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Carbon emissions resolution proposed for town meeting

By Kay Neufeld | Feb 17, 2021

Appleton — The Select Board discussed Feb. 16 a potential June ballot item entitled: “Resolution to Take Action on Carbon Emissions Pollution, The Principle Cause of Climate Change.”

The resolution, which was written by Maine Citizens Climate Lobby and proposed by Sharon Pree, states: “the Citizens of Appleton hereby call upon our Federal elected representatives to enact fossil fuel pricing legislation to speed the transition to clean energy sources and to protect Maine from the increasing costs and environmental risks (including floods, droughts, unprecedented wind storms, etc.) associated with climate change.”

Voting to approve the resolution will not immediately change anything. Rather, it is symbolic, meant to send a statement to elected officials, state and national.

The resolution recommends a “Carbon Fee & Dividend approach” that elected representatives should adopt to fight against climate change but still “protect household budgets.” The recommended approach “charges producers for pollution associated with burning fossil fuels” and “rebates net revenues collected to all citizens or legal residents on an equitable basis” in what the resolution calls “Carbon Cash-Back.”

The resolution states this rebate program would be “effective in reducing air pollution, and thus improving health; Freedom loving, by putting money directly in people’s pockets, retaining their freedom to choose; Creating millions of new jobs throughout the cleaner economy; Revenue neutral, with Government keeping none of the net revenue from carbon pricing.”

Given that the resolution is more symbolic, Select Board member Peter Beckett asked Pree, during the meeting, “why not take this directly to our elected officials at the state?”

“We’re trying to cultivate grassroots support that we can bring to the state and our congresspeople,” Pree responded. She said neighboring towns have adopted similar resolutions in recent years.

The Select Board decided to abstain from voting, just yet, on whether to put the resolution on the town warrant that will be up for vote in June in an election that takes the place of the normal town meeting.

They expressed concerns the resolution would be misunderstood without a regular town meeting. COVID-19 restraints mean the normal town meetings that take place across Maine, where townspeople discuss and then vote on warrants as a single, in-person body, cannot happen. However, similar to last year, 2021’s town meeting will be replaced by an election day and a public hearing that precedes it.

The Select Board expects the attendance of the hearing to be “sparse” and is concerned that without a proper venue, Appleton residents might worry the resolution, only represented by a single sentence on the ballot, will bring about “a carbon tax.”

“You’re opening yourself up for failure with this, actually,” Select Board Chairman John Fenner said.

“I would caution you on this way of doing it, though I’m for [the resolution],” Select Board member Peter Beckett agreed.

If the Select Board is to reject the proposal, Pree would have to submit a petition with signatures from 10 percent of Appleton’s population to force the resolution onto the ballot.

The Select Board indicated they were not immediately going to reject the resolution, however Pree seemed to prefer the petitioning route, feeling she needed “to do the homework that is needed to get people informed and vote for it.”

For now, Pree agreed to discuss the matter further with Town Clerk Elizabeth Dickerson and reach out by the next Select Board meeting with her decision on whether she is opting to start a petition.

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