Council Takes Lead –
State Action to Reduce Global Warming
This fall, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) must present the Legislature with a blueprint for curbing the state’s emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming pollution. This plan will outline how the State will comply with a groundbreaking law passed last year that requires Maine to reduce global warming pollution. A 40-member advisory group, on which the Council serves, has met since the start of the year to craft the policies that will shape the plan.
The Council and our allies face a tough fight to win strong actions to curb air pollution. Staff Attorney Sue Jones, who directs the Council’s Clean Air and Energy Project, realized what we were up against during one of the group’s first meetings in February. Seated with members of environmental, conservation and public-health organizations were lobbyists from the Maine Automobile Dealers Association, the Maine Oil Dealers Association – and a powerful national
group, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
Sue found the presence of a national representative for the auto industry especially troubling, since Maine’s auto dealers already were represented in the group. Greg Dana, a Virginia based lobbyist for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, has a reputation for blocking attempts to adopt tougher emissions and fuel-efficiency standards for passenger cars and trucks – a cornerstone of the Council’s platform for Maine’s Climate Action Plan.
Sue worried initially that Dana would polarize members and prevent progress. Her concern was confirmed at the group’s next meeting in March, where Dana and other industry lobbyists worked to dominate the sessions and block the adoption of standards that would reduce pollution.
“They’ve been making it very difficult for the group to get anything meaningful accomplished,” Sue says. “You can see people starting to take sides already.” Driven by an influential energy report the Council released the previous fall with the Mainewatch Institute and the Maine Center for Economic Policy, the Legislature in the spring of 2003 passed a first-in-the-nation
law requiring Maine to significantly curb emissions of global warming pollution over the next two decades and beyond. The law established a stakeholder advisory group, corralling organizations with a stake in the outcome to draft policies that would shape Maine’s climate action plan.
Global warming “is an enormous environmental threat,” Sue says. “The way to most effectively deal with it is to deal with energy use.”
With input from the Council and other organizations, the DEP created four working groups to recommend action steps to address emissions in: 1) buildings and manufacturing; 2) agriculture and forestry; 3) energy and solid waste; and 4) transportation and land use. Sue serves as
the Council’s representative on all four groups.
The transportation and land use group, according to Sue, is likely to pose the greatest challenge to adopting strong standards for curbing air pollution – largely because of strong opposition to our efforts to require auto makers to produce cars that get better gas mileage and pollute less.
We and our allies are pushing for the adoption of strong policies to reduce air pollution from automobiles, promote greater fuel efficiency, encourage production of cleaner fuels, and advance renewable energy. Our goal is to sharply reduce emissions in Maine of gases that scientists widely agree are contributing to global warming.
“Every step along the way has been a fight,” Sue says, adding that the auto industry has said that they will support only voluntary requirements or educational measures, which lack teeth. “Education and voluntary measures alone are not up to the task.”
Yet, Sue remains optimistic that the Council and our allies will prevail. Last year, we took on the very same Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers – and won. The group sued to overturn Maine’s first-in-the-nation law requiring automakers to remove and recycle mercury switches from old cars, but the Council and our allies successfully defended the law in federal court.
Much work remains in the weeks ahead. Sue is working with our allies in groups such as the Coalition for Sensible Energy, Environment Northeast, Maine Council of Churches, Maine Lung Association and the Nature Conservancy, to overcome opposition within the
working groups. We hope to convince members who are undecided to support tough clean-air standards. Too much is at stake to let polluters win.
“It is up to the Council and our allies to get people on board,” Sue says. “It’s going to take some pushing.”