News and Noteworthy
April 24, 2019
Curbing the Plague of Plastic
Urged on by their Public Works Director who called plastic bags “the biggest source of recycling contamination in our community,” the town of Biddeford became the latest Maine town to ban single-use plastic bags. That vote was a preview to a public hearing held this week on a bill to ban single-use plastic bags statewide. NRCM collaborated with retailers and grocers to support the bill, and we were pleased that Maine retail icon Reny’s showed up to support the bill!
Rep. Stanley Zeigler spoke with Village Soup about the bill he sponsored to ban foam food packaging. The bill has passed both the House and Senate, and will soon head to the governor’s desk after a few procedural votes.
Tackling Toxics in Food Packaging
A public hearing was held for a bill that would eliminate certain harmful chemicals from food packaging. The bill is a priority for the Environmental Priorities Coalition, of which NRCM is a member. An op-ed in the Portland Press Herald breaks down the harm these chemicals can do and why we need safer alternatives.
A Busy Week for Climate
Over the weekend, the Sun Journal ran a really great profile of Governor Mills’ commitment to climate action, and it’s worth a read. You’ll really get a sense of how passionately she feels about this issue and protecting the Maine we know and love. Young advocates converged on Augusta for a youth day of action and to call for a Green New Deal in Maine. Several leaders spoke with Maine Calling in advance of the rally. We were honored to be a part of a clean energy roundtable discussion hosted by Congressman Jared Golden and, a day later, to join Congresswoman Chellie Pingree at Bumbleroot Farm in Windham as she unveiled a plan for helping farmers support climate solutions
Find out about how you can save money and help the planet in this Sun Journal article about Efficiency Maine’s efforts to expand their popular heat pump program. If you’re looking to go electric, the Bangor Daily News featured Sophie Janeway in this excellent review of where the market for EVs in Maine stands today. Sustain Mid Maine Coalition breaks down the benefits of electric cars in this column.
Don’t Worry, the CMP Corridor is Still Making News
As expected, CMP’s corridor continues to make news, and more often than not it’s not the good kind as far as CMP is concerned. Pownal became the latest town to clarify the do not support the troubled project, and while it’s not online, if you get a chance to pick up a hard copy of the Maine Sportsman check out their strongly worded editorial opposing the project, in large part due to the damage it’ll do to deer and brook trout habitat. Meanwhile, the bills pending in the Legislature that address the CMP corridor are still making their way through the process.
Another Section of River Set Free!
Federal regulators gave a final stamp of approval for removal of the Saccarappa Dam on the Presumpscot River in Westbrook. That’s great news for alewives and other migratory fish, as well as for residents because the move allows the city to extend a popular River Walk path.
Earth Day IPAs Benefit Clean Water. Cheers to That!
As part of the Maine Brewshed® Alliance NRCM launched last month, two craft breweries— Foundation and Orono Brewing—released Earth Day IPAs that will benefit clean water activities in Maine. Proceeds will go to support Sebago Clean Waters and the Maine Brewshed® Alliance. ICYMI, in the latest episode of our podcast you’ll hear directly from three brewers speaking about why protecting clean water protects Maine’s great beer!
The American Lung Association released their annual State of the Air report, and all I can say is “yikes!” There’s a lot in the report, but here’s one telling stat that highlights why curbing climate pollution can be of our most powerful public health interventions: 4 in 10 Americans (141.1 million people) live in counties that have air with unhealthy levels of particle pollution or ozone.
While that report might get you down, we’ll end with this spot-on editorial from the Bangor Daily News highlighting all the ways ramped up action on the state level gave us hope on Earth Day!
April 17, 2019
Once again the controversial CMP corridor project dominated the headlines of this week’s coverage, led largely by the Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) decision to give the proposal a permit. Attending the PUC meeting and watching our attorney Sue Ely run the gauntlet of five TV cameras and half a dozen print and radio reporters was a powerful reminder of how lucky we are to have advocates who aren’t afraid to stand up for what’s right, whether it’s in front of the media, in a State House hearing room, or at a public event.
And before we get into the news of the week, I wanted to give a shout out to our podcast, Maine Environment: Frontline Voices, produced by my colleague Carly Peruccio, which is a wonderful way to dig deeper into the environmental news you read or hear about. For example, in the latest episode you’ll hear directly from three craft brewers speaking about the new Maine Brewshed®Alliance and why clean water is so essential for great beer.
CMP Corridor Receives PUC Permit – NRCM Calls Decision Deeply Flawed
The PUC decision last Thursday was covered widely by the Associated Press, TV, radio, and newspapers but it’s just one step in many reviews that CMP has to overcome. On the same day, residents of Starks voted to oppose the power line and the Bangor Daily News ran an in-depth investigation highlighting the personal impact of CMP’s troubled billing practices.
In the opinion pages, George Smith penned a forceful piece opposing CMP’s corridor, reminding us “it would hurt the very thing that makes Maine special,” and we disagreed with the BDN editorial’s take that the Legislature shouldn’t weigh in on the project because CMP shouldn’t be allowed to circumvent local control for a for-profit power line with no benefit to reliability for customers.
Governor Mills First 100 Days
This week marked the milestone of Governor Mills first 100 days, which we celebrated for the leadership she’s shown in positioning climate action as a top priority. The repeal of gross metering leads a national story in the Washington Post featuring Governor Mills about governors rolling back the policies of their predecessors, and both the Portland Press Herald and BDN weighed on the atmosphere in Augusta so far.
Ban on Foam Food Containers Moving Forward!
Young Leaders on Climate Action
Belfast Mayor Samantha Paradis is featured in this great Now This video speaking about the importance of young people running for office and acting on climate. Watch it and get inspired! Representative Chloe Maxmin’s Green New Deal for Maine was endorsed by the Maine AFL-CIO this week, and like the national Green New Deal it is helping to stimulate the right kind of debate about what it will take to curb climate change and who should be involved in those conversations.
While we’re on the topic of climate, Steven Kahl of Waterville wrote about the benefits of electrification, highlighting how the switch to heat pumps helped save him money and reduced his reliance on fossil fuels.
Connecting These Stories is Water
Maine’s Attorney General joined 13 other Attorneys General in vehemently opposing the Trump Administration’s rollbacks of clean water protections. And for why this matters, check out the Maine Lakes Society and Allagash Brewing speaking about why clean water is so important to Maine’s economy.
And since they swim in water, we’ll end this week with some really good news for the endangered North Atlantic right whales, which are reportedly experiencing a mini baby boom this year!
April 10, 2019
Plastic Pollution is No Good
We all know that plastic pollution is no good for our planet, and now we’re seeing some action in Augusta to address this growing problem. A bill to ban disposable foam food containers was passed by the Maine House of Representatives and now moves onto the Senate. “In this case the information is already conclusive that polystyrene needs to be replaced,” said the bill’s sponsor Representative Stanley Zeigler.
We were disappointed to see Bath abandon its 5-cent fee on paper bags. Charging for paper bags is an important component of any successful ban on plastic bags because it helps to incentivize people to bring reusable bags.
Future for Solar is Shining Bright
“They begin to realize that, wow, we can make a change. We can make a difference at the local level.” The effort by local residents to push for solar on MDI received some nice national attention in this Yale Climate Connections audio piece and brief story.
At first this story about a neighbor’s opposition to a Fairfield solar project might seem a bit of a bummer, but reading the entire piece highlights how important solar projects are becoming for local towns. You’ll learn about how Fairfield, like many communities across Maine, is embracing three new solar projects in a bid to save operating costs, create jobs, and fuel local businesses with renewable power.
One of the most promising advances in clean energy is the growth in community solar projects across the United States. NRCM is working to expand their viability in Maine, and this article highlights why community solar is a wonderful tool for bringing clean energy to low-income communities.
CMP Corridor’s Long and Winding Road of Review
The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is rushing to make a final decision on the CMP corridor proposal tomorrow but there are many other hoops the project needs to jump through.
Don’t miss this op-ed in the Portland Press Herald penned by former Nature Conservancy Maine Executive Director Mason Morfit urging lawmakers to approve an independent study of the proposed transmission line’s climate impact, saying, “It’s essential that Maine (and Massachusetts) citizens find out whether NECEC will, in fact, significantly reduce the carbon pollution that’s changing our climate.”
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC) also held hearings last week on the project, which included two long nights of testimony from the public and a revelation that CMP is funding the legal fees for one of the project’s supporters (while we’re on the topic of CMP’s spending, they must be pretty nervous because they’re also spending big to hire new lobbyists). The DEP has indicated it will take until October or November to make its decision.
Everyone loves loons, right? Maine Calling hosted a show on this beautiful bird and what’s being done to protect it. Listen in during your commute or next time you have a little down time.
One of the most inspiring legislative hearings so far was the hearing for a comprehensive climate bill, which included hours of testimony from fishermen, farmers, religious organizations, youth, and many, many others. One of the most compelling voices was Ben Whalen of Bumbleroot Farm who recently wrote a letter to the editor about the role young farmers must play in climate action.
Last week, the LUPC voted to approve changes to the adjacency rule, which NRCM and many others fought. As you’ll read in this BDN story our team is still evaluating the impact that this decision will have on the North Woods.
We were honored to see that George Smith gave a shout out to NRCM and Maine breweries for launching the Maine Brewshed® Alliance. We’re already collaborating with breweries on many exciting events and activities, including a special beer release.
Plan ahead…in March 2020, the Bangor Symphony Orchestra will collaborate with the Maine Science Festival to premiere “The Warming Sea,” a new work by BSO Conductor Maestro Lucas Richman exploring the effects climate change is having on the Gulf of Maine, with multimedia accompaniment.
April 3, 2019
Welcome to the inaugural edition of a weekly series we’re launching that will provide you with a round-up of the environmental news from around Maine. From good news to not so good news, our Director of Media Relations & Advocacy Communications, Colin Durrant, will highlight the stories that Mainers who care about taking action for the environment should be paying attention to. Note, this week’s edition is longer than usual because we’re covering the last few weeks.
CMP Corridor Dominating Headlines
“It’s like a knife cutting through our community.” Yet again, the CMP corridor dominated news coverage around the state, and last week all eyes were on Farmington where residents overwhelming voted to oppose the project. It’s yet another hit for the troubled project, which is facing deep and growing opposition, especially in western Maine.
Talking about opposition, a new poll out shows how deep and widespread opposition to the CMP corridor is, with 65% of Mainers opposed. In Franklin and Somerset Counties the opposition is especially striking, with 90% and 83% opposed respectively. You can read the full poll here.
Late last Friday the staff at Maine’s Public Utilities Commission released its “examiner’s report” on the project, recommending Commissioners vote to support it. Needless to say, we were deeply disappointed in the flawed conclusions of the report.
The fight against CMP’s corridor has also reached the State House, where legislators are as opposed to the project as their constituents are. Several bills that could impact the project are being considered, and legislators from both sides of the aisle are increasingly speaking out against the project.
Writing in the Bangor Daily News, former Alna selectman Ed Pentaleri makes a clear and compelling case why legislators should pass LD 640, which would require an independent study of the climate impact of CMP’s corridor. ICYMI, CMP continues to spend big in their campaign to win support, most recently hiring new lobbyists to represent them in Augusta.
Clean Water, Great Beer
Maine’s clean water is an essential ingredient to our way of life, including the great beer that our craft breweries are producing. That’s why we joined with 13 of Maine’s top breweries to launch the Maine Brewshed® Alliance focused on helping protect the state’s waterways. In an op-ed in the Portland Press Herald, Maine Beer Company’s Dan Kleban lay outs the vision driving this new and exciting collaboration.
Tackling Climate Through Art
Two new exhibits in Maine highlight the important role art can play in helping understand and act on climate change. Maine Public gives us a tour of a collaboration between the Abbe Museum and Maritime Indigenous Artists that explores the connection between First People and the environment, while farther down the coast the Center for Maine Contemporary Art hosts a photography exhibit exploring rising water levels.
A Boost for Clean Energy
Governor Mills has signed into law the repeal of gross metering, which was passed by bipartisan majorities in the Legislature. This sets the stage for reversing the damage done by the previous administration by adopting new policies to accelerate clean, affordable renewable energy.
You can’t tackle climate change without tackling transportation emissions. Governor Mills and Efficiency Maine recently announced they will use money received from the Volkswagen settlement to fund an expansion of charging stations and a new rebate for the purchase of used or new electric vehicles. That’s good news for people considering an EV as a way to reduce their environmental footprint.
A Little Hope to End Your Week
“Now my family – everybody – is happy. We feel very comfortable.” The Christian Science Monitor profiles a great new project in Portland that aims to bring passive heating and cooling – and its rewards – to low-income residents.
In America today there is more employment in wind and solar than in mining and burning coal. The New York Times took a look at a new generation of young people whose family histories are rooted in fossil fuels, but who have found a new path in clean energy.