November 04, 2019
PORTLAND, ME – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) delivered the keynote address at the Maine Modern Wood Heat Symposium at the University of Southern Maine’s Portland Campus. Senator King, an author and lead sponsor of the Biomass Thermal Utilization Act, shared his insights on the importance of the issue, and discussed his efforts to advance clean energy initiatives and support modern wood heating. The symposium gathered forest economy and clean energy leaders from the public and private sectors to discuss the future of this growing industry – which can both lower emissions and create new opportunities to make use of Maine’s vast forests. The Maine State Wood Energy Assistance Team that organized today’s event was established by U.S. Department of Agriculture funding, which Senator King advocated for, in 2016.
“Maine’s vast forests are one of our state’s most plentiful resources, and we need to explore every possible way to use this gold mine of fiber – including helping Maine people stay warm during cold winters,” said Senator King. “Modern wood heating allows us to heat Maine homes, schools, and businesses in a way that will cut energy costs for consumers, create jobs, and reduce emissions. This is a win-win for Maine people, and it’s being driven by the leaders who are coming together today to innovate and create new opportunities that drive our economy and our communities forward.”
Senator King is a strong supporter of efforts to revitalize Maine’s forest economy to further economic opportunities for Maine people. He was key in establishing the Forest Opportunity Roadmap Maine (FOR/ME) Initiative, an industry-led initiative that is helping to diversify the state’s wood products businesses, attract investments, support research and development, and develop greater economic prosperity for rural communities impacted by mill closures. The FOR/ME Initiative was funded as a result of the Economic Development Assessment Team (EDAT) requested by Senators Collins and King in 2016, with support from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration in order to create strategies for job growth and economic development in Maine’s rural communities. FOR/ME developed and is implementing a roadmap and action plan for the development of new markets for Maine’s forest resources, including the strengthening of existing forest products manufacturing, the attraction of investment in emerging technology, and the utilization of forest products residuals in CHP biomass plants, microgrids, modern thermal systems, and new forest products development. The FOR/ME Initiative has already resulted in multiple funding opportunities for Maine organizations and new investment in Maine’s forest economy.
A forceful advocate for clean energy solutions, Senator King is the lead sponsor on a range of bills that encourage energy efficiency such as the Next Generation Grid Resources and Infrastructure Development (GRID) Act to improve energy independence, foster innovation, and leverage federal resources to support a more resilient and modern electric grid. In August, Senators King and Collins introduced the Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Act, legislation that would support businesses that want to invest in energy efficiency technology, help diversify energy options for rural industries, and maximize Maine’s natural resources. In October, Senator King joined his colleagues in urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to release funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) as quickly as possible to Maine people who rely on its aid to pay for steep winter heating costs. In a May hearing, Senator King highlighted the grave dangers posed by rapidly rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere, and emphasized the importance of global collaboration in order to fully and effectively respond to the threats of climate change. In April, he published a column on Earth Day laying out the ambitious and attainable steps America must take to respond to the challenges of climate change. In February, Senator King took to the Senate floor to urge action on climate change. He strongly opposed the Administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.