ACTON — A grassroots movement encouraging Congress to develop a national energy policy has had success here and in some other municipalities west of the turnpike, and now the originators plan to take the issue to the York County coast and beyond.

Tom Cashin, who has been leading the charge along with Gavin Maloney, said the goal is straightforward.

“(We’re looking for) a rational consideration and action on climate change,” said Cashin in a recent interview.

Towns and cities are asked this question: “Do you favor our state and federal congressional delegations holding hearings, in consultation with the National Academy of Science, to devise and implement a sustainable energy policy for the nation? (This policy, based on peer-reviewed science, should seek to diminish the buildup of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and curb the growing instability of the Earth’s climate).”

Three towns ”“ Acton, Alfred and Shapleigh ”“ passed referendums or held Town Meeting votes approving the petition, and Sanford City Council passed a resolution earlier this year.

Cashin, active in his community on the planning board and the conservation committee, said he’s hopeful Biddeford and Saco will also approve a resolution ”“ he plans to approach city councils soon in both communities and to also address the York County Advocacy Group. Then, it’s on to Portland and Falmouth.

Maloney, also involved with the Acton Planning Board, operates Late Light Farm.

“The farm is a huge part of my life,” he said, “and climate change will really affect farming in the future.”

State Rep. Bill Noon of Springvale, a builder and sheep farmer, said folks he talks to are already seeing changes. He said peach trees that once produced fruit only once every half-a-dozen years, are now producing fruit annually.

Noon had submitted a bill to the state Legislature designed to re-start the state’s study on climate change, begun in 2009 by the Baldacci administration. While the bill, LD 825, passed in both the Maine House and Senate, a veto by Gov. Paul LePage was sustained by one vote. He said he may make another attempt when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

Cashin took up the grassroots effort after a discussion about climate with his son, Emil, who was studying to become an environmental engineer.

“I said I’d try to do something about it,” said Cashin.

He and some colleagues in Acton began a conversation, and the petition effort began. Acton voters approved the referendum question in November, 886-430; Shapleigh and Alfred did so in March, and the Sanford council earlier this year.

As Cashin understand it, the major cause of climate change is greenhouse gas emissions. A sustainable policy would cut back on those emissions, he said.

Can smaller, grassroots efforts affect change?

Supporter Joseph Hanslip, Sanford’s deputy mayor, believes so.

“Yes. At least on the local level,” said Hanslip. “And the more we increase the level of awareness, the more likely change will come out of it.”

“I still have hope in the political process,” said Cashin. “I talk to my neighbors, meet with community leaders one on one.”

Pointing to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and the nuclear disarmament movement in the 1970s, he said change can come, through dialogue and effort.

“People have (come together) in the past and acted for a common purpose,” he said. “We understand people’s reluctance to get involved in something that seems quite complex and controversial, and yet we urge people, because of the impact on our lives that will be more evident as time passes.”

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected].

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