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UMFK WILL HOST STATE AND NATIONAL ENERGY LEADERS AT FIRST COOL CONGRESS

September 25, 2009

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The University of Maine at Fort Kent will host community leaders and local energy teams looking to develop and implement effective local energy projects and policies aimed to reduce energy use, when they convene for Maine’s first Cool Congress on Saturday, October 3, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.  

The event will take place in the Old Model School, located on Pleasant Street in Fort Kent.  UMFK will be linked to the Cool Congress by an Interactive Television (ITV) feed, along with other University of Maine campuses from across the state. 

Go to coolmaine.org to register online; click on “2009 Conference” or call Sandy at 761-5616. 

The conference is free for Aroostook County residents, and lunch will be provided for participants, thanks to sponsorship from the Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC).    

A panel and workshops, featuring national and state experts and Cool Community leaders, will provide Congress participants with information and resources to help them develop and implement effective local energy projects and policies aimed to reduce energy use, save money, and create a healthier environment. 

“This is an important conference and we are delighted to participate in making it available to people here in the Valley, said UMFK President, Dr. Richard W. Cost. 

“The recently-revised UMFK Strategic Plan speaks to our mission of ‘Educating students to become responsible citizens committed to environmental stewardship through experiential learning.’  This is an excellent example of a workshop that joins students and our community together in thinking creatively about our environment. Special thanks to the Northern Maine Development Commission for sponsoring the meals,” Dr. Cost added. 

Proposed state legislation calling for Maine municipalities to form energy committees and begin project planning and development will be discussed by its sponsor; state representative and Cool Team volunteer Melissa Innes Walsh, of Yarmouth. Tim Vrabel, Deputy Director of Energy Programs at Efficiency Maine, will outline new funding opportunities for municipal energy activities available through his agency.  

“The Cool Congress comes at a time when Efficiency Maine is rolling out two grant programs designed to assist municipalities across the state with energy planning and small project implementation and to fund large projects already on the drawing board,” Vrabel said.  

“Local citizens, organized and resourced by Maine Partners, have often been the key actors leading municipalities towards smart energy planning and solutions. Now with Efficiency Maine funding available, these grassroots efforts may be more appealing to municipalities anxious to get on the energy-saving bandwagon,” Vrabel noted. 

The Congress will be kicked off by internationally renowned author and spokesperson on climate change and local economies, Bill McKibben, with a keynote address aired through ITV. From his recent world travels, McKibben will share news of local efforts around the world that are creating the mandate for international action just ahead of United Nations meetings on climate change in December.  

“The event is a great way for the community to continue discussing regional energy solutions and complements the work of UMFK’s Center for Rural Sustainable Development,” said its Director, Brian Kermath.  

The morning plenary session will include John Kerry, Maine’s Director of Energy Independence; Suzanne Watson from American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy; and Rhett Lamb, planner for Keene, New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation municipal climate change adaptation plan.  

Maine Partners for Cool Communities, the conference organizers, is a collaboration of five non-profit groups working to develop local climate action and smart energy solutions. Co-sponsors include Efficiency Maine, Sierra Club of Maine, Maine State Housing Authority and the New England Grassroots Environment Fund.

Three sets of concurrent workshop sessions will feature employees from Efficiency Maine and other state agencies, practitioners in energy conservation and renewable energy technology, and experienced volunteers from across Maine. For a detailed program, please visit www.coolmaine.org 

Concurrent Workshop Session 1 will run from 11a.m. until 12 noon and include three options: Organizing Locally 101--Organizing and Building an Effective Cool Communities Program; Community Hands-On Approaches; and, Municipal Approaches to Energy Efficiency. Lunch will be served at 12 noon. 

Concurrent Workshops in Session 2 include Achieving Residential Energy Efficiency; Promoting Public and Alternative Transportation; and, Renewable Energy Projects for Municipalities. 

Session Three Workshop topics are Local & Region Planning for Sustainability; Energy-Related Funding Opportunities for Towns; and, State-Level Energy Policy and Legislation.

The day’s program will conclude with an optional tour of Hannaford’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum-rated Supermarket in Augusta.  

Corporate underwriting has been provided by Maine Biz, First Wind, Wright-Pierce, among others.             

For further information, contact Joan Saxe at (207)865-3648, (207)939-2634, or at jsaxe@suscom-maine.net