Portland, South Portland team up on climate action planning

  • Mail this page!
  • Delicious
  • 1

PORTLAND — A combined effort may be what it takes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on both sides of the Fore River.

On Feb. 15, the City Council Sustainability & Transportation Committee discussed collaborating with officials in South Portland to engage a consultant to develop a plan with a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

The goals are part of the nationwide Mayors Climate Agenda.

Funding has not been approved in either city. The expected cost is an even split of $220,000.

The time-line could have plans in place in 18 months, according to a Feb. 15 press release from Portland spokeswoman Jessica Grondin.

The committee chairman, Councilor Spencer Thibodeau, on Feb. 14 said the process also includes determining the level of emissions.

“Part of that is understanding what our energy use is today and then setting us on a path to get to our goals,” Thibodeau said.

Grondin said City Manager Jon Jennings and his South Portland counterpart, Scott Morelli, have already discussed the collaborative effort and agree it makes sense in terms of minimizing consultant costs and for developing a regional strategy.

The collaboration is another element to an ambitious outlook in Portland, where councilors have already resolved to use nothing but renewable power sources by 2040. 

In November 2016, Portland councilors also enacted an “energy benchmarking” ordinance requiring owners of commercial buildings of more than 20,000 square feet or residential buildings of 50 or more units to report annual data on energy and water consumption.

Julie Rosenbach, South Portland’s sustainability director, on Tuesday said the two cities are natural partners in this effort since they share Casco Bay and have joined together in other projects, such as the solar energy array at South Portland’s former landfill off Highland Avenue. 

A solar landfill project in Portland, planned for the former Ocean Avenue landfill, has stalled while more investigation and remediation of environmental conditions is needed to obtain a Maine Department of Environmental Protection permit.

Rosenbach said the cities’ action was spurred by President Donald Trump’s pulling out of the Paris Climate agreement last year, pushing cities to pursue goals directly, including holding the rising global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius to mitigate the effects of climate change. 

Rosenbach will present plans to the South Portland City Council in April to seek funding and official adoption of the proposal, which has been initiated in 195 countries to reduce green house gas emissions.

Rosenbach said $44,000 from two existing accounts earmarked for climate action and green house gas emissions inventory projects will be used to help fund the project, and Morelli confirmed the city will have to earmark about another $66,000.

Rosenbach said a consultant will be hired to help draft a climate action plan for the cities, adding there will likely be variations to each city’s plan. She said the plans will be broken into sections by benchmark goals with associated years.

The innovative part of the proposal is to develop a regional vision to reduce emissions, Rosenbach said. 

Along with its solar farm, South Portland also installed solar power on its Planning and Development Department offices at 496 Ocean St. While serving as assistant city manager and economic development director in South Portland, Jennings also advocated buying electric vehicles for the city’s fleet.

The sustainability director said said each city faces challenges with storm surges, rising sea levels, and flooding, along with a slew of other climate change impacts. 

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8. Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or at jlaaka@theforecaster.net.

Hans Jahns, of Portland, takes a closer look last October at a solar panel during the ceremonial opening of South Portland’s solar array at 929 Highland Ave. Portland and South Portland are now discussin hiring a consultant to develop a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.