Gov. Mills’ plan to combat climate change, Maine Won’t Wait, makes it clear that bold action is needed to meet the state’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2045. That means 80 percent of Maine’s energy will need to come from renewable resources, including wind, hydro, solar and natural gas. Several projects have been proposed. Most not only put Maine on the path to carbon neutrality but also create well-paying clean-energy jobs. Regrettably, many are being met with resistance – some to the point of being terminated. This kind of resistance is standing in the way of combating climate change in Maine.

The state’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2045 means that 80 percent of Maine’s energy will need to come from renewable sources. PopTika/

One case in point is Summit Natural Gas of Maine’s recent proposal to extend natural gas service to the midcoast. Summit proposed a $90 million investment in the midcoast earlier this year that would have extended natural gas service to commercial and residential customers from Belfast to Thomaston, including Rockland. The project would have created more than 100 jobs, put local people to work, reduced energy costs for homes and businesses, as well as the industry, and cut emissions by an estimated 263,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide through the first five years of the project.

Most important, it would have benefited customers by increasing competition. There was also a significant opportunity to convert Dragon Cement (a large employer) from burning coal, to a more efficient and cleaner energy to support its operations. This would have been a win for business, cleaner air quality and the climate. Yet the project was pulled because of resistance and misinformation.

Summit abandoning its plans in the midcoast is a missed opportunity for residents and businesses for many reasons. First, despite the many benefits of all renewable power sources, no single source can decarbonize our energy systems alone. In particular, the industrial and heavy transportation sectors require a great deal of energy. There are no known cost-effective clean sources of energy to serve these sectors today, apart from natural gas – as highlighted in Gov. Mills’ Maine Won’t Wait climate plan. Summit’s proposal in the midcoast was the one viable way to lower emissions from the larger energy users in the region.

Also worrisome was the reinforcement of precedent. In recent years, this project is not the only large clean-energy infrastructure project that has been delayed or canceled. Consequently, we are blocking projects that would provide significant near-future benefits. It bears repeating that this resistance is standing in the way of combating climate change in Maine and ultimately is harming our state’s progress.

This situation also squandered the opportunity to leverage the power of the private sector to bring about change that they finance, rather than turning to government to use tax dollars to pay for changes that are inevitable. When we encourage competition, investment and innovation, everyone wins. When we block those interested in investing in our communities, we end up paying for it in the end.

If Maine won’t wait to combat climate change – and I would argue we cannot wait – it’s time everyone gets on board in supporting good projects, with good sponsors, so we can succeed in achieving carbon neutrality by 2045.

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