The Natural Resources Council of Maine’s Media Relations & Advocacy Communications Director Colin Durrant shares his thoughts on the latest news related to Maine’s land, air, water, and wildlife.
COVID-19 has upended our way of life and working in Maine, and NRCM is no different. To learn how the Natural Resources Council of Maine is adapting to help stem the spread of this virus read NRCM CEO Lisa Pohlmann’s recent message.
The Secretary of State said opponents of the CMP corridor gathered enough valid signatures to get a referendum on the November ballot, and the Department of Environmental Protection issued a draft permit for the transmission line.
In another sign of disrespect for Mainers, Central Maine Power (CM)P says it’s intent on continuing to try and move forward with its controversial CMP corridor despite the fact that a citizen referendum is underway for voters to make their voice heard on the project.
Before they ended the legislative session abruptly because of the coronavirus, legislators were considering a ban on foreign influence in Maine’s elections based on Hydro-Quebec’s significant political spending and interference in the CMP corridor.
Most people don’t realize CMP’s parent company, Avangrid, operates a ton of natural gas subsidiary. Avangrid’s Maine natural gas subsidiary got slapped with a big fine for safety violations.
Maine Beer Co.’s Dan Kleban had a wonderful Q&A in the Portland Press Herald about rooting his business in values, including protecting the environment.
Congressman Jared Golden and Senator Angus King introduced a great bill to give Gold Star families access to national parks.
Towns and Mainers from across the state spoke up in support of NRCM’s recycling reform bill. Of course, lobbyists for big corporations and the plastic industry showed up, too.
Orono town councilor Cheryl Robertson wrote a great op-ed in the Bangor Daily News supporting the bill from the perspective of a municipality struggling to save recycling, and Portland’s Sustainability Director Troy Moon was on NPR’s Weekend Edition explaining the bill to a national audience!
Foreign Interference and CMP Corridor
As part of its expensive lobbying effort to save the controversial CMP corridor the international energy giant Hydro-Quebec (HQ) (which is solely owned by the Canadian province of Quebec) ran a full spread newspaper ad using the image of Baxter State Park that drew fire from many including the Friends of Baxter State Park who penned this op-ed slamming HQ in the Portland Press Herald.
Three of the state’s top commissioners wrote a joint op-ed urging lawmakers to pass funding for the Land for Maine’s Future program. The Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge will be moving its headquarters to Kennebunk.
NRCM’s Sarah Nichols was quoted in this Time article about Maine’s recycling reform bill.
The Conservative Case for LMF
Two Republican lawmakers make a clear and compelling case for funding the popular and effective Land for Maine’s Future program to support land conservation.
A new Springvale to Saco public bus service has been launched because “the lack of affordable and accessible transportation has been identified as a barrier for the delivery of health care in York County.”
Climate Action and Clean Energy
Farmers in the County are experiencing challenges due to weather changes caused by climate change.
Solar and wind are helping to push down electricity prices in New England. Governor Mills is headed to Scotland to continue her push for more offshore wind projects to provide clean, renewable power. Gorham is considering a large “Maine Mall-sized” solar project.
Turns out the firm that did an “independent study” of the CMP corridor project was also working for Hydro-Quebec at the same time. It’s a “conflict of interest plain and simple,” said our attorney Sue Ely. Former Governor LePage was paid to advocate for the CMP corridor, and CMP’s Spanish owner was in town to try and reassure people about the trouble corridor proposal and told Mainers we should just “move past” CMP’s problems. Yikes.
It’s never been a better time to consider going solar according to Steve Ball and Tom Tietenberg!
Our very own climate outreach coordinator spoke with the Bangor Daily News about the rising interest in solar across the state.
The Portland Press Herald takes a deep dive into a report by Efficiency Maine on “beneficial electrification,” which is the process of moving our heating and transportation systems to electric sources.
Maine joined two other states in working to eliminate a potent source of greenhouse gas emissions. Pine Tree Watch looks at how solar and electric car use is up in Maine.
The Portland Press Herald ran a great story detailing the challenges facing public transit in Southern Maine and what needs to change to make it better.
A new bus service is launching for Saco and Springvale to address the “lack of affordable and accessible transportation” that “has been identified as a barrier for the delivery of health care in York County.”
Turns out the firm that did an “independent study” on the CMP corridor was also working for Hydro-Quebec at the time. Can you say: “conflict of interest?”
It gets even better – lawmakers have unveiled that the leases CMP got to cross public land for its corridor proposal were entered into illegally and they aren’t happy about it.
CMP announces it doesn’t really care about what Maine voters have to say.
Assorted Other Topics
It’s the 20th anniversary of the Ecological Reserve System, and the Bangor Daily News’ Aislinn Sarnacki takes a look at what that means for Maine and its people.
Thank to our friends at the Plastic-free Peninsula for supporting recycling reform in their local newspaper! This story is a reminder of why we’re working to limit out-of-state waste being classified as in-state so it can be dumped in our landfills.
Solar News Keeps Coming!
So much good solar news it’s hard to keep track so here’s my best attempt.
A new solar project could save Regional School Unit 9 more than $150,000 a year! Hope flipped the switch on a new solar array that will power heat pumps in town buildings (shout out to the local children who pushed the town to act!), Vassalboro approved a potential solar energy project to power town buildings, and Harrison approved two new solar projects, made possible by the changes in state solar policy. Cumberland expects to save $20,000 in the first year with its new solar field, and a proposed solar farm in Gorham could include battery storage and even sheep!
Economist Richard Silkman has published a report detailing how Maine could get to zero carbon by 2050 without more energy spending.
Here are a few letters to the editor highlighting the great feedback that was received for the Maine Climate Council’s second meeting.
CMP on the Ballot
The grassroots opponents of CMP’s corridor proposal delivered 75,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office to get a question stopping the destructive transmission line on November’s ballot. That number is far more than the 63,000 required. Our friend at Trout Unlimited, Jeff Reardon, had a must read op-ed detailing the harm the project would inflict on brook trout.
Students in Wales heard the pros and cons of CMP’s corridor proposal, and let’s just say they weren’t convinced.
A bill filed in the Legislature would block foreign influence in ballot initiative campaigns, including stopping Hydro-Quebec from spending big to influence the CMP corridor referendum
Acting on Climate
The Maine Climate Council held its second meeting, featuring an inspiring speech from youth representative Ania Wright and several scientific presentations. Down the hall, more than 100 Maine youth rallied to call for bolder climate action. Bangor High School students held an event on climate change for their peers.
Economist Richard Silkman has produced an analysis showing Maine could reach zero carbon by 2050 and not cost more over time than what Mainers are already paying for energy.
A study by AAA found that electric car use is on the rise in Maine, lawmakers are considering a bill to encourage cleaner electric school buses, and CLF’s Phelps Turner makes the case for Maine to join the regional Transportation and Climate Initiative.
Lots of towns are exploring solar because of the opportunity to reduce electricity costs, including Gray, Woodstock, Bath, Augusta, and Cumberland. The Bangor Daily News reports on how wind energy could power Maine in the future and a large project is proposed in Washington County. In Aroostook County, residents are benefiting from heat pump incentives.
There was a great op-ed making the conservative case for land conservation by fully funding the Land for Maine’s Future program. Congrats to Sebago Clean Waters for their announcement that 1,400 acres of forest has been preserved in the Sebago Lake watershed. A bill to increase funding for critical clean water protection staff is making its way through the Legislature, and our staff scientist Nick Bennett was quoted in this piece on hunting with non-lead ammunition.
In a blatant giveaway to fossil fuel companies and big corporations, the Trump Administration finalized its rollback of clean water protections.
The Land Use Planning Commission voted to certify the CMP corridor resulting in widespread coverage featuring our clean energy attorney Sue Ely including in the Portland Press Herald, Bangor Daily News, Maine Public, MaineBiz, WABI, News Center Maine, and WGME.
NRCM’s Sue Ely explains why the Department of Environmental Protection should reject the CMP corridor, and Jeff Reardon from Trout Unlimited emphasizes the damage the transmission line would have on brook trout. Another op-ed says that CMP corridor shows that Maine needs more comprehensive environmental reviews. Meanwhile, legislators are considering whether CMP was improperly granted a lease for its corridor on public lands and the Androscoggin County Commissioner became the latest group to rescind their support for the project.
CMP spent an astounding $2.3 million on political campaign ads to try and bolster its controversial corridor project. Hydro Quebec was forced to pay an ethics fine for its campaign activity to try save the CMP corridor.
The Portland Press Herald ran an in-depth piece on the recycling reform bill we’re advocating for and then next day the editorial board endorsed the plan! Plastic has an enormous carbon footprint and pollution impact.
NRCM Dip & Dash
The Clean Energy Transition
NRCM’s Dylan Voorhees wrote an op-ed with the CEO of Maine Solar Systems about how solar energy is strengthening Maine and its economy thanks to Governor Mills’ leadership. Meanwhile, Governor Mills sent a letter to Congress urging more action on climate, in particular for rural communities.
The Land Use Planning Commission’s staff have issued a report that concludes CMP’s corridor project complies with all applicable rules, a conclusion that is contrary to what the evidence shows! The Commission meets on January 8 to make a final decision.
The Bangor Daily News “Maine Focus” team produced this in-depth story exploring Representative Seth Berry’s (D-Bowdoinham) bill that would transition utilities in Maine to public ownership.