Farmington Selectmen Tuesday, Feb. 9, approved a resolution be included on the town meeting referendum vote warrant. Resident Sherry Jencks at left and UMF geologist Doug Reusch spoke on the issue. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser Buy this Photo

FARMINGTON — Selectmen voted 2-1 to include a climate change resolution on the April 26 annual town meeting warrant.

Voting will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Community Center, 127 Middle Street.

Selectmen Michael Fogg and Scott Landry supported the request with Matthew Smith opposed. Selectmen Joshua Bell and Stephan Bunker were absent.

Selectmen were deadlocked on the issue when it was presented Jan. 26.

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.

Before the vote, resident Sherry Jencks said Farmington is not immune to the effects of climate change.

“We are a four seasons, rural community with industry and recreation that are impacted by the effects of erratic weather patterns,” she said. “As a state we are even more vulnerable due to our coastline with warming waters and rising sea levels.

“Our community, our country and the global community are in a transition from dependence of fossil fuel based energy to clean, renewable energy,” Jencks noted. Local solar and wind projects were given as evidence.

Ten different carbon pricing bills are set to come before Congress and it is a pretty sure thing that some form will be adopted, she said.

“The question isn’t whether carbon pricing is going to be enacted, the question is which bill will be the most effective while protecting those who are most vulnerable to the resultant energy costs,” Jencks said. “The most significant differences in the proposed bills are the fee structure and the designation of fees collected.”

The cash-back bill is the only one that distributes fees collected, minus 3% administration costs to all United States citizens in the form of monthly dividends, she noted. Other bills have much higher administrative costs and no compensation for the impact of increased costs to the consumer, she added.

“The carbon cash-back legislation is supported by economists, scientists, the national chamber of commerce and some of the fossil fuel industry,” Jencks said. “We see it as the best option for our community.”

Businesses aren’t eligible for dividends, Jencks said.

Jencks said her group would be responsible for educating the public on the issue. She felt a collective voice would be more impressive than individual ones. More than 40 Maine towns will have this on their town meeting agendas, she said.

“We can do a lot in our community around energy conservation and the state can do a lot,” Jencks said. “If we don’t have good federal legislation it won’t be effective. This is an opportunity for us to have a voice.”

Fogg questioned the impact a letter would have on legislators and suggested a statewide referendum as being more viable.

The science is clear, University of Maine Farmington geologist Doug Reusch said.

“We need to start somewhere,” he noted. James Hansen, the father of climate science has a very strong opinion that this approach is the only one that will work, he said.

“The little guy will make out a little better than the rich end of the spectrum,” Reusch said. “People need to start learning what the choices are. All we’re doing is asking for a chance to have people in town learn about, decide if they like it or not.”

Folks who don’t need the dividend to help their budgets could use the money to invest in more efficient cars or heat pumps, Jencks said.

The issue has generated the most conversation since becoming a selectman, Smith said. Most people have said they don’t want another tax, he noted.

The bottom line is an opportunity to put this question on the ballot for residents in Farmington, Landry said. If approved by those residents, the board will send a letter to state legislators, the governor and Maine’s Congressional delegation, he noted.

“I think the real challenge is going to be for you to educate people on what it means,” Landry said. “I think you’re going to have a hard time this year, especially with no town meeting to sell your point.”

 

 

 

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