2018-04-20 / Front Page

City adopts climate goal

By Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – South Portland is getting serious about the environment, with the city council adopting a resolve Tuesday, April 17 promising to reduce greenhouse gas emissions citywide 80 percent by 2050. To achieve that goal, the council further committed staff to transition all municipal operations to 100 clean energy by 2040.

However, the vote was not without debate, including some naysaying from unexpected sources.

Councilor Eben Rose said the twin resolves are tied to a project unveiled by Sustainability Coordinator Julie Rosenbach at a March 27 council workshop. Rose had not been present for that meeting, making the most recent session his first chance to sound off on a plan to team with the council’s peers across the river in Portland on the creation of a joint Climate Action and Adaptation Plan.

Based on the presumption that both cities are in danger of rising sea levels resulting from global warming, the project will include creation of a 12-member committee appointed to draft the plan for reaching the goals of the adopted resolve. To help it do that work, the committee will spend $220,000 (split evenly between the cities) to hire a consultant and to have Portland-based GridSolar create parcel-level maps of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in both cities, along with a map that shows the location and capacity of key assets in the local electric grid.

Rose, ordinarily an ardent environmentalist, adopted a hawkish fiscal pose over the proposal.

“When we are facing such dire situations and we are feeling helpless, we expose ourselves to anyone who comes in and says ‘I’m going to make it right . . . if you pay me,’” he said. “We are going to put $110,000 into this and I have really no idea for what.

“Why aren’t we doing this in house?” Rose asked. “What are we getting for this consulting fee that we don’t already have the capability – or should have the capability – to at least get a start on ourselves?”

Rosenbach said the resolve and development of the climate plan are “two separate things.”

“All we are asking for tonight is commitment to move toward this tremendous goal,” she said.

Rosenbach said she would present her rational for the $110,000 cost of the consultant at a future meeting. The money will be included in his 2018-2019 capital improvement plan, said City Manager Scott Morelli. That plan is slated to be taken up by the council at its May 3 budget workshop.

In the end, the council voted unanimously to adopt the resolve. In a separate vote, it also unanimously appointed to the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan Ad Hoc Committee 12 people hand-picked by Rosenbach and her Portland counterpart, Troy Moon.

In addition to Rosenbach and Moon, appointees to the Portland/South Portland Ad-Hoc Committee for Climate Action and Adaptation Planning, all described by Rosenbach as “recognized regional leaders in energy, transportation, land use, waste reduction, and adaptation,” include:

 Portland Waterfront Coordinator Barry Needleman, Martha Sheils of the New England Environmental Finance Center, and Pete Slovinsky of the Maine Geological Survey, all of whom will focus on climate change adaptation.

 South Portland’s new economic development director, due to be hired in coming months, who will focus on adaptation and land use regulation.

 Barry Woods of ReVision Energy and Sara Zografos of the Greater Portland Council of Governments, both of whom will concentrate on land use and transportation issues.

 South Portland City Planner Tex Haeuser and Tyler Kidder of GrowSmart Maine, who will multitask land use, transportation, and energy use issues.

 Tim Schneider of Tilson Technology, Addy Smith-Reiman of the Portland Society for Architecture, and Dave Low of the Portland 2030 District, all of whom will center their attention on energy use.

 Mark Adelson of Portland Housing Authority, who will split his time between energy and land use.

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