By Deborah Mcdermott
On June 25, President Barack Obama came out with his major climate change policy plans. The following day, the Maine Legislature failed to override Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a climate change bill that would have helped municipalities deal with adaptation and other measures.
As both of these events have occurred since I last penned my column, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts.
First, to President Obama. As we all know by now, he’s proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules for existing power plants, increased fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty vehicles, and expanded federal support for energy efficiency in commercial and residential building.
With regard to climate change adaptation measures, he’s directed federal agencies to take climate change into account when issuing grants to coastal areas dealing with sea level rise, proposed creation of a state/local task force on preparedness, and said he will create a panel to develop climate-resilient building and infrastructure.
And he can do all this essentially by presidential fiat, he said, without going to the Congress.
Let me be blunt. I have a trust issue with President Obama, going back quite some time now. And I don’t think any but a fraction of these proposals will be implemented. I think it made for nice sound bites, and perhaps it placated environmentalists into thinking they might actually be seeing the president for whom they voted. Truthfully, I think when they go home to their spouse or talk with their friends, they’re saying exactly what I just said.
Sure, some of these proposals may see the light of day â small things, drop in the bucket things. But as for the centerpiece of his speech? The promulgation of EPA rules for existing power plants? Don’t even begin to hold your breath. It ain’t going to happen on his watch.
For one, we’re still waiting for rules on new power plants, which were supposed to be implemented in April but were delayed after the electric power industry objected. Even the White House said it’s “quite possible the rules (on existing plants) won’t go into effect under the Obama administration” due to legal challenges. If the next president is not so inclined, so much for the rules.
And let’s not even talk about what Congress might do to block these rules.
While we’re on the subject of blocking, just want to say a word or two about LD 825 in the Maine Legislature. This bill would have resumed a climate change adaptation plan begun in 2010 by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and shelved by the LePage administration.
You would think a state with nearly 230 miles of coastline just might want to devise a serious plan for dealing with sea level rise. But, said the governor, the resolve duplicated work already being done and imposes an “unfunded mandate” on the government. For more on the Maine DEP, I would encourage you to go to the Portland Press Herald’s Web site and read its excellent series on DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho.
Pete Didisheim, advocacy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, was reported as saying, correctly, that just about every coastal New England state is taking this issue seriously, and Maine in particular needs to prepare its communities and businesses for sea level rise.
When the vetoed bill came before the Maine Legislature again for an override, it failed in the House by one single vote. Roll call? Yes: Sen. Dawn Hill, D-York; Reps. Bobbi Beavers, D-Eliot/South Berwick, Deane Rykerson, D-Kittery and Paul McGowan, D-York, an original cosponsor of the bill. No: Rep. Windol Weaver, R-York.
Sorry I couldn’t be more upbeat this time around. I’ll work on that for the next column.