YARMOUTH — Hoping to learn as much as it can from other communities already engaged in renewable energy and sustainability, a new town committee was hoping to join a Municipal Energy Coalition.

But in an April 4 workshop, a majority of town councilors said they could not support a resolution that would allow the Renewable Energy and Sustainability Advisory Committee to officially sign on with the regional group.

In other action last week, the council scheduled a final vote for May 2 on the combined fiscal year 2020 budget of $40.8 million. The budget could add $1.13 to the tax rate, Town Manager Nat Tupper said.

The energy coalition is mostly made up of sustainability coordinators working in a variety of municipalities across Maine, including Portland, Falmouth, South Portland, Sebago and Gray. The town of Scarborough and the city of Bath are also considering membership.

The RESAC vote was a disappointment to Councilor April Humphrey, one of the liaisons to the committee.

But the other liaison, Councilor Richard Plourde, was one of those who made the strongest argument against allowing the local committee to join the MEC.

The concern, both Plourde and Council Chairman Robert Waeldner said, was that the coalition has a focus on lobbying at the state level on specific energy and sustainability policies that goes beyond the specific charge given to the Yarmouth committee.

“This is a brand new committee that’s still putting together a plan for energy policy,” Plourde said. “They’re on a one-year timetable and I see this as a diversion from their actual mission.”

He also argued that nothing would keep individual members of RESAC from attending meetings of the Municipal Energy Coalition.

Plourde added that officially joining the coalition would “add one more layer to the workload that we don’t need.”

Waeldner said “it’s not (the committee’s role) to make decisions on state policy. This seems to go beyond what the town should be spending time on.” He said if people feel strongly enough, they can contact Yarmouth’s state legislators on their own.

Tupper said he moved the request from RESAC forward to the council because members of the committee felt “they would like to be a part of (the coalition) and to learn from it.”

Differing from Plourde, Humphrey said, “There are towns that are far ahead of where we are in terms of sustainability and renewable energy projects, so there’s lots the (Yarmouth) committee could learn from them.”

She said members of RESAC were only asking to be permitted to attend coalition meetings “to learn what they can. I think it’s very clear and they understand that their primary focus would not be lobbying.”

Members of Yarmouth’s new energy committee, Humphrey added, “only want very much to be involved and glean what they can and not have to reinvent the wheel.”

Councilor Meghan Casey agreed and said “it seems like a worthwhile thing to endorse. It could be a great thing for our fledgling committee. I support the purpose and it would be great if we could learn from other towns.”

But Plourde said not allowing RESAC to join the Municipal Energy Coalition doesn’t mean the committee “can’t do whatever it needs to get as much information as they want.”

This week Humphrey said the April 4 council decision “is the third time in less than two years that a climate-related action has been voted down or delayed indefinitely. We need to find a way to make some progress on reducing our greenhouse gas emissions because eventually it will be too late.”

RESAC was established last year to “facilitate and carry out programs and disseminate information to residents regarding renewable energy and sustainability options, to collaborate with nearby communities, and make recommendations to the Yarmouth Town Council for energy conservation and renewable energy projects,” according to the town website.

In the past couple months, Humphrey told The Forecaster, the energy committee has met with town officials and others “to determine what work has been done on energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainability thus far.”

She said they’ve also heard from members of the former Energy Savers committee and have looked at a baseline report, conducted in 2008, on municipal energy use.

This week RESAC Chairwoman Heather Abbott said her committee is simply “eager to begin working on projects that will benefit our town and have an impact on global climate change.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Yarmouth Town Councilor April Humphrey: “There are towns that are far ahead of where we are in terms of sustainability and renewable energy projects, so there’s lots the committee could learn from them.”

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