This is the third blog post in a series that will illuminate the ways federal funding has allowed Maine to successfully complete climate and clean energy projects; the projects that are underway with funding coming down the pipeline; and the needs that still exist for continued climate and clean energy work. Read the first blog here and the second here.
In the next few weeks, Congress is poised to revisit negotiations around a proposed $550 billion climate funding bill. We know from experience here in Maine that the federal funding packages Congress has already passed are making a big difference, but more needs to be done so local communities have the resources to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine is encouraging Maine’s Congressional delegation to take a leadership role in advocating for Mainers by bringing much-needed funding to the state by pushing for federal climate investments every chance they get. We hope they’ll take it.
Let’s take a quick look at three recent examples of how federal funding is already helping Maine and making a tangible difference in the lives of Maine people.
#1: The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) stimulus package delivered $4.6 billion to Maine, with just over $1 billion of that as discretionary funds. Governor Mills and the Legislature laid out how that funding will be distributed in the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, including $50 million for energy efficiency and weatherization, $25 million for drinking water infrastructure improvements, $20 million for community resiliency, and $8 million for electric vehicle charging stations.
Maine was also able to invest heavily in expanding high-speed broadband to local communities with $149 million in broadband investments, including $21 million that helped to fund the ConnectMaine broadband infrastructure grants. The unequal distribution of internet service in our state is unfair and is holding back our state’s efforts to reduce carbon pollution through telework, teleschool, and telehealth opportunities. Driving less means less pollution, but we cannot be successful online if we can’t reliably connect. Thanks to federal investments through ARPA, the ConnectMaine Authority Board awarded grants to 8 more projects earlier this month, which will connect approximately 6,000 Maine homes and businesses to high speed internet.
#2: The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), more commonly known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will deliver $2.37 billion to Maine over five years, including $390 million to improve drinking water infrastructure, $230 million for public transit, $100 million for broadband, and $19 million for electric vehicle charging stations.
Just last month, Senators Collins and King announced that Maine would receive more than $47 million in funds to support local public transit systems across the state including buses, rail lines, and ferries. As the most rural state in the nation, most Mainers rely on a personal vehicle to get around. Investing in public transit helps us reduce emissions, strengthen local economies, and enhance the health of our communities. It also helps those who don’t have a car get where they need to go and reduces congestion on the roads.
#3: For the first time in more than a decade, the 2022 budget bill included earmarks. All four of Maine’s Congressional delegates submitted requests, and funding for more than 120 projects was approved, totaling roughly $200 million. Many of the projects will improve water and wastewater infrastructure:
- The Livermore Falls Wastewater Treatment Facility Upgrade Project will receive $1.7 million, thanks to requests from Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and Representative Jared Golden. Funding will assist the towns of Livermore Falls and Jay to replace an aging wastewater treatment facility and protect water quality in the Androscoggin River.
- Representative Chellie Pingree’s funding request for the Vinalhaven Downtown Project was approved for nearly $1.2 million and will help upgrade stormwater infrastructure and improve the sewer system to prevent flooding.
- Requests from both Senators Collins and King resulted in $3.93 million for improvements to Saco’s Water Resource Recovery Department to help protect the Saco River, address climate mitigation, and improve resiliency from severe floods and weather events.
As we’ve highlighted in this blog series, federal funding for clean energy and climate mitigation projects creates immense opportunities and benefits Maine’s communities, environment, and economy. Thanks to the passage of ARPA, IIJA, and the recent earmarks, Maine has more funding on the horizon.
But it’s not enough. Maine’s Climate Action Plan provides a strong roadmap for averting the worst impacts of climate change, and we’ve made great progress at the state level, but we’ll need significant federal investments to meet the goals we’ve set.
—Anya Fetcher, NRCM Federal Policy Advocate and Josh Caldwell, NRCM Climate & Clean Energy Outreach Coordinator