Democratic Gov. Janet Mills stands outside a polling place where she greeted voters, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Lewiston, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Gov. Janet Mills announced Wednesday that she is investing an additional $5.4 million in state and federal funding for two climate initiatives aimed toward building climate resilience among communities and generating clean energy jobs in Maine.

“For many decades, we waited. It is not alarmist to say that we are out of time,” Mills said. “Thanks to Maine people, our state is cutting carbon emissions, curbing our reliance on expensive fossil fuels, saving money, creating jobs and combating climate change all at the same time.”

Of the funds, $2.9 million in grants will be awarded through the Community Resilience Partnership to help communities assess and address their climate-related and infrastructure needs. The remaining $2.5 million will be awarded as grants to nine organizations to support clean energy workforce development.

The governor made the announcement on the second anniversary of the state’s four-year climate action plan, Maine Won’t Wait, at Colby College in Waterville.

In 2019, the governor established the Maine Climate Council, a group of scientists, industry leaders, local and state officials, and Maine residents, to develop that plan. Wednesday’s announcement was meant to further the state’s climate goals outlined by the council’s strategy. Maine aims to be powered by 80 percent clean energy by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2045.

maine climate initiatives

Since the state launched its climate plan two years ago, it has installed more than 82,000 heat and cooling pumps, put more than 8,500 electric vehicles on the road, and weatherized more than 9,100 homes and businesses, Mills said. Many of the investments were possible with federal funding from the Maine Jobs and Recovery plan.

The Community Resilience Partnership, which was announced in December 2021, provided assistance to 127 cities, towns and tribal governments this past year to plan for climate change events, reduce carbon emissions, transition to clean energy and increase their infrastructural resilience. In Wednesday’s announcement, the governor allocated an additional $2.9 million in grants through the state’s general fund for 91 cities, towns and tribal governments.

“Communities in Maine have few staff resources, and many are underfunded and have tremendous infrastructure needs,” said Hannah Pingree, a co-chair of the Maine Climate Council.

The participation from this year shows that Maine cities, towns and tribal governments are increasingly concerned about climate challenges and are voluntarily working toward assessing what their most immediate climate needs are and how they can address them, Pingree said.

“We are living in a time where there’s more resources than ever before for communities, but, for small communities, if they haven’t done vulnerability mapping, they wouldn’t be ready,” said Pingree, who also leads Mills’ Office of Policy Innovation and the Future.

maine Solar development

In Fort Kent, for instance, the funds will be used for climate change preparedness through culvert and storm drain mapping, and modeling projections for precipitation and flooding.

“These studies will better position the town to apply for future grants to upgrade our failing systems and increase our capacity to withstand climate change, mitigate the potential adverse effects of heavy rainfall, and increase the safety of our residents,” said Cindy Bouley, Fort Kent’s community relations officer.

The Clean Energy Partnership will administer the $2.5 million in workforce grants, which will support training for Mainers to work in the clean energy sector. The funding for clean energy jobs will cover a variety of initiatives including electrician training, apprenticeships and internships.

“We require a skilled and talented workforce to build and operate our clean energy projects,” said Dan Burgess, the director of the governor’s energy office. “So this is really a parallel investment with those targets.”

Mills said the $5.4 million investment is separate from other investments the administration is making as part of its Maine Jobs and Recovery plan, including $50 million for more affordable and efficient housing units, and $20 million to make public infrastructure more resilient.

This funding is also separate from what Maine is expected to receive from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for programs such as electric vehicle infrastructure, home weatherization, public transit and energy efficiency programs.  

“We are making unprecedented strides to embrace clean energy, to reduce carbon emissions, and to help our communities fight, at every level, the greatest danger of our time,” Mills said.

Mehr Sher is a Report for America corps member. Additional support for this reporting is provided by the Unity Foundation and donations by BDN readers.

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Mehr Sher

Mehr Sher reports on the Maine environment. She is a Report for America corps member. Additional support for her reporting is provided by the Unity Foundation and donations by BDN readers.