Governor Janet Mills is seeking additional federal funding to help with heating this winter, telling federal officials she has a “serious concern” about residents’ affordability to heat their homes.
In a letter to the US Departments of Health, Human Services and Energy on Friday, Mills noted that Maine is the most dependent on heating oil in the country, with 60 percent of homes heated with oil, compared to the national average. 4 per cent.
This, combined with Maine’s dependence on truck-delivered oil and its outdated housing stock, creates unique challenges for residents.
“These circumstances clearly make Maine vulnerable to price increases and fluctuations in the global fossil fuel market,” Mills said in the letter, which was also sent to the state’s congressional delegation.
Mills also asked federal officials to expand eligibility for the energy assistance program for low-income housing to include those who may not have needed it in the past, as prices are expected to remain high throughout the winter.
Assistance through LIHEAP is limited to low-income families, with income limits Ranging from $30,860 per year for a single person, $59,348 for a family of four to $85,461 for a family of 10. Mills has not made a specific proposal to expand eligibility.
The request comes on the same day that US oil giants ExxonMobil and Chevron announced mentioned Second quarter earnings record. ExxonMobil earned $17.85 billion in second-quarter profit, while Chevron made $11.62 billion, according to the Associated Press.
The average price of home heating oil was about $5 a gallon in June — down from a high of more than $6 a gallon earlier this year, Mills said. However, those prices are the highest ever since the state began tracking heating oil prices 15 years ago. Mills attributed the rise in oil prices to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Last year at this time, home heating oil was about half the current price at $2.58 a gallon, According to the Governor’s Energy Bureau.
Maine typically receives about $40 million in heating assistance for LIHEAP, which Mills said helps 35,000 to 40,000 families.
last year the state Received an additional $55 million For LIHEAP, as part of the US Bailout Act. That was enough to save an average of one and a half tanks of heating oil for each household, Mills said. Without additional help, she said, the program would only be able to provide families with an average of half a tank of oil.
“For vulnerable households in Maine, that’s the difference between locking in heating during our cooler months for maybe just days or weeks, rather than months,” Mills said.
Mills outlined the steps the state has taken to switch to renewable energy, air conditioning homes and install more than 60,000 high-efficiency heat pumps. But she said the country needs additional short-term aid, as it strives to meet its long-term climate goals.
“Even with this progress, we must take action to help Maine residents get the record energy prices they will face next winter,” she said.