When it comes to tackling the complex environmental issues facing our state, nation, and world, it is always the case that we are stronger when we work together. That’s why the Natural Resources Council of Maine was proud to join with legislators and nonprofit partners at the State House yesterday morning for the unveiling of Common Agenda for the Environmental Priorities Coalition (EPC).
EPC is a group of 34 environmental, conservation, and public health organizations in Maine that sets a Common Agenda of priority bills for each legislative session. NRCM is directly involved in advocating for or leading on many of the nine bills included in this year’s agenda, covering a wide range of topics including:
- Solar Energy — Accelerating the growth of solar energy for all Maine people, and expanding investments in renewable energy, innovation, and jobs across the state.
- Climate Action — Setting a clear, science-based road map for action on climate change and strengthening our economy.
- Clean Water — Cleaner water for 400 miles of Maine’s rivers.
- Land Conservation — Increased funding for the Land for Maine’s Future program and investments in our State Parks.
- Plastic Pollution — Combatting the plastic pollution problem that’s harming our health and the health of our environment.
Taken together, these bills create an exciting opportunity to move in a new, positive direction that will make up for lost time and help protect our natural places and the health of Maine people. After eight years of backsliding and continual attacks on the environment by the previous administration, the energy in the room today for advancing positive solutions was palpable. And with recent federal rollbacks posing risks to our air, water, wildlife, health, and economy, this package of bills becomes all the more important.
Below is a quick summary on each of the nine bills selected by our diverse coalition. As the bills are officially printed they will get assigned to a committee and receive a public hearing. Throughout this process, the EPC will be collaborating with bipartisan groups of legislators, and with people throughout Maine, to get the bills passed. As always, our members and supporters will be essential to helping us get this work done at the State House. We will be creating fact sheets and action alerts that citizen activists can use to contact their legislators to help support passage of these important bills.
Climate Change Legislative Package:
- Solar energy for all Maine people. It’s time to keep energy dollars in Maine’s economy by giving homeowners, local business owners, and communities the tools to generate their own solar energy. New solar policies will dramatically expand solar power investment across the state by eliminating barriers for growth.
- Reducing carbon pollution and strengthening Maine’s economy. Mainers want a clear road map for curbing harmful greenhouse gas emissions that will create jobs and protect the health of Maine’s people and environment for future generations. A strong climate plan will decrease our reliance on fossil fuel imports, and it will spur clean energy and energy efficiency innovations that will create new jobs in Maine
- Increasing Renewable Portfolio Standard to 80% by 2030. By prioritizing new in-state renewable energy projects, this bill would advance new made-in-Maine renewable energy sources that will reduce carbon pollution, increasing energy independence and growing our economy. A stronger RPS will promote innovation and clean the electricity being sent to our homes.
- Sparking clean energy solutions for cities and towns. Cities and towns have a lot to gain by installing solar energy projects on their buildings or land. A $10 million bond would provide municipalities throughout the state with matching grants to invest in clean energy and energy efficiency projects.
- Ocean acidification commission. The Gulf of Maine is changing faster than almost all other oceans; we need to better understand the impacts of climate change on Maine’s marine environment and economy. A science-based policy advisory council will recommend actions and adaptation strategies to protect our marine resources.
Environmental/Public Health Legislation:
- Reclassification of Maine’s rivers. For the first time since 2009, the Department of Environmental Protection has proposed upgrades to water quality protections for more than 400 miles of Maine’s rivers and streams. The reclassification would include cleaner water for the Penobscot upper main stem, West Branch of the Penobscot, Fish Stream, and all the tributaries to Webb Lake.
- Investing in Land for Maine’s Future. For more than 30 years Land for Maine’s Future (LMF) has helped permanently protect Maine’s forests, farms, and waters. But because of the previous administration’s opposition, LMF funding ran out. It’s time for a bold investment that would revitalize LMF and ensure our state can continue to partner with landowners, municipalities, and state agencies to support local economies.
- Addressing plastic bag pollution. Plastic shopping bags litter our lands, pollute our waters, and clog storm drains and recycling equipment. It is time to address the growing problem of plastic pollution by prohibiting the distribution of single-use carry-out bags in our state. Today there are readily available, reusable alternatives that cause far less damage to our environment.
- Phasing out toxics in packaging. Maine families deserve food that is not wrapped in harmful chemicals. So-called “brain drain” chemicals, PFAS and phthalates, are entering our food supply through processing and packaging. They pose significant health risks, particularly for pregnant women and children. Alternative packaging is available, and the market is already changing.
We anticipate many longs days as move through the session, but we also have reason to believe this year’s efforts will be far more successful in moving Maine toward a future that protects the natural resources that are so important for our economy and way of life. Be sure to check our Bill Tracking page to stay informed about the status of legislation you are interested in. Also, if you haven’t already, I invite you to join our online Action Network for notifications of actions you can take in support of our work. Thank you for all you do to keep Maine special.
—Pete Didisheim, NRCM Senior Director of Advocacy