Maine’s Environmental Priorities
Mainers are proud of their environment and we have some of the toughest environmental regulations in the nation. On some, we followed California, long a leader in environmental protection.
So when I heard a recent radio interview with a Californian gubernatorial candidate, suggesting that the state ought to suspend pending greenhouse gas rules due to the recession and jobless rate, my ears perked up.
I wondered: is there any move in Maine to suspend our environmental rules, to foster job growth and lower the cost of doing business here?
Well, no there isn’t. And the Environmental Priorities Coalition provided the answer to my question at a news conference last week. The EPC trotted out their 2010 priorities for the Maine legislature, and one priority stood out: “no weakening of current environmental protections.”
The Coalition is likely to get its way because it represents 26 environmental, conservation, and public health organizations with over 100,000 members. It’s an impressive and aggressive group including the state’s Maine Audubon, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, American Lung Association in Maine, Congress of Lake Associations, Sierra Club, and Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.
And these groups have wisely organized a companion political action committee, the League of Conservation Voters, to grade legislators on their performance and endorse candidates for the legislature. This gives them a much stronger presence in the political world and guarantees that legislators pay attention to their legislative goals.
In addition to no rollbacks in environmental protections, the EPC touted seven specific bills.
LD 891, An Act to Reduce Maine’s Dependency on Fossil Fuels and Enhance Energy Efficient Development, directs the Department of Environmental Protection to develop new rules and the Land Use Regulation Commission to develop recommendations to ensure that future private developments will be more energy efficient. It also contains a number of provisions on fossil fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions, with the aim of reducing global warming pollution.
LD 1538, An Act to Close Loopholes in Environmental Regulations, clarifies that the forest-management exemptions from review do not apply to roads that provide access to a subdivision.
LD 1547, An Act to Revise Notification Requirements for Pesticides Applications Using Aircraft and Air Carrier Equipment, expands the notification system for neighbors when pesticides are being applied.
LD 1568, An Act to Clarify Maine’s Phase-out of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (i.e. DECA), would ban toxic flame retardant DECA from plastic pallets and all other consumer goods.
LD 1631, An Act to Provide Leadership Regarding the Responsible Recycling of Consumer Products, directs the state to systematically evaluate which products are most appropriate and top priorities for product stewardship recycling systems, and to create producer-financed recycling systems.
LD 1662, An Act to Improve Maine’s Air Quality and Reduce Regional Haze at Acadia National Park and Other Class I Areas, requires lower sulfur limits in heating oil and similar fossil fuels to be phased in from 2014 to 2018.
And last but not least, the Coalition urges legislators to approve new DEP rules governing the replacement of culverts.
Strong opposition to every one of these initiatives is already evident, with many opponents expressing concern about increasing the costs of doing business in Maine while we’re still struggling to rebuild our damaged economy.
But the most interesting dynamic to me is this: despite our reeling economy, no one seems to be promoting a roll back in Maine’s already strong environmental protections.
That puts us one up on California.