Statement by Pete Didisheim, NRCM Advocacy Director
“The Governor today vetoed a bill that would help Maine people, communities, and businesses prepare for the significant risks that could be posed by climate change. Nearly every state to the south of Maine is taking the threat of climate change seriously, and so should we. Now is not the time to be sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that a warming climate is not a major challenge to our economy, coastal properties, and way of life.
Rising sea levels could cause tens of millions of dollars in damage to homes, roads, and infrastructure along Maine’s coast. Ocean acidification caused by climate change could threaten Maine’s lobster industry and alter commercial fisheries. A warming climate in coming decades also could pose risks to our forest products sector and ski and snowmobile industries. Many wildlife species that currently are abundant in Maine may no longer be viable in a changed environment, while other species may become prevalent, possibly creating opportunities for agriculture. Anticipating and planning for these changes can save us money and lives.
What we know from previous work done in Maine is that climate change is happening and Maine has a strong interest in preparing for that change, to protect the interests of our people and the state. In 2010, a group comprised of 75 state and federal agencies, associations, non-profit organizations, and businesses produced a preliminary report that identified priority areas for attention to help Maine adapt to changes in our climate. The 2010 report was delivered to the Legislature, but the LePage Administration and the Maine DEP terminated any further work. LD 825 would restart those important conversations aimed at selecting the most important areas for collective attention.
At the request of DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho, the bill was revised so that the DEP would no longer have responsibilities to work on climate adaptation. She requested that this work be transferred to the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, and that is how the bill was amended. Representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry supported the amended bill and lawmakers were told that the work could be done within existing resources by existing staff. Representatives from the University of Maine testified in support of the legislation, along with many others.
We urge lawmakers to overturn this veto. Maine has much to lose by not restarting a broad conversation about how best to plan for the changes that are coming our way as a result of climate change.
A climate adaption plan developed and released by the State of Massachusetts in late 2011 says: “Climate change is the greatest environmental challenge of this generation, with potentially profound effects on the economy, public health, water resources, infrastructure, coastal resources, energy demand, natural features, and recreation.”
We should have this same level of concern and awareness here in Maine.
The Governor’s veto message is not accurate in saying that the bill duplicates work already underway and would create an unfunded mandate. LD 825 is needed precisely because the work is not currently underway, and the bill was amended to ensure that it could be accomplished within existing resources. Again, we urge lawmakers to vote to overturn the governor’s veto on LD 825.
Here is the amended bill as it was approved by the House and Senate: www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/getPDF.asp?paper=HP0576&item=2&snum=126