Maine Closes the Out-of-state Waste Loophole

April 18, 2022

Juniper Ridge landfill

In 2022, NRCM worked with our allies from Community Action Works, the Maine Environmental Priorities Coalition, and Don’t Waste ME, an alliance of impacted community residents and tribal citizens to pass LD 1639 and close a loophole that allowed toxic out-of-state waste to be disposed of in Maine’s State-owned landfill in Old Town. With this bill signed into law by Governor Mills, Maine’s solid waste processing facilities must now prioritize recycling more in-state construction and demolition debris materials.


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Expansion of Maine's Ecological Reserve System

March 29, 2022

Deboullie Ecological Reserve

A bill that will expand the Maine Ecological Reserve System and thereby better protect the state’s natural habitats and resources was signed into law by Governor Janet Mills on March 29th, 2022. This law, titled An Act To Enhance the Ecological Reserve System, enables Maine’s Bureau of Parks and Lands (BPL) to add to its system of 19 ecological reserves, which cover less than 1% of the state, but nevertheless offer substantial benefits to nature and people.


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Maine Bans Single-Use Plastic Bags 

June 17, 2019

plastic bags in bigger bag

In 2019, with Governor Janet Mills’ signature, Maine became the third state in the nation to ban single-use plastic bags. The plastic bag ban came to fruition shortly after the passage of a neighboring bill that made our state the first in the nation to ban polystyrene foam food containers. The bill was a collaborative effort among conservationists, grocers, and retailers who teamed up with Representative Holly Stover (D-Boothbay) to draft a statewide approach for reducing pollution caused by single-use plastic bags and promoting reusable shopping bags. 


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Maine Bans Disposable Foam Food Containers

April 30, 2019

foam food containers

On April 30, 2019, Maine became the first state in the nation to ban disposable foam food containers under a bill signed into law by Governor Janet Mills. The law prohibits restaurants, caterers, coffee shops, and grocery stores from using Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam containers. One of the top 10 contributors to litter, polystyrene is both a concern for the environment and for human health. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Stanley Zeigler (D-Montville). Since the bill’s passage, other states, including Maryland and New York, have joined Maine in banning the sale and distribution of polystyrene for food containers. 


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Maine Bottle Bill Expanded to Include “Nips”

June 7, 2017

Nips bottles

In 1976, Maine Senator Edmund Muskie mobilized a staunch anti-littering sentiment that resulted in the passage of Maine’s biggest recycling success story, the Bottle Bill. Fast forward some four decades later and the bill is reaching new heights. In 2017, the House and Senate voted to override Governor LePage’s veto of a bill requiring a five-cent deposit on small liquor bottlesknown widely as “nipsto be added to the Bottle Bill. 


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Maine Enacts Nation’s Strictest Metal Mining Law

June 7, 2017

Mining pollution success story

Metal mining is one of the most dangerous industrial endeavors. Maine is a particularly risky place to mine because of the high levels of sulfides in metal deposits here and our rainy and snowy weather. Sulfides in metal deposits become sulfuric acid when exposed to air or water. Maine’s wet springs and snowy winters would make control over acid-contaminated mining waste much more difficult than in dry climates. The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) fought for years against LePage Administration attempts to weaken our mining laws and rules. In 2017 Maine passed the strictest metal mining law in the country.  (Banner photo: Bald Mountain aerial view by J.Berk/NRCM)


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Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

 Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

August 24, 2016

President Obama designated 87,500 acres east of Baxter State Park as Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument on August 24, 2016, the day before the centennial of the founding of the National Park Service. The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) joined Elliotsville Plantation Inc. (EPI), and worked with residents, small business owners, and community leaders in the Katahdin region and throughout Maine to make this Monument a reality.


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Stopping the Tar Sands Pipeline

July 21, 2014

tar sands rally Bug Light South Portland

In 2009, NRCM was the first organization to bring the threat of tar sands to the public’s attention when big oil companies proposed to reverse the existing 63-year-old Portland-Montreal pipeline to bring tar sands oil through Maine to be exported by tanker. Then in 2012, NRCM began working with citizens from South Portland to protect their community from threats posed by tar sands infrastructure. As part of this effort, seven Maine communities—Bridgton, Casco, Harrison, Otisfield, Portland, Raymond, and Waterford—passed resolutions in opposition to transporting tar sands oil through their communities via the pipeline. 

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Protecting the Moosehead Region

September 23, 2009

In 2005, Plum Creek, a Seattle-based real estate development corporation, put forth the largest development proposal Maine had ever seen—and that would carve the heart out of one of Maine’s most treasured places, Moosehead Lake, a region loved for its remote ponds, undeveloped shorelines, traditional recreation, stunning mountain vistas, and peace and quiet. Plum Creek’s proposal put all of this at risk, calling for 975 house lots, two resorts, a golf course, a marina, three RV parks, and much more, with no plan for additional permanent conservation.

NRCM was the first organization to oppose this plan. We spoke out loud and strong, and so did the people of Maine, including residents of the Moosehead region.

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Protecting Kids from Toxic Chemicals in Consumer Products

child with plastic toysMay 31, 2008

In 2008, NRCM led efforts resulting in passage of the Kid-Safe Products Act (KSPA), establishing a common-sense, science-based system for identifying the “worst of the worst” chemicals, as identified by independent scientists. KSPA requires manufacturers to disclose use of these “priority chemicals” in consumer products and authorizes the State of Maine to require safer alternatives, if available, effective, and affordable. 

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Leading the Way in e-Waste Recycling

electronic wasteJanuary 18, 2006

In 2003, NRCM took on the task of resolving the developing crisis of discarded and highly toxic electronic waste, or “e-waste.” Maine was not the first state to discover it had an e-waste problem but took the lead in finding a workable solution.

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Restoring Maine's Mightiest River

East Branch Penobscot Jon LuomaJune 22, 2004

Working with the Penobscot Indian Nation and other conservation groups, during three long years of negotiations with the hydro developer, the Penobscot River Restoration Project was born. NRCM was a founding member of the project and played a central role in this effort to improve access to almost 2,000 miles of Maine’s largest river for endangered Atlantic salmon and ten other species of native sea-run fish that feed Maine communities, wildlife, and the Gulf of Maine. 

Photo by Jon Luoma

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Getting Wyman Station to Clean Up Its Act

Carol Bass with handkerchief at Wyman press conference Aug 2000June 22, 2001

Gazing out across the waters of Casco Bay, a layer of gray soot was almost impossible to miss. It covered boats, moorings, marinas, and was an ominous presence throughout neighborhoods on Cousins Island and beyond. Air pollution, moving on prevailing winds, spewed across the mid-coast to Penobscot Bay, Acadia National Park, and even to Downeast communities. The culprit: Wyman Station power plant on Cousins Island in Yarmouth. 

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Return of the Kennebec

Edwards Dam removalJuly 1, 1999

More than a decade ago local, state, and federal officials, including then–U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, joined staff, board, and members of the Natural Resources Council of Maine and hundreds of other Mainers on the banks of the Kennebec River to witness a landmark occasion: removal of the Edwards Dam in Augusta. It was a 10-year effort sparked by NRCM more than a quarter-century ago. 

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Caribou-Speckled Wilderness

Caribou Speckled WildernessSeptember 19, 1990

In late September, 1990, the United States Congress enacted legislation designating more than 11,000 acres of Maine’s White Mountain National Forest as a permanent Wilderness Area. The Maine Wilderness Act of 1990, which created the Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness Area, was the result of more than seven years of hard work on the part of NRCM and other local, state, and national conservation groups.

Photo by Tony Marple

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Land for Maine’s Future

Black Brook PreserveNovember 3, 1987

The Land for Maine’s Future program was established in 1987 when voters, in response to concerns over the loss of critical natural areas, approved funding to purchase and protect lands important to the history and traditions of the state of Maine. Since then, the program has completed projects in all 16 Maine counties, protecting over 560,000 acres of conservation and recreation lands. These include mountain summits, water access sites, farmland, working waterfronts, and other areas vital to preserving the character of Maine for future generations.

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Stopping the "Big A" Dam on the Penobscot

Big A dam

March 13, 1986

In what was one of Maine’s most contested environmental battles, the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), along with other Penobscot Coalition members, successfully defeated the Big A Dam project. In March of 1984, Great Northern Paper (GNP) submitted a proposal to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to construct a $100-million concrete dam 15 stories high, at the racing Big Ambejackmockamus or “Big A” Falls. The effort was to provide hydroelectric power to the company’s struggling paper mills in neighboring Millinocket. The dam was a major threat to the remote West Branch of the Penobscot River.

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Pittston Oil Refinery

Passamaquoddy Bay by Jeff Wells 2012 (1)June 17, 1983

Through the Head Harbor Passage, among the legendary swirling tides, powerful currents, and whirlpools of Passamaquoddy Bay sits Eastport, Maine.  It was here in 1973 that a New York-based conglomerate, the Pittston Company, sought to construct a massive marine terminal and crude oil refinery.  The proposed development would have included a 250,000 barrel-per-day refinery, a large crude oil storage facility, and a marine terminal capable of servicing “Very Large Crude Carrier” (VLCC) class oil tankers.

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Defeated Dickey-Lincoln Dam on the St. John River

Big Rapids on St John River

December 16, 1981

NRCM, since its inception in 1959, has opposed the construction of hydroelectric dams on the upper St. John River because of the environmental harm they would cause to the region. So when word spread about the Dickey-Lincoln Dam proposal, it was not long before NRCM took the helm of the opposition. The project was authorized by Congress in 1965, galvanizing what would be decades-long strife over the protection of the St. John River in the northernmost part of Maine. The massive water project would have flooded 88,000 acres of forest and streams in exchange for cheap power.

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Billboard Ban: Protecting the Beauty of Maine’s Scenic Highways

Blank billboard in rural areaJanuary 1, 1978

Before passage of pioneering legislation in 1977, Maine highways were lined with billboards advertising everything from motels and car dealerships to cigarettes and junk food. The “billboard ban” law, which took effect on January 1, 1978, slowly worked over many years to decommission and dismantle existing billboard advertisements along major roadways in the state. The final sign, a double-sided billboard in York County, came down in 1984. Today, the scenic landscapes unmarred by gaudy advertisements that unfold for motorists as they cross the state have become, as Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, put it: “part of Maine’s quality of place.”

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Maine’s “Bottle Bill”: Passing and Protecting It

recycling bottlesNovember 2, 1976

In the summer of 1976, Maine Senator Edmund Muskie spoke on the floor of the United States Senate regarding the importance of beverage container redemption legislation. “It is a needed step to assist in developing a ‘conservation ethic’ that rejects waste and embraces thrift, husbandry, and saving part of the Earth’s abundance for our posterity,” he said. That year, NRCM worked hard to secure passage of a “bottle bill” in the Maine Legislature. Angus King, a 31-year-old attorney with a practice in Brunswick, Maine, served as our lobbyist on the issue. Later that year, the voters of Maine approved a referendum measure creating one of the first statewide bottle redemption laws in the country. Prior to the Maine bottle bill passing in the Legislature, beverage containers were the single largest component of roadside litter, marring the natural beauty of Maine and imposing a significant financial burden on the state agencies charged with its collection and disposal. Today, it is estimated that over 90 percent of all eligible containers are redeemed and recycled, all thanks to the success of the “bottle bill” and the “conservation ethic” of the people of Maine.

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Protection of the Allagash, One of Maine’s Exceptional Natural Treasures

Allagash FallsDecember 5, 1966

In Allagash, Maine, near the border with New Brunswick, Canada, a river connects with the St. John, passing through a chain of natural mountain lakes. This river has remained largely unspoiled. In 1857 Henry David Thoreau explored its waters and wrote about them in The Maine Woods. Known today as the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, the river continues to be popular among paddlers looking for a special wilderness experience. They can find it here, thanks to the early work of the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

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