Maine unveils new climate change adaptation initiatives

Gov. Janet Mills has unveiled new programs and funding aimed at helping communities harden their infrastructure against the impacts of climate change.

Under a new $20 million initiative that was unveiled last week, the Maine Department of Transportation will offer grants to cities and towns, tribal governments, and other municipal officials for projects to improve drinking water systems, stormwater and wastewater infrastructure, and protect them from flooding, rising sea levels and extreme storms.

Meanwhile, the new Community Resilience Partnership is a $4.75 million program that will provide grants and technical assistance to municipal and tribal governments for local climate action plans, and projects to curb greenhouse gas emissions, transition to clean energy, and become more resilient to the effects of a warming planet.

Mills said the new programs add to the state’s efforts to address climate change, which she said is “disrupting our cherished way of life, threatening our economy, and endangering our future.”

“With the very future of our state and its people at stake, Maine is not waiting to act,” the Democrat said in a statement. “After years of delay, we are now making unprecedented strides to embrace clean energy, reduce carbon emissions, strengthen our economy, and partner with communities to fight, at every level, the greatest danger of our time.”

James Gardner, president of the Maine Municipal Association, said cities and towns are “eager to address the negative impacts of climate change” and said the plan rolled out by the Mills administration offers a “blueprint for meaningful change.”

“Building community resiliency to climate change requires bold action, strong partnerships, and investment in financial and technical assistance that municipalities need to implement solutions,” said Gardner, a town manager in Easton, Maine.

Maine Transportation Commissioner Bruce Van Note said the state plans to get money from the new $20 million program “where it’s needed as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

“These timely investments will support public safety, protect our natural resources and enhance our quality of life,” he said in a statement.

Maine has set ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 45% by 2030, 80% by 2050, and “zero net” carbon dioxide emissions by 2045.

A four-year climate change plan, signed by Mills a year ago, commits the state to taking ambitious steps to meet those goals, including expansion of wind and solar power, getting more electric vehicles on the road, and improving energy efficiency.

Environmental groups say the latest initiatives build on efforts the Mills administration has taken in the past year to address climate change.

“Coupled with emissions reductions, this investment will help Maine’s communities face climate change and build a brighter future for people and nature alike,” said Kate Dempsey, state director of The Nature Conservancy in Maine and a member of the Maine Climate Council. “This is an example for the nation and the world of which all Mainers can be proud.”

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