Mitchell outlines campaign priorities

Posted Sept. 27, 2010, at 10:55 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Democratic candidate for governor Libby Mitchell swayed little from the state’s current course when she unveiled plans Monday to lower energy costs while protecting the environment.

Mitchell, one of five candidates whose names appear on the Nov. 2 ballot for governor, made her remarks during a meeting with Fusion Bangor, a networking group of young professionals from in and around the Queen City, at Wellman Commons, part of the former Bangor Theological Seminary.

Mitchell reaffirmed her long-standing commitment to the pursuit of renewable energy sources and said the state could save $1 billion annually through energy conservation and a continued emphasis on generating electricity with wind, biofuels, tides and solar energy.

Though she didn’t name Republican nominee for governor Paul LePage, she apparently referred to his position in favor of nuclear power plants when she told the group of about 30 that they are “very, very heavily subsidized.”

Asked after the event about problems with wind power such as a recent finding by a Department of Environmental Protection consultant that turbines on Vinalhaven were too noisy, Mitchell said she prefers offshore projects though onshore ones can work as well.

“Siting is very important to me,” she said. “They should not be on every mountaintop, but I would like to see where there are good sites.”

To encourage school departments to weatherize their buildings, Mitchell proposed the creation of a loan guarantee program that would help schools borrow money for weatherization projects.

“The municipality takes the loan and they pay it back with the savings,” she said. “It probably won’t cost us anything.”

Mitchell also proposed another public-private partnership — such partnerships have been an important part of much of her policy agenda — to increase the use of natural gas by exploring the hookup of businesses and residences in the Augusta, Waterville and Brunswick areas. That would require line extensions to Augusta and Waterville.

Mitchell repeated an earlier pledge to create an Office of Strategic Initiatives and Jobs and giving it the job of, among other things, the leasing of an energy corridor through Maine. This comes after recent legislation aimed at creating an energy corridor that follows Maine’s interstate highways.

On the environmental front, Mitchell again stayed with her previous course in two areas. She endorsed the implementation of the Great Maine Forest Initiative, a plan developed by landowners, environmentalists and entrepreneurs that seeks to keep forests as forests for both recreational and commercial use, and said she would advocate for borrowing $100 million for the Land for Maine’s Future program over the next four years.

She said a strong focus of the Land for Maine’s Future funds would be for commercial waterfronts and farmland.

“Once you lose the chance to conserve something, you’ve lost it forever,” she said. “We need to preserve access to those places that as Maine people we’ve had for hundreds of years. That depends on a cooperation between the people who use these resources for working and hunters, hikers and fishermen.”

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