AUGUSTA — Hundreds of college students are expected to rally and march at the State House Saturday to call for a moratorium on fossil fuel development and to criticize Gov. Paul LePage for what they call his “dismal climate record.”

“We’re demanding no new fossil fuel infrastructure, like pipelines, because investments like these will last for decades,” said Iris SanGiovanni, a sophomore at the University of Southern Maine, in a press release. “We can’t afford to wait to transition to a fossil-free economy.”

The event is organized by Maine Students for Climate Justice, a coalition of student groups from around the state. A rally is scheduled for 11 a.m. on the Capitol steps and a march is set for noon.

When it comes to LePage, the students are critical of his support of natural gas and cuts to energy efficiency programs.

LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said in a statement that LePage has worked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the Blaine House, where new heat pumps have resulted in “the elimination of more than 5,000 gallons of heating oil annual usage.”

Bennett noted that natural gas has expanded into the Kennebec Valley in recent years via a 68-mile transmission pipeline from East Pittston to Madison and called it critical to the state’s future.

“Our energy costs are simply uncompetitive and it is important Maine aggressively pursue affordable energy options for Maine businesses and families,” she said in the statement, noting that the conversion of state facilities to natural gas will eliminate more than 1 million gallons of heating oil use and pay for itself in about two years.

Catherine Fletcher, a University of Maine student who has worked to get the university to drop investments in coal stocks, said students must get involved.

“Our generation is inheriting the burden of the climate crisis,” she said in the press release. “If our leaders won’t take action, we will.”

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