By Larry Grard
KeepMEcurrent.com news story
A fledgling group of Freeport residents focused on a cleaner environment urges that people show up at an April 15 meeting of the Town Council to help persuade the council to imposed a ban or fee on the use of carry-out plastic bags in Freeport businesses.
The Freeport Climate Action Team (Freeport CAT), organized earlier this year by Sukie Rice, supports an ordinance introduced last year by Meredith Broderick and Elly Bengtsson, who were Freeport High School seniors at the time. Sandy Thompson, a member of the Recycling and Solid Waste Committee who plans to join Freeport CAT, said that the committee has recommended a ban or fee on plastic bags to the Ordinance Committee, a Town Council subcommittee, which is yet to make a specific recommendation to the full council. The Ordinance Committee suggested on Feb. 24 that the decision go to a public referendum, and that it wanted further Town Council discussion.
Freeport CAT held a meeting last Thursday night in the second-floor community meeting room at McDonald’s, and Rice held an impromptu meeting Friday outside her home.
“Plastic bags are not easily recycled, and they’re non-biodegradable,” Thompson said last Friday, as she discussed the issue with Rice “Only a very small percentage is recycled. The market is not there, because they have to be cleaned. They’re not recycled, they’re burned.”
The group believes that Freeport, situated on Casco Bay and home to many lobsterers and clammers, would benefit from a ban or fee on plastic bags.
Rice imagines the production of cloth bags as a “great cottage industry” in Freeport.
“Our focus is one the single-use, ‘out-it-goes,’” she said. “We would like to target businesses with two per cent or more of its sales in food. That’s where the real problem is – the large supermarkets and the pharmacies.”
Members of the Freeport Community Action Team also are encouraging people to email legislators and show up at an upcoming Energy Committee meeting – date to be determined – in support of a bill by Rep. Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, that would encourage more usage of solar energy.
Rice says that Gideon’s bill, “An Act To Create Jobs and Promote Investment in Maine’s Economy through Increased Access to Solar Energy,” is expected to come up to committee sometime next week. Emails, letters, and phone calls – as well as showing up in person at the hearing when it comes to committee – are important, Rice said.
“It literally needs our involvement to get it passed, and then to override a (Gov. Paul) LePage veto,” Rice said. “This bill is really important to help solar grow in Maine as it breaks down several existing barriers that limit the ability of Maine people, businesses and communities to invest in solar.”
The bill would mandate that Maine receive 2 percent of its total electricity from solar energy by 2021. Only 0.2 percent of renewable energy produced in Maine now is from solar, Rice said.
“A second impetus to growth set in motion by the bill arises out of its substantial increase, first, in the size of solar installations permitted to businesses and, second, in the number of rate payers allowed to co-own shares in large community solar farms,” Rice said. “These farms – large arrays of hundreds of solar panels – are incentivized by a ‘net metering’ process that allows individual ratepayers to receive credits on their monthly household electric bills commensurate with their share of energy in the solar farm.”
Thompson said that solar energy allows for energy independence, either at individually or through solar farms.
“Solar is one of the fastest-growing job sectors, but Maine as at the bottom of the country,” Rice said.
The town of Freeport has taken steps of its own to make solar power more attractive, arranging a bulk purchase for solar panels in a program known as “Solarize Freeport.”