board, which approved CES's application in December, agreed with scientist Anthony Rogers' study that determined the turbines would not exceed the 45-decibel limit set in the ordinance.

But Rogers, who never visited the Beaver Ridge site, based his findings on an ambient, or background, noise levels of 31 and 35 decibels, Chase said. Bennett's appeal included 10 studies conducted in other rural parts of the country that determined the average ambient level is actually between 40 and 50 decibels. Bennett's own studies concluded the ambient noise levels around Beaver Ridge hovered in the 40-decibel range.

"By using a more reasonable ambient sound level, the projected sound level would not meet the required ordinance," Chase said.

"I think the Planning Board did make a mistake when they just assumed what CES was telling them was correct," Bennett said. "I think the appeals board did their homework. Nobody should have to live in the midst of these things."

The Planning Board's decision required CES to post a bond for the construction phase. Chase said the Planning Board erred by not requiring CES to post bonding for future demolition of the turbines.

"The idea the bond was just for the construction phase didn't make any sense," he said. "The ordinance doesn't limit bonding in any way to just the construction phase."

The appeals board disagreed with the Planning Board in other areas, such as storm water management, Chase said. But the disagreements failed to reach the threshold of clear and absolute error required to overturn the Planning Board, Chase said.

Even if the turbines are built someday, there is doubt whether they could be connected to the electrical grid, Chase said. Because the road over which the utility lines would run was discontinued in 1975, Central Maine Power Co. would have to take a right-of-way by eminent domain, which the power company may not want or be allowed to do, Chase said.

The wind project has found overwhelming support among residents, who supported the turbines in two nonbinding votes. Tempers have flared at times in the past year since CES submitted its application, but the appeals board's decision was not based on emotion or bias, Chase said.

"(The decision) had nothing to do with the goodness of wind power," Chase said. "We weren't taking a stand on wind power; we were taking a stand on the project versus the ordinance and the evidence presented."

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Sneak preview of big report: Change is 'already showing up'

Christian Science Monitor
March 15, 2007

By Brad Knickerbocker

Reports that the effects of global warming may be felt by the average person quicker and deeper than previously thought were reflected in a flurry of news coverage over the past week.

The Associated Press broke a big story last weekend, giving an advance look at the draft of an international scientific report due out next month. Among the findings, according to AP: "The harmful effects of global warming on daily life are already showing up, and within a couple of decades hundreds of millions of people won't have enough water...."

"At the same time, tens of millions of others will be flooded out of their homes each year as the Earth reels from rising temperatures and sea levels...."

"Things are happening and happening faster than we expected," Patricia Romero Lankao of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., told the wire service.

Written and reviewed by more than 1,000 scientists from around the world, the document is the second in a series of four being issued this year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Its final form, as edited by government officials, could differ somewhat from the version leaked to AP.

Considered by some scientists to be the "emotional heart" of climate-change research, this report focuses on how global warming alters the planet and life. University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver told AP:

"The science is one thing. This is how it affects me, you, and the person next door."

Meanwhile, on Monday, scientists in Australia reported findings on rising sea levels that were too fresh for inclusion in the IPCC report. "Data from satellites is showing that sea-level rises and polar ice-melting might be worse than earlier thought," according to a Reuters report from a global oceans conference in Hobart, Australia.

"All indications are that it's going to get faster," said Eric Lindstrom, head of oceanography at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

These reports follow action on March 9 by the European Union's 27 member nations who agreed to adopt legally binding reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions and increase the use of renewable energy – steps which go beyond the targets of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

"During a sometimes contentious two-day meeting in Brussels, the leaders agreed to cut the gas emissions by at least 20 percent from 1990 levels in the next 13 years," The Washington Post reported.

"They set binding targets for renewable-energy sources, such as wind, solar, and hydro power, to supply 20 percent of the union's power needs and for biofuels to be used in 10 percent of the bloc's road vehicles by 2020."

National targets will be negotiated by the European Commission, the EU's executive branch, before going to the European Parliament for approval. British Prime Minister Tony Blair this week called global warming "the biggest long-term threat facing our world."

The British government proposed a draft climate-change bill that would require a 60 percent reduction in total carbon-dioxide emissions by 2050. "This bill is an international landmark," the environment minister, David Miliband, told reporters. "It is the first time any country has set itself legally binding carbon targets. It is an environmental contract for future generations."

As public and political pressure build to do something about climate change, mainstream magazines, including some that might seem unlikely to cover the subject, are taking up the call. Sports Illustrated, ELLE, Outside Magazine, and The Atlantic will all feature global warming and the environment in coming weeks, Reuters reported. Media consultant Peter Kreisky told the news agency:

"Clearly the editors of these magazines feel that the time has come. With Al Gore, his Oscar [for the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth"], and a higher level of awareness, this is becoming important."

MOFGA conference on tap today

Kennebec Journal

Friday, March 16, 2007

UNITY -- The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association will seek to teach farmers to think globally and act locally at its annual Spring Growth Conference scheduled for Saturday.

The conference is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Common Ground Education Center.

The registration period ends at noon today.

Lectures and discussion will center on issues related to energy, the climate and Maine agriculture, said Andrew Marshall, educational programs director for Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

"We want to marry a big picture of use and consumption and its contributions to global climate change and bring it to a local level with a look at how climate change might affect the Maine climate and Maine agriculture in particular," Marshall said.

The keynote speaker is agricultural engineer Kamyar Enshayan, who will compare energy consumption for local food systems vs. global systems, Marshall said.

Daniel Sosland, executive director of Environment Northeast in Rockland, will discuss emerging policy and opportunities for addressing climate change.

After getting an overview of climate change in the morning, the afternoon session will be spent learning about alternate energy options for small farms, Marshall said.

John Bartok, University of Connecticut agricultural engineer and greenhouse expert, will highlight the growing popularity of greenhouses and farm-scale alternative energy options.

Ron Desrosiers will discuss the Maine Farm Energy Partnership, which is a clearinghouse for information and incentives for farmers to reduce their energy consumption, Marshall said.

Maine Organic Farmers has hosted the conference for the past five years, each year highlighting a different topic. Climate change was selected this year because the issue is a growing concern for farmers, Marshall said.

"(The conference) is really to investigate a certain topic as deeply as we can in a day," Marshall said. "It's a concentrated effort to bring in experts and really stimulate deep thoughts and discussion."

The conference costs $35 per person and $50 per couple and includes lunch.

For more information, to register, and or for information on cancellations or rescheduling due to the predicted storm, log onto or call 568-4142.

Craig Crosby -- 861-9253

Company seeks approval for second wind farm

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The company that built New England's largest wind farm in Mars Hill, which went on line earlier this year, is seeking state approval to go ahead with an even larger project in a remote area of eastern Maine.

Evergreen Wind Power LLC has filed an application with the Land Use Regulation Commission to build 38 towers on Stetson Mountain in northern Washington County, between Danforth and Springfield. The $100 million project would generate about 57 megawatts for the New England power grid.

The Stetson Mountain project would be larger than one on Mars Hill Mountain in northern Maine, which has 28 turbines and a capacity for 42 megawatts of power, enough to provide the power needs for 45,000 average Maine homes.

Maine's land-use board, which regulates development in the state's unorganized territory, moved in January to reject a proposed 30-turbine wind farm on Redington and Black Nubble mountains in western Maine. Commissioners cited its proximity to the Appalachian Trail and noted that the development area is a habitat for several rare or endangered species.

A separate proposal calls for 44 turbines in Kibby Township, near the Canadian border in western Maine.

The application by Alberta-based TransCanada is pending before LURC.

Evergreen Wind Power LLC of Bangor, a subsidiary of UPC Wind Management of Newton, Mass., says in its application before LURC that the Stetson project is not in a high-value scenic area. The application says the turbines would be visible on the horizon from Baskahegan Lake near Brookton, about nine miles away, and from a small portion of a scenic byway along U.S. Route 1.

The company estimates that the turbines will help to reduce air pollution by 100,000 tons per year. LURC's staff will evaluate Evergreen's application for completeness before beginning a formal review.

Gov. John Baldacci has identified wind power as an important component of efforts to reduce the state's and region's dependence on power plants that emit greenhouse gases and contribute to global warming.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Climate change in the Maine woods

Maine Today
March 4, 2007

J.D. Irving Ltd. is Maine's largest private landowner, with 1.3 million acres in Aroostook County. Foresters manage its land primarily for spruce-fir sawlogs, as well as paper mill pulp and power plant fuel.

Now the Canadian-based company is exploring another potential value for those forests that could be worth millions of dollars -- carbon dioxide storage.

Irving is supporting carbon storage as part of plans to establish a Northeast regional program that would cap how much CO2 power plants can emit. To exceed the limits, plants could buy credits from landowners that manage trees in ways that store additional amounts of carbon. That would give forest owners additional financial value from their land.

"The land will have all the same values for the company," said Bill Borland, Irving's director of environmental affairs. "But while we're growing for that, we'll be receiving credits each year for absorbing carbon."

Irving's interest in carbon storage is an early example of how Maine's forest-products industry hopes to position itself to cope with global climate change. It's notable because the topic is just beginning to get serious attention from most forest-dependent businesses in the state.

A warmer, drier world in the 21st century will bring with it changes in tree species, researchers say, transforming Maine's northern forest into a landscape that today s found in southern New England and the Middle Atlantic states. That's bound to be disruptive, in a state that's 90 percent woodland and has long relied on the northern forest as a foundation of its economy.

A few examples: Maple sugar businesses could dry up over the next 50 years, as the familiar hardwood stands of maple and birch in western Maine give way to oak and hickory.

Sawmills in York and Cumberland counties could scramble for high-value white pine, as the species is replaced by loblolly and southern pines.

Paper and lumber mills that depend on the vast spruce-fir resource of northern and eastern Maine would have to adapt to a forest of oak and pine.

Climate change, though, can also bring opportunity for business.

Forest owners may find new values by keeping CO2, the prime greenhouse gas associated with climate change, out of the atmosphere. They also may become a source of fuels that replace oil-based compounds, and be rewarded when wood is substituted for more energy-intensive products, such as steel building materials.

"We're hoping that eventually the markets will mature not only for storage, but for increasing productivity," said Alec Giffen, director of the Maine Forest Service. "That's where the real payoff is."

Giffen spoke last week about carbon markets and sustainable forestry, at a conference in New Hampshire on how climate change could affect the working forest in that state. Other Maine speakers included Eric Kingsley, vice president of Innovative Natural Resources in Portland, who outlined the economic impacts of climate change on New Hampshire's forests; and Stephen Shaler, associate director of the Advanced Engineered Wood Composites Center at the University of Maine, who discussed the potential for new products and fuels from wood.

Giffen's agency has joined with the U.S. Forest Service and Environment Northeast, a regional advocacy group, to study the potential for northern hardwood forests to store more carbon through various management practices. They have determined that thinning trees prior to harvest -- taking out dead or decaying limbs, for instance -- creates a forest stand that stores more carbon than traditional harvesting methods.

The added carbon storage and the sustainable forestry behind it, they say, should have a dollar value. It's a case that Giffen's agency, Irving and others are making as Northeast states work to set up the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a market where carbon credits would be traded on a per-ton basis. A so-called cap and trade emissions market already exists in the European Union.

With 17 million acres of forest, Maine may be able to capitalize on its carbon storing capacity. That opportunity would have been impossible a century ago, when much of the land south of Bangor was cleared for farming.

In heavily forested New Brunswick, where Irving has its largest holdings, Borland estimates that carbon credits could be worth $25 million in some future trading market, based on sustainable management practices.

"Healthier trees give you the biggest bang for your buck," Borland said. "You're getting a lot more carbon sequestered in an acre of land."

Carbon caps cut both ways for Irving, a diversified company that's also trying to build a second oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick. Strict greenhouse gas emission limits in Canada could kill the project, the company said last month.

And while disputes over carbon caps and the human contributions to global warming make headlines, the connection between changing climate and changing woodland is hardly new.

Researchers at the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine have documented the shift in tree species since the last ice age, 10,000 years ago. They have created maps that show how spruce -- so common now in northern Maine -- were confined largely to Canada 1,000 years ago, when the weather was warmer and drier.

The global climate is moving in that direction again, perhaps at a faster rate. It didn't matter 1,000 years ago, but it does now.
Take eastern white pine. Common and valuable enough to be Maine's official state tree, it supports many sawmills and small landowners, especially in southern Maine. What if it becomes less prevalent?

"It's a concern," said Terry Walters, production manager at the Lavalley Lumber sawmill in Sanford. "But there's not much discussion because in the short term, there's not much we can do about it."

Walters is a board member of the Small Woodlot Owners Association of Maine. His more-immediate worry is keeping white pine forests, which tend to occur on well-drained soil, from being developed for house lots.

Walters attended last week's conference in New Hampshire, however. His company wants to stay informed about climate change, he said, even if it's too early to know how to respond.

For some forest enterprises, there's no clear way to react to climate change. That may help explain why interest in the topic is only now emerging in the industry.

For example: Maple sugar generates an average of $6 million in sales each year in Maine. While not a major industry, maple products are part of the identity of northern New England and viewed as a rite of spring.

"People connect with it differently than with a sawmill," said Kingsley at Innovative Natural Resource Solutions. "They connect with it at their breakfast table."

Kingsley outlined a gloomy future for maple products in New Hampshire. The decline in maple trees, he predicted, would basically eliminate the industry within 50 years. The direct economic loss would total $1.8 billion in the 21st century.

New Hampshire is a distant third in New England maple sugar production, well behind Vermont and Maine. So the impact in Maine would be greater. But Jeremy Steeves, secretary treasurer of the 150-member Maine Maple Producers Association, said climate change hasn't generated much discussion in the state's sugar houses.

Steeves, who taps 450 acres of maple at Strawberry Hill Farms in Skowhegan, said his review of 100 years of records suggests only seasonal fluctuations in sap flow and timing. He's not worried about losing Maine's maple stands, at least not over the next generation.

"Personally," he said, "there's not much we can do about it."

Staff writer Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Will Rockland become a ‘Cool City’?

Maine Coast Courier
By Kelly Michaud
Friday, March 2, 2007

ROCKLAND — City councilors will hear a presentation Monday evening about what it would take to make Rockland a “Cool City.” The designation has nothing to do with its nightlife or attractions; rather it deals with how environmentally focused and energy efficient the city is.

Cool Cities — also called Cool Communities — is a project of the Sierra Club.

“What we call a cool city or community is our way of explaining the commitment that over 400 mayors in the U.S. have made to reduce global warming and pollution and reduce energy cost and taxpayer money wasted on inefficient energy use and production,” said Glen Brand, director of the Sierra Club’s National Cool Cities Campaign based in Portland.

The commitment comes in the form of signing the U.S. Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement. By signing the agreement, a city or community makes the commitment to reduce carbon dioxide — the gas that causes global warming — to 7 percent less than 1990 levels by the year 2012, Brand said.

It also offers them a menu of smart and clean energy solutions such as purchasing hybrid vehicles, purchasing Energy Star appliances and electronics or investing in renewable energy, Brand explained.

“In the absence of federal leadership, the local leaders have stepped up to meet the challenge of addressing the serious problem of global warming,” Brand said. “They are demonstrating on the ground the solutions are feasible, cost effective and politically popular. This is really a grassroots movement.”

Representatives of Maine Partners of Cool Communities will make Monday’s presentation. The group includes representatives from the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club, Maine Council of Churches, Maine Chapter of the American Lung Association and Maine Chapter of the Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Anne D. Burt of Edgecomb of the Maine Council of Churches and Joan Saxe of Freeport of the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club will make Monday’s presentation.

The pair will share success stories from other communities around Maine and offer some suggestions of what Rockland might consider undertaking, Burt said.

They also will encourage Rockland to sign up for the Governor’s Carbon Challenge, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2010 and to 10 percent less than 1990 levels by 2020, with the goal of an overall 75 percent to 80 percent decrease from 2003 levels. In 2003, Maine became the first state to enact these goals into statute, Burt explained.

An incentive to sign on for the challenge is a free energy audit, Burt said.

“(The audit) will look at the municipal buildings and get the city on its way with the low-hanging fruit — the measures that will be the most cost-effective and give you the most reduction in energy usage for the lowest cost so that you’ll begin to see the savings — there’s a pretty quick turnaround,” she said.”

Rockland City Manager Tom Hall said it would be an interesting discussion for the city to have.

“The notion is we all need to be doing our part and if we do, the world will be a better place,” he said.

Hall said Rockland is energy-efficient conscious and already has an energy audit planned for this year. Hall also plans to implement an anti-idling policy for most city vehicles and set thermostat points to certain levels, he said.

Hall said he is looking forward to the presentation so he and the city council members can learn what other cities are doing and know what they would be agreeing to. It remains to be seen if the council will approve the agreement, he said, but added that he expects they will want to become a Cool City.

“Everyone is concerned about global warming but the important step is moving from being concerned and worried to taking action and there is no better place than in our towns and cities,” Brand said. “The real leaders on global warming solutions are found in our town halls and city halls and our churches and labor halls and businesses. People are no longer looking to the federal government — they have been absent on this.”

Burt said she has met with people in the Rockland community who are concerned about climate change.

“We’re hoping the city will be interested in following a model that is starting to take root in several Maine communities where a citizen’s group works with the city and helps to identify background work and what other communities have done,” Burt said.

Other communities in the state that have signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement are Portland, Biddeford, Saco, Kennebunk, Yarmouth and nearby Belfast.

“Having been named a cool city, I know Rockland is very jealous — they want to be cool, too,” joked Belfast Mayor Mike Hurley.

Hurley signed the agreement last year; the Belfast City Council endorsed it in February, he said.

In early 2006 there were no Cool Cities in Maine; now there are six and at least 20 other communities are considering the agreement, Burt said.

Hurley said he did not see any cons to signing the agreement and said Rockland should consider signing the agreement, as well.

“It’s not like it’s a binding agreement, but it adds weight — there is strength in numbers and the more people who sign on to this, the more it raises the priority and gets the attention of citizens.”

Belfast is now in its planning stages and has formed an energy and climate committee to look at ways the city and its residents can be more energy efficient, he said. That committee will then make recommendations to the city.

“Most communities are already doing things,” he said. “Rockland would be right up there with Belfast.”

Belfast is having energy audits conducted and also is looking at pedestrian access, among other things, Hurley said.

“This has moved beyond politics — 99.9 percent of all scientific studies say climate change is happening and it’s warming,” Hurley said. “What little part we can play in trying to deal with that, is something we’d like to offer. Obviously we’re not going to do it alone … People look to government like there is some program to stop global warming but this is something we all have to do -.”

Signing the agreement is the first step. Next, the city will need to come up with a plan of how to meet its goals, Brand said.

“The more cities do in terms of reducing their energy use and using cleaner technology, the greater the reduction will be,” Brand said. “It’s really exciting to see Maine communities becoming cool communities.”

The presentation will begin around 7 p.m. Monday, following the city council’s agenda setting meeting in the council chambers at City Hall, Pleasant Street.

“Hopefully the presentation will be broad enough that residents tuning in may learn something for their own households,” Hall said.

Hall said the city council could take action on the agreement as soon as its next regular meeting, which is scheduled for Monday, March 12.

Kelly Michaud can be reached at

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Aroostook power may be linked to downstate grid

Maine Today
AP Newswire

Friday, March 2, 2007

AUGUSTA - Two of Maine's electric companies are looking into building a power transmission line to connect the Aroostook County power grid to the rest of the state, Gov. John Baldacci said.
Maine Public Service and Central Maine Power companies signed a memorandum formalizing a feasibility study Tuesday.

The Aroostook grid is connected to the rest of Maine and New England only indirectly, through transmission lines in Canada. Power from the new Mars Hill wind farm in Aroostook goes to the New Brunswick grid.

Baldacci said connecting Aroostook to the rest of the state would create a more competitive electricity market in that county and could restrain prices.

The northern Maine power grid's isolation has been a barrier to competition, Baldacci said. That was demonstrated in December 2006, when the Maine Public Utilities Commission's standard-offer solicitation attracted only one bidder, he said.

The proposed line also would reinforce a memorandum of understanding signed Feb. 9 between Maine and New Brunswick for greater cooperation on energy issues, the governor said.

"The new transmission line has the potential to accomplish a number of important goals," Baldacci said.

"We are serious about our commitment to work more closely with Canada and take advantage of the opportunities that exist for clean energy supplies and renewable resources," he added.

The memorandum formalizing the feasibility study sets up a four- to six-month study period to evaluate the proposed transmission line.

Maine Public Service Co. is the electric transmission and distribution utility serving 35,000 customers in northern Maine.

Central Maine Power Co., a subsidiary Energy East Corp., delivers electricity to 600,000 customers in central and southern Maine.