Pingree, Holbrook discuss energy, environment in Portland forum

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PORTLAND — While disclaiming expertise Monday, the candidates in Maine’s 1st Congressional District threw their support behind alternative energy sources.

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, of North Haven, and her Republican challenger, Brunswick resident Mark Holbrook, addressed an E2Tech election forum at the University of Southern Maine, speaking and taking questions for 30 minutes each.

The candidates took different tacks in their presentations. Pingree outlined her thoughts on tidal, wind and solar energy, while Holbrook largely relied on the audience of about 100 for guidance in advocating for them.

E2Tech, the Environmental and Energy Technology Council of Maine, is an “energy, environmental, and clean technology business and economic developmental organization,” according to its literature.

Pingree said she is still surprised to be having a discussion over facts about man-made climate change in Washington, D.C., while her constituents understand the need for change.

“If there is one thing about Mainers, they want energy independence,” she said.

Pingree concluded renewable resources offer opportunities for energy that would not contribute to warmer ocean waters, rising sea level and effects on weather that might include this summer’s drought.

With an estimated 6,000 people employed in the alternative energy industries, Pingree added there is an economic benefit that accompanies the environmental gains.

“They are generally good-paying jobs, and more importantly, they are the kind of jobs you can’t ship overseas,” she said.

Holbrook joked about the potential partisan nature of the forum, which began with a breakfast.

“I think I’m on the menu because I am the token Republican here,” he said.

Holbrook was assured later by former USM professor Rachel Bouvier that he was welcome.

“(E2Tech) is not exclusively Democratic. We represent all views, all range of political parties,” Bouvier said as she urged Holbrook to support the state’s colleges and universities in researching the development of renewable energy sources.

Holbrook, who holds a doctorate in clinical psychology and works with veterans, active military personnel and law enforcement officials in his practice, said he would rely on his constituents and the experts gathered at the forum to move forward on energy policies.

“What I want to do is help you stay here, to help you grow and prosper,” he said. “I am trained to find common ground. I think it will be easy to come to the (Republican) caucus and present this stuff in a way that makes common sense.”

Revision Energy co-founder Phil Coupe asked Holbrook how he might counter the “dark money on the fossil-fuel side” that funds political campaigns denying man-made climate change.

“This is a very complicated issue and I am unwilling to say let’s go after one or the other,” Holbrook said.

Later in the day, Bill Kovacs of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Tiernan Sittenfeld of the League of Conservation Voters spoke. The forum concluded with comments from Richard L. Kauffman, an energy adviser to the presidential campaign of Democrat Hillary Clinton.

E2Tech Executive Director Jeff Marks said the campaign for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump did not respond to an invitation to provide a speaker.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, left, and Republican Mark Holbrook address an energy forum Monday, Sept. 19, at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.