News & Noteworthy
May 30, 2019
Here’s your latest round-up of news from the past week.
Respecting Maine’s Tribes
In one of the most significant steps forward for environmental justice in recent years, Governor Mills filed a bill to protect sustenance fishing rights for Maine’s tribes. The bill is the result of months of negotiations between the State and the tribes. As Maulian Dana, tribal ambassador for the Penobscot Nation, said, “We would love to get to the point where we can healthily live off fish like our ancestors did.”
Welcome Change at the PUC
In recent years Maine’s Public Utilities Commission has become obstructionist to clean energy and energy efficiency, so NRCM was excited to hear that Governor Mills has nominated Phil Bartlett to be the next Chair of this important regulatory agency.
Moving Forward on Clean Energy
The Bangor Daily News has a terrific editorial supporting two critically important bills for jump-starting renewable power in Maine, especially solar energy.
Maine Beer Co. launched a new initiative to install clean energy. A new plan was unveiled to install an anaerobic digestion facility to tap manure from dairy farms for biogas, and students in Portland are studying clean energy in the classroom.
Debunking CMP Climate Claims
The bill that would require an independent study of the actual climate impact of CMP’s corridor project received initial support from the House after being overwhelmingly approved by the Senate. Because the House vote included an amendment it now heads back to the Senate for consideration.
This E&E News article featuring NRCM Staff Attorney Sue Ely presents an excellent deep dive into why we need to be skeptical of CMP’s climate claims.
Data visualization expert Darren Fishell created a great online visualization of all the towns who have voted to oppose or rescind their support for the troubled transmission line proposal.
Plastics are Everywhere
It was hard to miss our very own Sarah Lakeman this week who appeared on both Maine Public’s The Maine Event TV show and Maine Calling radio show to speak about why it’s so important to ban single-use plastic bags. Shout out to Graves Shop and Save in Presque Isle for encouraging their customers to ditch plastic.
Speaking of plastics, the Indy 500 caught a lot of flack on social media for their massive balloon release. The Indianapolis Star actually tested the balloons used by Indy 500 to see if they were safe. Even though the plastic industry tries to say they’re biodegradable it should come as no surprise to anyone the newspaper found out they are not!
The Auburn City Council held off on suspending their recycling program at a hearing attended by Sustainable ME Outreach Coordinator Chrissy Adamowicz, who also testified about why it’s so important to find ways to keep recycling programs in place.
What’s Your Grade?
The Portland Press Herald reports that interns will hit the streets in four communities this summer to grade how well residents are doing on recycling.
Undermining Science Doesn’t Stop the Fact Climate Change is Happening
The New York Times reported this past week about the Trump Administration’s extensive efforts to attack and diminish climate science. The story is worth a read. You can also hear reporter Coral Davenport breaking the story down on The Daily podcast.
Odds and Ends
Don’t miss this video taken by a Mainer of two chatty lynx! We’ll end this week’s N&N with a big congrats to Bill Toomey who was selected to lead the Maine Farmland Trust. Toomey most recently worked as the Trust for Public Land’s New England area director.
May 22, 2019
Movement on Climate Action
Senator Dana Dow unveiled details of a comprehensive solar bill NRCM is supporting to jump start investment in clean energy. Governor Mills joined many others, including our CEO Lisa Pohlmann, in speaking passionately for climate action at the public hearing for her bipartisan climate bill. News Center Maine has a fantastic story exploring how climate change is impacting coastal communities and economies.
Shout out to all the Bobcats at Bates College for meeting their carbon neutrality goal a year earlier than planned! UMaine students are helping high schoolers better understand climate change by simulating international negotiations.
Portland is installing new signs to spotlight the need for resiliency as cities along the coast face increased flooding from climate change.
The Guardian is changing the way it talks about the climate crisis in its coverage, and interestingly, a recent study that explored climate language found that “climate crisis” is preferred, and the Columbia Journalism Review is teaming up with the Nation to transform coverage on climate.
…But some people don’t get it
MaineBiz has more on our criticism of the PUC for making cuts to energy efficiency, perhaps the most common sense and cost effective way for Mainers to curb energy use.
As if we needed any more evidence the Trump Administration doesn’t care about the climate crisis, Interior Secretary Bernhardt told a Congressional panel he doesn’t lose sleep over news that levels of carbon pollution have reached an all-time high.
CMP Corridor Still a Bad Deal!
Sue Ely is quoted in this in-depth piece on Hydro-Quebec’s plans to flood the Northeast with hydro power, in particular highlighting how the company continues to refuse to provide any evidence the CMP corridor would result in reductions in global emissions.
Maine firefighters are sounding the alarm about CMP’s corridor project, saying the company failed to consider emergency response. Our very own staff scientist Nick Bennett got up early in the morning to chat with George Hale and Rick Tyler and debunk some of CMP’s misleading claims about its proposal.
A Richmond High School student urges everyone to ditch plastic, and this in-depth feature story explores how the plastic industry has campaigned to protect plastic at the expense of the planet. Meanwhile, a researcher went down into the depths of the ocean and found amazing animals but…also plastic waste. Yuck.
Protecting Land and Resurgent Fish
The Times Record takes a look at how land trusts are working to preserve open space around Brunswick, and congrats to Bill Toomey for being named new president of Maine Farmland Trust.
Fish are returning to Maine’s rivers, and in Benton they’re celebrating this resurgence thanks to removals of some dams. A task force on toxic chemicals kick off its work this week, and the Maine Senate gave the thumbs up to expanded lead testing in drinking water at schools.
May 16, 2019
Energy efficiency is one of the most effective tools to help people save money and reduce carbon pollution. Unfortunately, Maine’s Public Utilities Commission isn’t interested, and we called them out on it. As expected because his term had expired, the PUC chair has departed his post but a replacement has yet to be nominated.
Writing in the Sun Journal, Scott Vlaun raised the call for solar, saying “now is the time to unleash solar power in Maine.” Rockland has unveiled an ambitious climate plan. Meanwhile, an op-ed in the Portland Press Herald explores how automakers are skirting their responsibility to reduce emissions.
Big props to Sanford science teacher Diana Allen, who is featured in this national AP story about science teachers struggling to find trustworthy educational materials on climate change. Allen says she sees it as her duty to teach climate change even though it’s not required under Maine’s science education standards. In Guilford, teacher Alden Gregory won an award to visit the Arctic Circle to study climate change. Scientists in Maine have linked warming ocean waters in the Gulf of Maine to a decline in the food supply for endangered right whales.
It’s not just about the polar bears anymore…the New York Times has an interesting story about what sort of messages motivate people to act on climate change.
CMP Controversy Continues
In a major, in-depth piece, the Bangor Daily News details concerns raised by the Massachusetts Attorney General about CMP’s corridor project proposal, pointing out that claims about emissions reduction are not backed up in the contracts.
Despite hiring an army of lobbyists, CMP suffered several setbacks in Augusta this week. In a 30-4 vote, the Maine Senate overwhelmingly approved LD 640, a bill by Senator Browine Carson (D-Cumberland) that would require an independent assessment of the CMP corridor’s climate impact. Days later lawmakers on the Energy, Utilities & Technology Committee gave approval to a bill from Representative Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham) that would require towns in the region to approve the project before it moved forward.
Caratunk first selectwoman Liz Caruso wrote a compelling op-ed for the Portland Press Herald on why Maine towns should have a say in optional, for-profit transmission lines like the CMP corridor. The town of Industry became the latest community to oppose the controversial project. In a bid to try and score some points, CMP announced it wouldn’t use herbicides, a move NRCM’s staff scientist Nick Bennett debunked.
Rep. Berry is also sponsoring a bill to create a consumer-owned utility; needless to say Maine’s corporate for-profit utilities are not psyched about it.
Tackling Waste and Plastic Pollution
Visits to Acadia National Park just got a little more awesome with the news that all four towns on Mount Desert Island have now banned plastic shopping bags and polystyrene foam food containers. Meanwhile, Bangor adopted a ban on single-use foam containers that will go into effect one year before the new statewide ban. In Waterville, a challenge to voter status of local college students that was brought after the plastic bag ban won cost the city’s taxpayers nearly $31,000.
Businesses across the state are weighing in on the new foam ban. Most are comfortable making the switch to benefit the environment, and many have already done so. The ban is reminding some Mainers of the importance of youth activism. In an op-ed, Richard Killmer makes the case for toxic-free, safer food packaging, urging lawmakers to support a bill that’s a priority for the Environmental Priorities Coalition.
Congrats to the founder of the composting company Garbage to Garden for being recognized by the Small Business Administration of Maine as 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year. Meanwhile, cities, including Auburn, continue to struggle with a difficult recycling market but local residents remain committed to making recycling more effective and NRCM continues to push for a solution called “product stewardship.”
In DC, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt says he’s not “losing sleep” over climate change. The U.S. House Committee on Appropriations issued a draft funding bill that rejected the Trump Administration’s proposed 31% EPA budget cut to programs that protect clean air and water. In what will come as a surprise to no one, the fossil fuel industry is trying to use scare tactics to oppose a proposed tax credit for electric vehicles that U.S. Senators, including Senator Collins, are proposing.
MaineBiz has a long interview with the new economic development director for the Katahdin region, and News Center Maine looks at how forests, water, and great beer are connected.
We’re inspired by all the recent graduates like Unity College’s Sierra Sico who will go on to help us better understand the natural world and work to protect it.
May 8, 2019
National coverage of Maine’s new ban on foam food containers continued to spread into this week. Much of the coverage featured NRCM prominently, including this video via Now This, proving once again that when we work together Maine can live up to its motto by protecting the natural resources that define our way of life.
ICYMI: Major UN Report Details Mass Extinction Threat
The news that appropriately dominated national and international environmental coverage this week was a major new UN report detailing how human activity is putting as many as one million species at risk of extinction.
A Boost for Clean Energy
The Portland Press Herald covered the public hearing for an important bill that would help actualize the renewable energy targets being pushed by NRCM, Governor Mills, and others. Our progress toward setting new goals for renewable energy and emissions reduction continues to grab national attention.
And a new report detailed the successes in Minnesota for one our favorite clean energy innovations, community solar farms. Speaking of solar, Waterville is moving forward on a solar project that would deliver thousands of dollars in revenue to the city, and youth in Portland held a rally last weekend calling on the city to solarize its schools.
CMP Failed to Address Alternatives
Both the Bangor Daily News and Maine Public reported on an eye-opening letter from the US EPA that called CMP’s application for its corridor project incomplete and highlights the company’s failure to examine less damaging alternatives. Meanwhile, a major energy company has officially appealed the PUC’s decision last month to grant CMP a permit for their corridor project.
It’s hard to accurately describe the depth of opposition to this project among Mainers, but this long, multi-media feature story puts a face to it by profiling the impact that CMP’s corridor project would have on people living off-the-grid in Somerset County.
This Times Record story on Midcoast communities struggling with waste and recycling costs highlights the challenges being faced by municipalities across the state. To combat this, some towns are hiring interns during the summer to help inspect recycling to identify contamination issues, and others are working to re-educate their residents.
News Center Maine’s Lindsey Mills recently took a look at the plastic pollution problem, featuring some potential local solutions, while the York Weekly profiled the inspiring high school students leading the campaign to ban foam in their town. In Augusta, the ban on single-use plastic bags was approved by committee and sent to the Legislature for their consideration.
A big shout out to Senators King and Collins for continuing to push for a ban on offshore oil and gas drilling. Congresswoman Pingree recently held the Interior Secretary’s feet to the fire for his failure to act on climate. You can watch the full exchange on her Facebook page.
The New York Times climate team put together a fantastic, interactive online feature answering your questions about food and climate change. Check it out to learn more about “how to shop, cook, and eat in a warming world.”
An op-ed from the Portland Water District and Sebago Clean Waters highlights why protecting clean drinking water is so important. It includes a shout out for our new Maine Brewshed Alliance.
Camden is exploring options that would free the Megunticook River and help native Maine sea-fun fish including alewives, and a University of New England professor is using cameras to identify wildlife living along the Eastern Trail.
May 2, 2019
If the past few days are any indication, get ready for lots of great news coming out of Augusta this spring. Of course, this is all the result of years of work by the Natural Resources Council of Maine’s (NRCM) experts and thousands of Maine people who continue to speak up for our land, air, waters, and wildlife. Read on—and prepared to be inspired.
No Foam for ME!
Maine officially became the first state in the nation to ban foam food containers. This is a HUGE win for people, wildlife, and the environment. The news received national attention, receiving coverage by the Associated Press, Newsweek, CNN, and the Hill. Grassroots efforts to ban foam in towns, like this campaign in York organized by high school students, helped build momentum for the statewide ban. As our motto says, Dirigo!
Of course, the plastic pollution problem is much larger than foam, which is why we’re supporting a ban on single-use plastic bags and also addressing the harm caused by abandoned balloons. After a strong editorial supporting the plastic bag ban in February, the Portland Press Herald editorialized on the climate impact of banning plastic bags, but we need to be squarely focused on the major impact plastic bags have on our land, waters, and wildlife.
Clean Water Victory
Under a bill signed into law on Earth Day by Governor Mills, septic inspections will now be required for homes along the shore of freshwater lakes, rivers, and ponds. The change, which will help protect water quality across the state, was advocated for by NRCM, lakes associations, and the Portland Water District.
Free the Rivers
Endangered Atlantic salmon were stocked in Piscataquis River for the first time, prompting Dan McCaw, fisheries program manager for the Penobscot Indian Nation to remark, “It’s very exciting. This is the first time this has happened since the Penobscot River Restoration Project was enacted [leading to the removal of two downstream dams and a bypass around another dam].”
Governor Mills Proposes Ambitious Climate Bill
Earlier this week Governor Mills announced the details of bipartisan climate bill that will help jump start Maine’s efforts to act on climate. Her bill complements another comprehensive proposal filed by Representative Ralph Tucker (D-Brunswick) and Senator Robert Foley (R-York), and includes a new Maine Climate Council that would lead an inclusive process for developing a new Climate Action Plan. You can hear from young farmer Ben Whalen about why we need to act in this Public News Service interview.
As NRCM CEO Lisa Pohlmann stated in our statement, we’re grateful the governor continues to speak forcefully and frequently for urgent climate action. Her leadership, and the support of the Legislature, is capturing national attention as well!
While we’re on the topic of climate change…
Curious about the climate impact of your food choices? Don’t miss this very cool New York Times interactive feature answering your questions about food and climate change. And a NYTimes food writer visited Maine for a story that encouraged people to try kelp.
One promising solution for homeowners to save money and reduce reliance on oil are heat pumps. WGME’s I-team asked the question “how well do they really work?” and found, well, they actually work great!
Get inspired by the work that the Mount Desert Island community is doing to tackle climate change from this profile in the digital magazine, Experience.
Not convinced we need to act? Check out the American Lung Association’s 2019 State of the Air report, which found air pollution got worse in some Maine communities (even though Bangor ranked first in the nation for clean air). Read this op-ed from seventh grader Anna Siegel on why it’s a moral imperative.
Charge It Up
If you’re heading to the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor any time soon, be sure to bring your electric vehicle, if you own one. Two new EV chargers were just installed there for the public to use. Creating a statewide network of chargers will help overcome a big barrier for many considering an EV. You can take a look at what this network might look like by checking out the map of alternative vehicle corridors recently approved by federal highway officials.
The Sun Journal checked in with Adam Lee of Auto Malls to see if electric cars are ready to take off in Maine. Of course, many people are curious about whether an EV is right for them and some of those people got a chance to learn more about them, and hear directly from the experience of EV owners at an event in Waterville co-sponsored by NRCM.
Home-grown Clean Energy Doing Well by Doing Good
It’s always exciting to see home-grown clean energy innovators doing well in Maine, so it was notable that Pika Energy, a Westbrook-based manufacturer of innovative battery storage technologies, was acquired by a Wisconsin company, a move which could help scale up its exciting technology.
And Lest You Forget…
The CMP corridor is still a hot topic on everyone’s mind, especially as several bills make their way through the Legislature. Columnist Al Diamon also recently wrote about the project. Now CMP has launched an expensive TV ad campaign in a desperate attempt to try and counter the tidal wave of opposition its proposal faces. What’s become clear to me after working on this campaign for only a few months is that no amount of advertising will be able to change Mainers’ minds that this project is a bad deal for Maine.
The Legislature recently held a public hearing for a bill that would help protect the North Woods by enhancing planning coordination and encourage development in existing towns rather than undeveloped Unorganized Territories, addressing concerns raised by changes adopted by the Land Use Planning Commission to eliminate the adjacency rule.
Pine Tree Watch has a deep dive into legislation that would require Maine schools to test water for lead. “I think water is a fundamental right,” said former Boothbay Region H.S. student Lillian Sherburne, who was shocked by what she found when she tested her school’s water.
Maine will now recognize Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day, an important change to honor Maine’s tribes. Our forthcoming 2020 Nature of Maine calendars will be updated with this great information—but this is an edit we can get behind!