NRCM News Release
(Augusta, ME) — The Maine Legislature delivered historic wins this year for clean energy and Maine’s environment. With final bills now signed by Governor Janet Mills, Maine residents can celebrate new laws that will help protect rivers and lakes, reduce plastic pollution, boost renewable energy, curb carbon pollution, assist community planning for the impacts of climate change, phase out toxic chemicals, and protect public health.
The state’s leading environmental advocacy group, the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), praised Governor Mills and the bipartisan majorities in the Legislature who made Maine’s environment a big winner during this year’s legislative session.
“Without a doubt, this was the most productive year for Maine’s environment at the State House in more than 20 years,” said NRCM’s senior director of advocacy Pete Didisheim. “Lawmakers enacted a long list of common-sense proposals that will help protect the clean air, clean water, and natural world that Maine people love so much as defining features of our state.”
>> Listen to the latest episode of NRCM’s Maine Environment: Frontline Voices Podcast for an overview of the legislative session (available in iTunes, Spotify, and Soundcloud).
NRCM is particularly pleased about new laws that will accomplish the following:
BOLD ACTION ON CLIMATE AND CLEAN ENERGY
- Require that Maine reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050
- Establish a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050 and require that the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (the proportion of renewable electricity sold in Maine) reach 80% by 2030
- Expand solar energy development across Maine by reversing the gross metering tax on solar owners, lifting the cap on community solar farms, and promoting medium to large-scale solar projects for local businesses, schools, and towns
- Give the green light to offshore wind and promote clean energy workforce development and solar energy installations at Maine schools as part of an amended Maine Green New Deal bill
- Increase energy efficiency funding for Efficiency Maine and establish a plan for reducing oil dependence with 100,000 energy efficient heat pumps
- Create a statutory program for electric vehicle incentives and charging infrastructure
- Establish a diverse Maine Climate Council to lead the development of a new Climate Action Plan
TACKLING PLASTIC POLLUTION
- First state in the nation to ban foam food containers and third state in the nation to ban single-use plastic bags and promote reusable bags – the result of a collaboration among retailers, grocers, and NRCM
- Direct the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to draft legislation for an Extended Producer Responsibility program for packaging
CLEAN WATER AND HEALTHIER PEOPLE
- Protect tribal sustenance fishing rights and ensure legal protections for more than 400 miles of rivers and streams across the state
- Protect Maine lakes by requiring that septic systems be inspected prior to the sale of waterfront properties
- Increase funding for the Lake Smart and Lake Stewards programs that have been proven effective at helping protect Maine lakes
- Ban offshore oil and gas drilling in the ocean waters off Maine’s coastline.
- Improve lead testing for Maine’s children
- Phase out toxic PFAS chemicals in consumer packaging
- Prohibit the sale and application of toxic coal tar sealant products for driveways and parking areas beginning October 1, 2021
IMPROVED ENVIRONMENTAL POLICYMAKING AND MANAGEMENT
- Create the Office for Policy Innovation and the Future to develop forward-thinking policy solutions, including on climate action
- Restore to the Board of Environmental Protection the responsibility of reviewing and approving all DEP rules and all major enforcement actions
- Increase funding for critical DEP permitting staff through an increased fee for Permit-by-Rule applications
- Appointment and confirmation of highly qualified candidates as commissioners for Maine’s natural resource agencies, and to fill vacancies at the Public Utilities Commission, Board of Environmental Protection, Land for Maine’s Future Board, and Efficiency Maine Trust
Despite this promising progress, there were two missed opportunities to bolster Maine’s environment. The Legislature failed to come to an agreement on a critical bond package that would have delivered much-needed funding to the popular and effective Land for Maine’s Future conservation program, as well as to energy efficiency and clean energy projects. NRCM is hopeful these bond issues will be revisited in a special session later this summer.
In addition, even though bipartisan majorities of legislators repeatedly voted in support of three bills that would have addressed public concerns about the troubled Central Maine Power (CMP) transmission line project, the bills were ultimately defeated by a massive lobbying campaign by CMP, which included mailers, digital advertising, and the hiring of dozens of lobbyists to fight the bills. The corridor proposal faces several more state and federal layers of regulatory review and widespread public opposition.