News & Noteworthy
June 20, 2019
Here’s your latest round-up of news from the past week.
Soaring on Solar
The solar bill that our clean energy team has worked on for years is awaiting the governor’s signature after being approved by the House and Senate, as was the expansion of the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard. Both bills will give a boost to clean, renewable energy in Maine. Big solar businesses are already planning on expanding into Maine with news that the solar bill may soon become law and the Migis Lodge in South Casco has just installed the largest solar array for a lodge in Maine.
And in Augusta, Governor Mills signed into a law an exciting bill to expand heat pumps throughout Maine, and announced she’ll move to advance offshore wind energy. Prompted by the experience of South Portland residents, Mills also signed a bill requiring the state to alert communities to federal air quality violations.
In related (bad) news, it appears US air quality is slipping after years of improvement, making the case for curbing carbon pollution that much more urgent. Unfortunately, the US EPA this week finalized its replacement of Obama’s Clean Power Plan, a move we called “weak and misguided.” Fuel economy standards are a piece of this puzzle as highlighted in a recent Bangor Daily News editorial.
CMP Corridor Updates
Even though they received bipartisan majority support in the Legislature bills related to the CMP corridor were stymied because they didn’t get enough votes to override the governor’s vetoes, prompting Representative Grohowksi (D-Ellsworth) to write in the Ellsworth American that Mainers want to be heard on the CMP corridor project. Our staff scientist Nick Bennett will be speaking in Jay at a forum on the CMP corridor organized by Representative Riley (D-Jay).
Meanwhile, legislators asked the Public Utilities Commission to study a proposal that many have been watching that would replace CMP and Emera with a public, consumer-owned utility.
Plastic Bags Banned
Months after we became the first state to ban foam, Maine became the third state in the nation to ban single-use plastic bags, and then quickly after Vermont’s governor signed an extensive ban on single-use plastics as well.
The federal government said two species of herring will not be listed as endangered, and nearly 1,000 acres of forest were conserved in Bethel thanks to support in part from the Land for Maine’s Future program, and one of the schools that received a grant from NRCM was featured in this story. If you’d like to learn more, check out this page full of blog posts from teachers and students about what they’ve done with our grants.
June 13, 2019
Local Leadership on Plastics Continues
It was a big election day for the environment in several towns, including Kennebunk, where voters overwhelmingly voted to ban balloon releases. This is in response to a campaign led by local teenager and activist Will Jones. In Bethel, voters banned single-use plastic bags, becoming the 25th municipality in the state to do so!
In Augusta, Maine is poised to become the third (or fourth or fifth depending on if a few other states get there before us) state to ban single-use plastic bags.
I appreciated this blog post from the Frontier Group on the value of plastic bag bans, especially in helping to question the modern economic model that depends on consumers regularly buying more things. ICYMI, Canada announced they’ll move to ban single-use plastics as early as 2021.
And of course our intrepid Sustainable ME team is looking forward to solutions, pursuing a new campaign for corporations to produce better packaging.
Busy in Augusta
A bill that would protect Maine tribes’ sustenance fishing rights headed to the governor’s desk, along with another critical clean water bill that would enhance protections for more than 400 rivers and streams.
A bill to expand the amount of electricity that comes from renewable sources was supported by a key legislative committee. It now heads to the Legislature for a vote.
A Maine Green New Deal bill, sponsored by one of the Legislature’s newest members, Chloe Maxmin, is also headed to the governor’s desk. During debate on the bill in the House, Representative Maxmin (D-Nobleboro) was interrupted several times in an unprecedented move. NRCM spoke out against these tactics, saying bullying and intimidation have no place in civil discourse.
The push to expand solar energy in Maine is getting lots of great attention. In an editorial, the Portland Press Herald called on legislators to power up the solar industry, Olympian Seth Wescott and Senator Eloise Vitelli (D-Sagadahoc) urge legislators to raise the bar for renewable energy in Maine, elected officials from Gray and Waldoboro wrote an op-ed about why towns are scrambling for solar but need outdated barriers to be removed, and the Coalition for Community Solar Access wrote an op-ed in the Bangor Daily News in favor of a solar bill being considered by legislators,
Senator Susan Collins joined colleagues in filing legislation that would offer grants for offshore wind education and job training. Senator Angus King joined other U.S. Senators in reintroducing a bill aimed at increasing renewable energy from ocean waves, tides, and currents.
The House voted on bills to protect local control for optional for-profit projects like the CMP corridor but unfortunately, as you’ll read in next week’s edition, the bills were eventually vetoed and failed to receive enough votes to override the veto.
The Bangor Daily News continues its in-depth coverage of the CMP corridor by diving into the details of the money at stake.
The Portland Press Herald takes a look at where Maine stands with offshore wind, and Inside Climate News reporter Sabrina Shankman is writing a series of stories in the first person about the fears of fumes from oil and gas tanks in South Portland.
June 5, 2019
On the heels of becoming the first state in the nation to ban foam food containers, Maine is poised to ban single-use plastic bags after the House and Senate gave it thumbs up. Somewhat related, a bill to ban harmful “forever chemicals” in food packaging is headed to the governor’s desk, and Governor Mills signed into law improved lead testing for Maine schools.
There’s been a lot of national attention to the plague of plastic pollution, and it’s making oil companies nervous, which, as far as we’re concerned, is great news! And be on the lookout, because several Maine communities will hire interns to “grade” residents on their recycling.
Bad for Maine
The Sun Journal took a look at the growing number of towns revolting against the CMP corridor. The paper also exposed conflicting and confusing job estimates CMP is putting forward. In a letter to the same newspaper Randy Lautz highlights the broad range of people opposing the project.
At the State House, more than 100 Mainers gathered to urge legislators to support Maine people, not CMP’s profits, and a bill that would have required a study of the actual climate impact of CMP transmission line’s failed to get the necessary votes in the House. Two other bills to protect local control in permitting decisions for for-profit transmission projects, like CMP’s corridor, are still being considered.
Maine Guide John Pincince has a compelling piece in the Bangor Daily News arguing why the CMP corridor project is bad for Maine.
Sparking Solar and Climate Action
The Legislature’s Energy, Utilities & Technology Committee advanced an important bill to spark solar energy development in Maine, and we’re not happy about attempts to allow trash incinerators to count as “renewable energy.” The House and Senate passed a ban on offshore oil and drilling as a response to the Trump Administration’s proposal to open up drilling off the Atlantic coast.
ICYMI, NRCM’s latest podcast dives into the details of the governor’s climate bill, which could be the most significant climate action Maine has taken in more than a decade.
Camden’s bid to use a piece of state property for a solar farm was rejected, so the town is on the search for a new location. Farther south, Portland and South Portland are joining forces to create a climate action initiative, and The Forecaster has a nice profile of graduating Scarborough High School student Ryan O’Leary whose passion is climate action and climate justice.
Land Conservation Good for Maine
The bond package proposed by Governor Mills includes funding for municipal clean energy and Land for Maine’s Future.
The Portland Press Herald sat down with Landis Hudson, executive director of Maine Rivers to ask her a few questions about why free-flowing rivers are so important, and in a Bangor Daily News op-ed veteran Douglas Rawlings highlights how increased funding for land conservation would support Maine’s veterans.
Long-awaited road signs are coming this summer to the Katahdin Woods & Waters Monument, and it turns out all those visitors to Acadia continue to bring big money into Maine, according to a new report.