The legislative session marked again by major environmental achievements

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Bipartisan votes on many bills highlight strong conservation ethic

CNRM press release

April 26, 2022 (Augusta, ME) – The Maine Legislature has once again made significant progress on a wide range of environmental issues that will benefit Mainers across the state, according to an analysis by the Maine Natural Resources Council (NRCM). ).

The NRCM commended Governor Janet Mills and lawmakers for coming together to enact a wide range of new laws that will further improve the health of Maine’s environment, people and communities, including new laws to protect hundreds of miles of Maine rivers, conserving biodiversity by expanding Maine’s ecological reserves, limiting out-of-state waste at the Juniper Ridge landfill, mitigating the impacts caused by PFAS (“chemicals forever ”) and continue to fight climate change.

“The strong bipartisan support for several environmental priorities clearly reflects the strong conservation ethic of Maine people, regardless of where they live.” mentioned Pete Didisheim, NRCM Advocacy Director. “Although this was a short legislative session, lawmakers produced another long list of accomplishments to protect Maine’s lands and waterways, fight climate change and reduce pollution.”

“Taken together, these new laws build on the long legacy of bipartisan action by Maine lawmakers, on behalf of the people of Maine, to protect the environment that is so vital to our economy and quality of life,” said concluded Didisheim.

Climate Action and Clean Energy

  • Enactment of a new Utilities Accountability Act that requires the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to establish a scorecard with metrics to assess the performance of Maine’s electric utilities, with mandatory penalties for poor performance and surrender as the ultimate penalty for consistent failure to perform.
  • Passed a bill requiring the PUC to conduct a network planning Maine’s electrical grid modernization process for clean energy, energy storage, sophisticated energy efficiency measures, and transportation and heating electrification, with the plan tied to climate goals and the Maine climate action.
  • Approved $2.09 million in grant funding to school districts to create and implement teacher training, professional development and pilot programs for interdisciplinary climate education. The bill also authorizes the Ministry of Education to receive funds for these purposes from other public and private sources.
  • $3.5 million allocation to Efficiency Maine Trust for the state’s electric vehicle (EV) incentive program.
  • Set a goal that 50% of new light-duty vehicles purchased by the state by 2025 will be plug-in hybrid or zero-emission vehicles by 2025 and 100% by 2030. County and municipal governments have aim to acquire 100% light-duty vehicles plug-in hybrid or zero emissions by 2035, where possible.
  • Implementing recommendations from a state agency report regarding sea level rise, including consideration in natural resources agency regulations of the effect of scientific projections of at least 1.5 feet of sea level rise by 2050 and 4 feet of sea level rise by 2100.
  • Set a goal for Maine to achieve carbon neutrality by January 1, 2045, with net greenhouse gas emissions no greater than the amount of carbon dioxide sequestered by Maine’s forests.
  • Approved $231,310 to support a Maine Climate Corps program and a Maine Service Fellows program, to support local projects addressing climate mitigation and resilience.
  • Funding for a senior planner and three forester positions at the Maine Forest Service to provide training and education to landowners on climate-smart forest management practices.

Action on Waste and Forever Chemicals

  • Closed a loophole in Maine law which allowed other states to dump hundreds of thousands of tons of construction and demolition debris (CDD) into Maine’s Juniper Ridge landfill. The bill requires increased recycling as part of the treatment of CDDs generated in the state and requires that any future expansion of a solid waste facility not be inconsistent with ensuring environmental justice for the community in which the installation or expansion is proposed.
  • Approved $60 million for a PFAS Contamination Response Fund to address the public health and economic impacts caused by the land application of PFAS-contaminated sludge.
  • Prohibits land application of sludge or compost materials from any municipal, commercial or industrial sewage treatment plant or sewage system.
  • Requires report on treatment methods for leachate collected from Juniper Ridge and Dolby landfills to reduce PFAS concentration.
  • Prohibits the sale or distribution of pesticides to which PFAS chemicals have been intentionally added.
  • Allocation of $3.2 million to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for laboratory equipment to increase capacity for testing and analysis of PFAS samples.
  • Allocated $3 million to the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to clean up and mitigate threats of PFAS contamination affecting agricultural producers and the food supply, to provide support to affected farms, to support critical research on PFAS and to enable the DEP to respond to PFAS concerns and issues as they arise.
  • Requires all plastic beverage containers sold in the state to include 25% post-consumer recycled content by 2026 and 30% by 2031.

Action on water and land

  • Defeating language in the bill that would have blocked science-based river restoration projects, including the selective removal of obsolete and harmful dams.
  • Provided the Passamaquoddy Tribe in Sipayik with more control over the drinking water supply by allowing the tribe to seek alternative water sources on tribal lands without state approval and giving the federal government l primary water regulator for the tribe.
  • Expanding the membership and objectives of the Aquatic Invasive Plants and Pests Interagency Working Group to include identifying possible legislation to further address the threat that invasive species pose to Maine lakes, and a biennial report, with the first report due by January 15, 2023 The Task Force is required to involve stakeholders in the conduct of its work, including lake protection organizations.
  • Protect public lands by requiring BPL to adopt rules that establish an objective assessment process to determine whether a proposed activity on public lands would result in a reduction of the land or a substantial change in land uses, which would require the approval of one-third of the votes of the Maine House and the Senate.
  • Establishment of the Maine Redevelopment Land Bank Authority to help municipalities redevelop degraded, abandoned, and environmentally hazardous properties back into productive use.

Action for Affordable Housing and Equity

  • Implementation of a program of housing opportunities modernizing Maine’s housing and zoning policiesto allow for greater density of development that will contribute to affordability and access to housing while reducing the prospect of ever-increasing vehicle emissions – already Maine’s largest source of greenhouse gas pollution .
  • Provided increased access to PUC proceedings, including with funding, to diversify responders, and require the DEP to develop rules to ensure that individuals in environmental justice populations and frontline communities benefit from a fair and equitable access to DEP decision-making.

Many bills passed in the 2022 legislative session were priorities of Maine’s active network of nonprofit public health, environmental, and social service organizations, including groups that make up the Environmental Priorities Coalition.

“We are grateful to lawmakers for listening to the thousands of Mainers who have raised their voices for a cleaner, healthier environment, even during another difficult legislative session in which the Legislative Assembly and the public have conducted much of their work remotely,” Didisheim said.

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