Maine’s Congressional delegation has before them the chance to build and pass the most important piece of climate legislation ever seen in the United States. This opportunity comes at a time when the latest report from the world’s leading climate scientists signaled a “Code Red for Humanity” – time is running out and immediate, bold action is essential.
In August, both the U.S Senate and House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Budget resolution, a framework including some of the most important federal climate policies proposed in Congress in years. Although the detailed budget plan is being negotiated and assembled right now, we know from the bill’s policy outline (PDF) that there will be big benefits to states like Maine.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Maine’s Congressional delegation to support the kind of ambitious climate action bipartisan majorities of Mainers have already made a priority.
Here in Maine, we’re already leading on climate. Bipartisan majorities in the Legislature and Governor Janet Mills have enacted emissions reduction goals and dozens of new clean energy laws. The strategies outlined in the state’s new Climate Action Plan, “Maine Won’t Wait” (PDF), will cut harmful carbon pollution, build new affordable clean energy sources like solar and wind, provide healthier transportation options, and create thousands of good jobs. These are ambitious targets, and our Congressional representatives have pledged to help us meet them. This is their chance.
Several pieces of the Build Back Better Budget directly support Maine’s Climate Action Plan. The federal and climate teams at the Natural Resources Council of Maine worked together to analyze how it stacks up:
The biggest obstacle to the climate action we need isn’t that we don’t know what to do. It’s about doing it at the speed and scale necessary to avoid climate impacts. The federal budget bill is the first bill in more than a decade that recognizes that urgency. Just this week, a Senate staff analysis found that the investments in the bill, including policies from leading states like Maine would put us on the path to reducing our country’s carbon emissions by 45% below 2005 levels by 2030 — aligned with what we need to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Here’s a little more detail into the provisions and how they will help Maine:
Transitioning to Renewable Energy Sources
In 2019, Maine updated our Renewable Portfolio Standard, or RPS, with a goal of having 80% of our energy come from renewable sources by 2030.
- The Build Back Better Budget will help Maine achieve that goal through a Clean Energy Payment Program (CEPP).
- This program will use a combination of incentives and penalties to move utilities to add enough new clean energy – and retire polluting energy sources – to make the United States electric grid 80% clean by 2030.
- Recent analyses project that the CEPP will lower air pollution, create jobs in the clean energy economy, and because of the declining costs of clean energy, will save families’ money on their utility bills each month.
Affordable, Accessible Electric Cars and Trucks
Transportation accounts for more than half of Maine’s carbon emissions, so electrifying our cars and trucks while cleaning up the grid is a top priority. Maine Won’t Wait has a goal to put 41,000 zero-emission electric vehicles on the road by 2025, and 219,000 by 2030.
- While only a fraction of that number are on the road now, costs are dropping fast, and automakers have dozens of new models coming on to the market in the next few years, like the new Ford F-150 Lightning.
- The benefits to Mainers could be enormous. Electric vehicles cost about half as much to drive as a gas car, and the federal budget bill will provide new incentives to make it affordable for more Mainers to start driving U.S- and union-made electric vehicles — saving money and eliminating tailpipe pollution.
Energy-efficient Homes and Businesses
Heating, cooling, and lighting buildings is a significant source of Maine’s carbon pollution.
- To meet our state’s climate goals, we need to make our buildings more energy efficient, and switch from burning polluting fuels like natural gas and heating oil in our homes to cleaner and more efficient electric heating, cooling, and cooking systems.
- The federal budget bill will provide consumer rebates to weatherize and electrify homes, speeding along Maine’s progress toward our goals of installing at least 100,000 new heat pumps by 2025, and weatherizing at least 35,000 homes and businesses by 2030.
Clean Energy Economy
To meet the climate challenge, we’re going to need clean energy, and lots of it. In addition to the renewable energy goals mentioned above, Maine’s Climate Action Plan calls for growing our clean energy economy by developing clean and renewable energy solutions and creating opportunities for Mainers to join the booming clean energy workforce.
- The federal budget bill includes tax credits for producing clean energy, including wind and solar.
- According to the Department of Energy, these tax credits and other investments could result in 500,000 – 1,500,000 people by 2035 working in solar alone.
- Maine will see our share of those jobs and more if we keep the billions of dollars we currently spend on out-of-state fossil fuels working here for us.
Other Climate Solutions
The similarities don’t end there.
- Both Maine’s Climate Action Plan and the federal budget bill highlight the importance of climate-resilience — the ability of our communities, businesses, and people to withstand and recover from the impacts of climate change that are already here. Federal resources to pay for state resiliency projects will be crucial for Maine communities in coming years.
- A federal Clean Energy Accelerator, mirroring the one created in Maine in the last legislative session, will leverage private capital to fund and invest in climate and clean energy projects, speeding up our energy transition in new ways.
- Both a Maine Climate Corps and the federal Civilian Climate Corps will engage and employ young people to learn new skills and contribute to our climate progress.
And the bill goes further, making other key investments in cutting pollution, investing in greener agriculture and forest ecosystems, reducing inequality and impacts in disadvantaged communities, and more.
We’re fortunate that so many of Maine’s elected leaders recognize the enormous opportunities the transition to clean energy represents for Maine. It’s vital that in this critical moment they stand together and do not let this golden opportunity pass by. Across party lines and across the state, Mainers have put a Climate Action Plan in place, and the bill being assembled in Congress right now would match and support that ambition.
The people of Maine have declared that “Maine Won’t Wait” to act on climate. Congress shouldn’t either.
—by NRCM Climate & Clean Energy Director Jack Shapiro and NRCM Federal Director Emmie Theberge