Bangor City Hall Credit: Alex Aquisto / BDN

Bangor and Orono will come together to address the region’s impact on the environment and help the state meet climate goals laid out by Gov. Janet Mills. 

On Monday, the municipalities each passed measures that would allow Bangor’s city manager Catherine Conlow and Orono’s town manager Sophie Wilson to work together to produce a regional climate action plan. 

The formalized agreement will serve as the key piece of framework and marks the first step toward crafting a unified approach between two of the largest municipalities in Penobscot County. 

Bangor and Orono hope to develop a plan that aligns with the state’s four-year plan to decrease greenhouse gas emissions 45 percent by 2030, decrease greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2045, according to the memorandum of understanding signed by the two municipalities. 

Mills pledged that Maine will have a carbon-neutral economy by 2045 in an address before a United Nations climate summit in New York City in 2019. She paired that with an executive order directing a new Maine Climate Council to deliver recommendations by 2020. 

In December 2020, the council sent Mills a plan outlining ways the state could achieve the goal, including increasing the share of electric vehicles in new passenger car sales to 28 percent in 2025 and 100 percent by 2050. 

It also suggested connecting 95 percent of the state to high-speed internet by 2025, allowing more people to work from home and reducing travel emissions. 

The plan also called for doubling the pace of weatherization programs to cover 17,500 additional homes and businesses within the next five years, with an end goal of 105,000 by 2050.

More than 60,000 upgraded heat pumps have been installed in Maine over the last several years, according to the report, and it recommended the state install another 100,000 by 2025.

The Orono-Bangor process won’t be complete overnight, however. The city and town agreed that it could take up to two years before any plan is ready to roll out, according to the memorandum. 

The two will work together to get other municipalities in the area on board as well as other entities like the University of Maine, Husson University and the Bangor Area Comprehensive Transportation System, the agreement said. 

During a presentation to the Orono Town Council June 28, council members were informed that Bangor and Orono have already asked the transportation system to fund and oversee regional data collection as part of the process. 

Bangor and Orono have also agreed to secure external consulting services — and share the expenses related to them — that will be used to help structure and advise the planning process. 

The outside experts are also expected to complete emissions inventories for each town and vulnerability assessments all to help form a single, actionable goal. 

Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is a reporter covering Old Town, Orono and the surrounding areas. A recent graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he's worked for Vermont Public Radio, The...