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This is Governor John Baldacci.

This week, I traveled to Aroostook County.

I visited Caribou where I was briefed by local emergency management officials about the impact that this harsh winter has had on The County.

The toll on people, animals and property is clear.

Normally, the hardy folks in The County shrug off bad weather. They poke fun at the rest of us when we start complaining about big snows and cold spells.

If anyone can handle the snow and the cold temperatures, it’s the people who live in Aroostook County.

But this year, it’s been even too much for them. If you haven’t seen the piles of snow firsthand, it’s difficult to believe.

And if you add to it the price of heating oil, gasoline and electricity, it has been crippling.

It’s bad enough that roads have narrowed to little more than paths cut through packed snow, but gas prices being high are kind of like a “one-two punch.”

So, the State is going to continue to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and, if possible, we will try to draw financial support for the storm that brought 18 new inches of snow to The County just last week.

My trip to Aroostook wasn’t just to see the snow, but I also visited the wind farm at Mars Hill to celebrate the project’s one-year anniversary – the light at the end of our economic slump.

In short, the amount of time that the wind farm has been in operation, it has generated enough power to put the electricity to 19,000 homes; it’s saved more than 240,000 barrels of oil and 111 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions have been avoided.

Now that’s significant. It’s good for our economy, it’s good for our environment and it’s good for our people.

And we can continue to develop alternative sources of energy in Maine, we will be able to reduce our dependency on costly foreign oil and bring down the price of electricity and gasoline to Maine families and businesses.

Maine has more than $2 billion dollars in wind power projects already approved or in development. Our State has a tremendous opportunity to become one of the leading producers of clean electricity in the country.

On Thursday, I will be hosting an Energy Summit at the Civic Center, here in Augusta. The event will cover a broad range of energy-related issues which is going to focus on efficiency.

For all of Maine’s potential to produce green energy in the future, we can save real money today by reducing our demand. Improving energy efficiency is the quickest way to cut energy costs for families and business alike.

The Energy Summit will include an introduction to energy-efficient technologies and services that can help cut costs for small and large businesses, builders and schools and hospitals.

The keynote speaker is Thomas Casten, chair of Recycled Energy Development. He spent 30 years developing decentralized recycling projects. And he is going to help us to better understand how we can save money and reduce pollution.

There will also be plenty of opportunities for the participants to learn from one another and to participate in some small-group discussions on practical topics - from financing energy investments to efficient technologies in commercial building projects.

I’m looking forward to the summit and know that it has the potential to be a great success.

While most of the news we hear about energy these days is negative – high prices and pollution and unstable supplies – positive things are happening here in the State of Maine.

I have submitted legislation this week that lays the ground work for Maine to break away from the power grid that currently holds our State hostage. Today, we are forced to pay electricity rates that are too high for our homes and businesses with little return for Maine consumers.

We’re going to make sure we have the options to improve our situation and to lower our costs.

I’ve submitted legislation that is going to ensure that Maine remains in control of our energy future. Federal regulations threaten to take many decisions out of our hands. We are going to make sure that Maine is not dictated to by the federal government, but by the citizens of this State.

We are working to implement those recommendations, along with the implementation of the Wind Power Task Force recommendations, which are going to put forward a plan that makes it easier to put up wind resources and work on producing electricity.

We are going to be able to zone areas of Maine and expedite the development in those areas, agreed to by environmentalists, consumers, business industry and the public.

The Task Force helped to recognize the barriers, find reasonable and workable solutions to them, so my hat is off to them.

Those recommendations protect our environment and our special places and qualities of life, and they also put us in position to maximize the benefits of wind power for Mainers.

By combining new technologies, an aggressive pursuit of alternatives to fossil fuels and an emphasis on conservation and efficiency, Maine can end its dependency on expensive foreign oil.

So it’s not unrealistic to imagine that day when we stop sending those hard-earned dollars overseas and start using those dollars here in Maine to generate economic development in putting our people to work.

Thank you and have a good day.

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