Jan. 2021 Program Newsletter
When the Regional Sustainability and Resilience Program began one year ago, we were filled with enthusiasm and optimism about the year ahead. Despite the challenges posed in 2020, our towns remained committed to pushing forward on sustainability and climate action. Some of the highlights of our first year include:

  • Completed the Regional Sustainability and Coastal Resilience Assessment: Getting There from Here – A Baseline for Advancing Climate Action in Southern Maine

  • Conducted a sea level rise vulnerability assessment and economic impact analysis for the towns of York, Kennebunk, and Wells  

  • Participated in the Maine Climate Council CAP planning process and served on the Community Resilience, Public Health, and Emergency Management Working Group 

  • Developed a new methodology for estimating transportation GHG emissions for York County municipalities

  • Began a joint regional solar procurement process with three member towns and three other participating towns

  • Held our first regional Committee Chair Forum with the chairs of sustainability and resilience related committees of the member towns 

  • Awarded a $130,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to develop the first regional coastal resilience plan for Southern Maine

  • Awarded a $160,000 grant from the Economic Development Administration to support the development of an economic resiliency strategy to mitigate the effects of recent and future coastal storms and climate change

Commitment of our Program and towns remains paramount as we face climate change impacts here and now. According to the National Weather Service, 2020 was the warmest year ever for Portland, Maine, breaking the previous records set in 2010 and 2012. The year was also marked by prolonged and severe drought conditions as well as the most active fire season in over a decade.

In this newsletter issue, we take a look back at the progress we have made over the past year and look ahead to what we plan to achieve in 2021. Whatever the future holds, we look forward to working with our towns to create a sustainable, resilient future for coastal York County.
Getting There from Here: A Baseline for Advancing Climate Action in Southern Maine
To establish a baseline of sustainability and coastal resilience efforts and needs, we conducted a comprehensive assessment of individual town and regional action undertaken to-date. We identified common strategies for success that enable progress on municipal actions and common barriers and Challenges that limit the towns’ ability to implement actions.

We also identified regional priorities based on common priorities among the towns’ future efforts that could benefit from a regional approach. These priorities will guide the future work of our program:
1. Understand communitywide GHG emissions for our region to plan and take action on emissions reductions.

2. Understand regional climate change impacts and developing a plan with specific strategies to address those impacts.

3. Prepare for coastal hazards.

4. Help local businesses be sustainable and resilient to climate change.

5. Facilitate regional efforts to procure renewable energy for municipal operations.

6. Provide technical assistance to support sustainable transportation efforts.
7. Ensure municipal and regional climate change goals and priorities align with and support the State of Maine Climate Action Plan.

8. Increase staff and committee capacity for addressing sustainability and resilience in municipal operations.

9. Engage community members on local climate change, sustainability, and resilience issues.

10. Work with committees and local non-profits to collaborate on and promote local events and education campaigns.

11. Support watershed health.
Featured in State Climate Action Plan
The state's 4-year Climate Action Plan, "Maine Won't Wait", released in December, features our regional program as an example of communities banding together to tackle climate challenges.

Based on efforts of the Climate Council and its working groups, the Plan outlines goals and strategies for addressing climate change and building resilience of communities, people, and natural resources.
The Program is Getting a UNH Sustainability Fellow
The UNH Sustainability Fellowship Program pairs exceptional college and graduate students from across the U.S. with municipal, educational, corporate, and non-profit partners to work on sustainability initiatives.

SMPDC has been selected to host a graduate Fellow to support our two-year grant project funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Coastal Resilience Fund. The project will support the advancement of coastal resilience action in Maine’s 10 southernmost coastal communities and result in Maine's first regional coastal resilience plan.

The Fellow will work with SMPDC staff and other project partners to develop and carry out a novel and creative stakeholder engagement process informed by regional resilience needs, local coastal hazards and climate vulnerabilities.
Towns Work Together to Secure Solar Electricity
In 2019, the Maine legislature passed LD 1711: An Act To Promote Solar Energy Projects and Distributed Generation Resources. Since then, many of our municipalities have been approached by solar developers with offers for net energy billing credit agreements. These agreements provide municipalities with a discount on their electricity costs for municipal operations by providing monetary net energy billing credits and can help towns meet their emission reduction goals.

The Southern Maine Solar Collaborative, in partnership with six Southern Maine municipalities (including 3 program member municipalities), is working to complete a joint procurement process to obtain a master net energy billing credit agreement for all six towns.

There are distinct advantages to an inter-municipal approach. Aggregating demand can reduce the per unit cost of solar energy (i.e. a bigger discount), and shared risk and credit can be leveraged to improve contract terms with the developer. Working together, we can reduce staff time and technical capacity needed to evaluate these agreements, opening up solar opportunities to smaller communities with less staff capacity and smaller electricity needs. 

Estimating On-Road Transportation Emissions in York County, Maine
Transportation Emissions Report Published!
Transportation is responsible for 54% of Maine’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – the most of any sector.

We pioneered a methodology to estimate on-road transportation (ORT) emissions for all towns and cities in York County. ORT emissions estimates can help municipalities set emissions reduction targets and prioritize emission mitigation strategies. By calculating ORT emissions for all of York County, it is possible to compare emissions across communities, identify regional emission patterns, and develop regional mitigation strategies. 
Program Partners: New Green Business Initiative
Rachel Carson’s Conservation Champions: Businesses for a Greener Future
Our friends at the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge are inviting business owners in southern coastal Maine to incorporate one act of environmental sustainability into their operations starting in 2021.

The initiative aims to inspire local business owners to implement at least one environmentally sustainable action at their business within a one-year timeframe. The project is part of the refuge’s 50th anniversary celebration of being renamed in honor of the world-renowned conservationist and marine biologist, Rachel Carson.
Upcoming Trainings and Events
  • SMPDC Maine Climate Action Plan workshop: COMING SOON, Date TBD

  • Maine Climate Council quarterly meeting: February 3, 2021, 9:00 – 10:30 am, Register Here.

Funding Opportunities
  • Maine Forest Service: Project Canopy Assistance Grants. Grants for developing and implementing community forestry projects and programs. (Pre-application workshop Feb. 3 at 1 PM, Due Mar. 12, 2021)

  • Island Institute: Tom Glenn Community Impact Fund. Grants and revolving loans for community infrastructure planning are available for broadband, energy, and sea level rise projects (awarded on a rolling basis).
Southern Maine Planning & Development Commission | Website