Maine gov targets timber funds to lower heat costs

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 18, 2014 at 2:16 pm •  Published: March 18, 2014
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AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Gov. Paul LePage's administration urged lawmakers on Tuesday to support a proposal to use money generated from increased logging on public lands to fund a program to help Maine residents boost energy efficiency and lower their heating bills.

The Republican governor's administration said it's introducing a new bill this week that would put $1 million per year from the timber revenue into a fund for residents who invest in modern heating equipment, like heat pumps and or new insulation systems. LePage criticized lawmakers for stalling a similar measure introduced by Senate Democratic Leader Troy Jackson.

Patrick Woodcock, director of LePage's Energy Office, said this winter's extremely cold temperatures combined with Maine's antiquated heating systems have "compounded what's usually a struggle" for Maine families to afford heating "into a crisis."

"Right now, Maine people are freezing and we are doing nothing about it," LePage said.

Maine's Department of Agriculture, Conversation and Forestry spokesman John Bott said Tuesday that the department has internally agreed to increase the harvest on public lands from 115,000 cords to 141,000 cords this fiscal year that ends in June, and then gradually raise it to 180,000 cords by 2016.