The 2018 legislative session is well underway. This is the “short session” of the Legislature, which means the pace is fast as lawmakers attempt to adjourn by the end of April. It is also an election year for every House and Senate seat, and it is Governor Paul LePage’s final year in office, adding an extra layer of partisanship and drama to the mix.
NRCM staff members are tracking more than 40 bills this year, with top attention focused on six bills that comprise the common agenda of the Environmental Priorities Coalition (EPC), a group of 34 organizations that come together each year around a set of priority bills. With our EPC partners, we announced our agenda in mid-January at a briefing and news conference at the State House.
One of our top priorities this year, as in the past two years, is to pass a solar energy bill. This year’s legislation would block the worst provision of an anti-solar rule adopted by Maine’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The PUC is poised to impose a radical and unfair new fee on solar customers, charging them for power they generate and use on site—electricity that never touches the electrical grid. The bill also would help spur larger community solar projects, allowing up to 50 people per project to participate.
We also strongly support passage of a $50 million clean water bond proposed by Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Maine has made significant progress over the past 20 years in treating and cleaning up wastewater before it flows into our rivers and coastal waters, but we still have a long way to go. This bond would improve water quality in Maine waters and leverage $71 million in additional funds. Right now there is a $1 billion funding backlog for water infrastructure, which affects 120 Maine towns.
Working closely with legislators, we are aiming to pass a bill focused on reducing food waste in Maine. Carried over from last year, the pending bill likely will be amended to focus primarily on state agencies and to reduce the estimated 75,000 pounds of food waste produced each year in Maine schools.
As in prior years, NRCM staff members are devoting considerable attention to the task of defeating “rollbacks”—bills that would move Maine in the wrong direction on the environment and clean energy. Since January 2011, when Governor LePage entered office, with your help, NRCM has helped defeat more than 100 rollback bills.
This year, the governor supports a bill that would tax owners of electric and hybrid vehicles, penalizing them for reducing their dependence on fossil fuels, and thus reducing gas tax payments. Hence, the new tax. We will work to defeat that bill and other proposed rollbacks, including bills to block upstream passage of alewives, weaken Maine’s Bottle Bill, subsidize old and inefficient biomass plants, and weaken Maine’s renewable energy portfolio standard.
We greatly appreciate your help with establishing state policies that protect our environment. We couldn’t do our work without you. If you are interested in becoming more involved than you’ve been in the past, please contact us. We are here to help. The back page of this publication describes some ways you can get involved. If you have not already done so, please join the NRCM Action Network at the Take Action Page on our website. As a member of the Action Network, you’ll receive updates about progress on legislative priorities, and learn when and how you can help make a difference. As always, please be sure to visit our website throughout the legislative session for further updates. Thank you again for all you do to help protect Maine’s environment!
—Pete Didisheim, NRCM Senior Director, Advocacy
Follow Our Priority Legislation
NRCM reviews every bill under consideration at the State House to determine which ones need our support and which we must oppose, based on their potential impact on Maine’s environment.
Our Bill Tracking webpage provides updates on the priority bills that we are following during the 2018 legislative session.
Originally published in our 2018 Legislative Priorities for Maine’s Environment newsletter. View full newsletter.