For resources to help prepare for and deal with high energy costs:

Fare Free Friday offered to save energy

LEWISTON – Mainers, including people in Lewiston and Auburn, will be offered free bus rides on Fridays by public transit companies as part of a new energy-saving effort.

To encourage less driving, Fare Free Friday will start in a week. For six weeks, commuters may ride free on buses operated by several companies from Aroostook to York counties.

Gov. John Baldacci announced several steps Friday to conserve fuel as the weather gets colder and prices rise. He said a lot of Mainers are nervous and frustrated, but he says no one will freeze this winter.

“Maine people are resilient. We’ve dealt with harsh winters before, and working together, helping each other, we’ve made it through,” Baldacci said. “But this year brings unprecedented energy costs with little assistance from the federal government.”

Maine and several other states are pushing Congress to increase federal energy assistance funding, and a response team is being set up to prepare for a state energy emergency, Baldacci said. Another $400,000 is being committed for weatherization and fuel assistance.

The governor outlined the steps he is taking immediately.

• An executive order signed Friday will activate a response team that will help the state prepare for an energy emergency. This energy task force will bring together the resources of state government in one place and will make sure that we are ready with shelters, warm centers, emergency transportation and other basic services if energy supplies or high prices create a crisis.

• Working with the attorney general, the governor’s office will closely monitor oil and gas prices to make sure residents aren’t being victimized by price gouging or collusion.

• The governor sent a letter to Maine’s Congressional delegation urging them to continue their efforts to increase funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

• He will continue to work with the Coalition of Northeast Governors to make sure the Northeast, which is heavily dependent on heating oil, gets the support it needs.

• The Public Utilities Commission has committed an additional $400,000 to provide weatherization and efficiency assistance for families and seniors served by fuel assistance programs. In cooperation with MaineHousing, this effort will expand the reach of the state’s weatherization efforts and save on average $300 per household.

• Baldacci directed his cabinet to look at ways to adjust the schedules of their workers to allow for telecommuting, and car and van pooling.

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