Fenwick Fowler of the group Carbon Cash-Back 4ME speaks Tuesday night, Jan. 26, to Farmington selectmen about including a resolution on climate pollution on the annual town meeting warrant. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

FARMINGTON — Selectmen were tied Tuesday, Jan. 26, on a request to place a resolution on the annual town meeting warrant.

The resolution calls on Maine’s Congressional delegates to enact carbon-pricing legislation to protect Maine from the costs and environmental risks of continued climate inaction.

“To protect households, we support Cash-Back Carbon Pricing that charges fossil fuel producers for their carbon pollution and rebates the money collected to all residents on an equal basis with monthly dividend checks,” the resolution reads.

If approved, written notice of the vote would be sent within 30 days to the Maine delegation.

The resolution is in support of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, H.R.763. If the bill is approved, fossil fuel producers would be assessed a fee for each ton of carbon to be produced by the fuel, deposit the fee in a trust, and return it to all households on an equal per capita basis in monthly dividend checks.

A motion not to put the resolution to voters was supported by Selectmen Matthew Smith and Joshua Bell. Opposed were Stephan Bunker and Scott Landry. Selectman Michael Fogg was not at the meeting.

The selectmen agreed to revisit the issue when the full board was present.

“This is an agreement that’s been floating around the state for about a year,” Fenwick Fowler, representing the group Carbon Cash-Back 4ME said. “14 towns and cities have already adopted it. 40 in this region will be considering it at their town meeting.

“We’re hoping it would start a conversation in our community about what is currently happening for climate mitigation and what needs to happen in the future,” he noted.

Polluters, mostly petroleum products, would be charged at their source up to $15 per ton to start, Fowler said.

“You know that by charging them, they’re going to pass that cost on to consumers,” he said. “I would hope that 97% of that fee is returned to citizens in the nation on an equal basis.”

The program would start transitioning away from petroleum products and move towards renewable resources, Fowler said.

He noted pellet stoves such as those found at Northern Lights Hearth and Sports use products created and used locally.

“More than $5 billion in energy products are imported into this state, then that money leaves the state,” Fowler said. “We believe this solution will help us make the transition and strengthen our economy over time.”

Putting the resolution on the warrant would allow the conversation to continue, he said.

Would businesses be reimbursed, Bell asked.

Fowler did not believe so, thought they would pass the costs on to their consumers.

“Consumers will be getting a dividend check to help offset some of the costs,” he said.

Gasoline and home heating oil costs will go up, Bell said.

“It’s not going to reimburse them (consumers) when they go to the grocery store and they’re paying more for their food because it costs more to get trucked there,” he said. “That’s my concern. We all know the fossil fuel companies are going to pass that on. In the end, consumers and small businesses are going to be paying that much more.”

Bell noted the resolution’s wording says the board supports it.

“I can’t currently say I support this,” he said.

A lot more questions came up while reading the provided information, Bunker said.

“I do want to pursue it further,” he said. How effective it would be and what the alternatives are were some issues he raised.

“I want to learn more, talk more about this,” Bunker said. “So long as it’s worded appropriately and not supporting it as a board, we’re putting it before citizens at town meeting for their consideration, and then we take action.”

Landry said he was a firm believer in letting the citizens have a say. That could be problematic with Farmington’s town meeting being held by a referendum vote this year, he said.

A public hearing will be held before town meeting, but no more than 50 can attend, Town Manager Richard Davis said. When hearings are held, not many attend so a lot of people going to vote would be seeing this for the first time, he noted.

The challenge of getting the word to voters was not the board’s responsibility, Bunker said. He was not opposed to having it as a resolution but noted there are a lot of holes in it.

Bunker asked what would happen if the resolution request wasn’t supported by the board.

Davis said there is a time limit to get the town meeting ballots prepared. 10% of those voting in the last gubernatorial election, about 305 would need to sign a petition drive to get it on the ballot, he added.

Fowler asked if a special town meeting could be held.

There’s a 50-person limit on gatherings, Davis stated.

“If more show up, I’m not sure what we can do,” he said. “We’re in the midst of a raging pandemic. 11 more Maine people died today.”

In other business, the board voted to hold a special selectmen meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2, to vote on the proposed 2021 department head budgets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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