Entries Filed in 'Environment'

Maine becomes first east coast state to study, plan, and prepare for ocean acidification

July 25th, 2014 · No Comments · Community Maine, Economy, Environment, Issue 41, Science

Ocean acidification, in Maine, could dramatically hurt fisherman's livelihoods. photo by Ramona du Houx

Ocean acidification, in Maine, could dramatically hurt fisherman’s livelihoods. photo by Ramona du Houx

Research tells us the world’s ocean water is becoming more acidic, and that endangers shellfish and other marine animals. Marine scientists are worried and so are businesses that rely on the ocean for their livelihoods. To better understand the problem and to help find solutions the Maine Legislature voted overwhelmingly to form the Maine Ocean Acidification Commission. The 16-member panel was announced on the Portland waterfront with Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. The Congresswoman has introduced a bill that would require federal officials to study the effects of ocean acidification on coastal communities in Maine and around the country.

“Ocean acidification could be a real threat to the fisheries that are the lifeblood of coastal communities. The truth is we don’t fully understand how it would impact a vital industry like the lobster fishery and what the effect would be on Maine,” said Pingree. “We know what’s causing ocean acidification but now we need to better understand how hard it is going to hit coastal economies.”

Under Pingree’s legislation, the Secretary of Commerce would be required to conduct studies to identify which communities are most dependent on ocean resources and how acidification would affect them if valuable industries were impacted.

“Maine is taking the lead on ocean acidification on the Eastern seaboard. We understand that it is a real threat to our marine environment, jobs and way of life,” said Rep. Mick Devin, the House chair of the State Commission and a marine biologist who sponsored the legislation that created the panel.

Lobsterman selling his catch in Belfast, Maine. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Lobsterman selling his catch in Belfast, Maine. Photo by Ramona du Houx

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Maine is leading the way with RGGI- makes it easier to work with new EPA carbon standards

July 24th, 2014 · No Comments · Environment, Healthy Lifestyles, Issue 41, News from Washington, Public Safety, Science

SAPPI paper mill in Skhowegan, Maine, emits polutants. Photo by Ramona du Houx

SAPPI paper mill in Skhowegan, Maine, emits polutants. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Maine has been a leader in clean energy and efficiency, with a plan enacted during the Baldacci administration working with lawmakers. During that time Maine became part of the New England state’s cap-and-trade carbon trade system, know as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, (RGGI).

However, the state is still at the mercy of winds that carry pollution here. That’s why President Barack Obama’s EPA proposal to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants by 30 percent nationally and by about 14 percent in Maine by 2030 is critical. Carbon emissions are the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States and power plants account for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions.

While there are limits in place for the level of arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particle pollution that power plants can emit, there are no national limits on carbon pollution levels.

“The EPA’s plan will allow states like Maine to build on the strong work we’ve already been doing to reduce carbon dioxide emissions,” said Congressman Mike Michaud. “Over the last 9 years, emissions from power plants in the nine states participating in RGGI have dropped by more than 40 percent. That is a very important step forward, and this proposal – when taken with Maine’s cutting-edge clean energy initiatives – positions Maine to be a leader in the clean energy sector. That means more jobs, lower utility bills and cleaner air for all Mainers.”

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South Portland City Council votes 6-1 to protect the city from a tar sands crude oil terminal

July 22nd, 2014 · No Comments · Economy, Energy Issues, Environment

In an historic vote, the South Portland City Council last night voted 6-1 to pass the Clear Skies Ordinance which will protect the city from a tar sands crude oil terminal. The city developed the ordinance after Protect South Portland’s neighbor-to-neighbor campaign educated and mobilized the community against tar sands over the last year and a half. Conservation groups and South Portland residents gathered to reflect, stating that the victory shows that citizens can overcome out-of-state oil interests. It provides a telling example of how local communities threatened with local impacts of tar sands are saying “No.”

“We may be a small city, but, boy, we’ve done a big thing tonight! The Clear Skies Ordinance protects our air, our coast, and our community,” said Mary-Jane Ferrier, spokesperson for Protect South Portland. “We are absolutely thrilled, relieved, and exhausted. Of course, we know it may not be over yet, and we’re committed to defend this victory from oil industry attacks.”

The Clear Skies Ordinance prohibits the bulk loading of tar sands onto tankers on the waterfront and forbids the construction of infrastructure for that purpose. Bulk loading of tar sands would increase air pollution, including volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants, on the waterfront and surrounding the tanks next to schools and throughout the community. Two 70-foot tall combustion smokestacks on the pier next to Bug Light, such as those previously permitted by the city and state for bulk loading of tar sands, would harm scenic views and property values.

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Statoil pumps $2.5 billion in UK offshore floating wind project instead of Maine

July 15th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Energy Issues, Environment, Issue 41

Hywind Scotland Park Overview, courtesy of Stratiol

Statoil Oil is investing $2.5 billion in the Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm project off the shores off the coast of Norfolk, UK.  Statiol’s 30 MW pilot project under construction will consist of five, 6 MW floating turbines operating in waters exceeding 100m of depth. The Pilot Park objectives will demonstrate cost efficient and low risk solutions for commercial scale parks. The project was destined to be in Maine, until Governor Paul LePage got involved. He forced through a bill revoking an agreement between the state of Maine’s Public Utilities Commission and Stratoil to build an offshore wind farm, with help from rate payers. Once the company learned that Gov. LePage would not honor the business agreement they decided to build the wind farm in the UK.

The technology that will be used in the pilot project has been tested in a demonstration project off the coast of Norway and with tests in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Statoil had plans for four test turbines off Boothbay Harbor. The company pulled out of Maine in October, 2013, saying it would focus its research and development in Scotland, which had a clearer policy on offshore wind energy.

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President Obama orders review of the effect of pesticides on bees

July 15th, 2014 · No Comments · Economy, Environment, Farming

President Barack Obama, on June 21, ordered environmental regulators to review the effect that pesticides may be having on bees and other pollinators that have suffered significant losses in recent years. Bee’s are essential to our ecosystem.

The order signed by President Barack Obama also called for a sweeping strategy for all government agencies in the next six months that would protect pollinators by improving their habitat. “Over the past few decades, there has been a significant loss of pollinators, including honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies, from the environment,” said President Obama.“The problem is serious and requires immediate attention.”

The European Union has already banned three common pesticides, known as neonicotinoids, on the basis that they were making bees sick.

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Maine’s DEP needs to act on phthalates information to help protect innocent children

June 30th, 2014 · No Comments · Capitol news, Environment, Health Care, Public Safety, Science

Representative Matt Moonen speaking to the crowd about the dangers of phthalates.  On the right is Emily Postman, Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine. courtesy photo

Representative Matt Moonen speaking to the crowd about the dangers of phthalates. On the right is Emily Postman, Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine. courtesy photo

In Portland’s Monument Square in June citizens were given a chance to guess which common household products contain hormone-disrupting chemicals called phthalates. Hawkers offered passers-by a chance to win a prize for correctly identifying the products containing phthalates, but participants quickly realized there was no way to know, because information on phthalates is not provided on packaging or available in an internet search.

“It’s time to take the guesswork out of keeping our kids safe from phthalates. Maine’s Kid-Safe Products Act is a powerful tool for helping us get better information about which products contain dangerous chemicals, but it’s not being used to its potential. The citizen-initiated rule before the DEP would help parents and pregnant women avoid dangerous products and it would create market incentives for safer alternatives. It’s simple and common sense,” said Rep. Matt Moonen, a state legislator from Portland. “I urge the DEP to adopt it quickly.”

Phthalates are commonly used to soften vinyl plastic and are routinely added to hundreds of everyday products and building materials found in the home. They are also a frequent ingredient of “fragrance” found in many lotions, cosmetics, and other personal care products.

“Our children’s health shouldn’t be a game of chance,” said Barbara DiBiase, a grandmother from Falmouth. “It’s a very frustrating situation. Parents and pregnant women have a right to know which products contain these dangerous chemicals called phthalates.”

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Maine becomes first east coast state to study, plan, and prepare for ocean acidification

June 30th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Capitol news, Environment, Science

The Press conference in Portland explaining the dire issue of ocean acidification and what Maine, and the federal government is doing to help.  courtesy photo

The Press conference in Portland explaining the dire issue of ocean acidification and what Maine, and the federal government is doing to help. courtesy photo

Research tells us the world’s ocean water is becoming more acidic, and that spells trouble for shellfish like clams and oysters. Marine scientists are worried and so are businesses that rely on the ocean for their livelihoods. To better understand the problem and to help find solutions so the correct actions in the State Capitol the Maine Legislature voted overwhelmingly in April to form the Maine Ocean Acidification Commission. The 16-member panel was announced on the Portland waterfront with Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. The Congresswoman has introduced a bill that would require federal officials to study the effects of ocean acidification on coastal communities in Maine and around the country.

“Ocean acidification could be a real threat to the fisheries that are the lifeblood of coastal communities. The truth is we don’t fully understand how it would impact a vital industry like the lobster fishery and what the effect would be on Maine,” said Pingree. “We know what’s causing ocean acidification but now we need to better understand how hard it is going to hit coastal economies.”

Under Pingree’s legislation, the Secretary of Commerce would be required to conduct studies to identify which communities are most dependent on ocean resources and how acidification would affect them if valuable industries were impacted.

“Maine is taking the lead on ocean acidification on the Eastern seaboard. We understand that it is a real threat to our marine environment, jobs and way of life,” said Rep. Mick Devin, the House chair of the State Commission and a marine biologist who sponsored the legislation that created the panel. “The commission brings together talented individuals who will address this threat head-on and find ways to protect our marine resources and economies.”

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Portland, Maine’s City Council bans foam packaging, endorses bag fee

June 18th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Community Maine, Economy, Environment

Maine's Portland City Hall during the holidays,  photo by Ramona du Houx

Maine’s Portland City Hall during the holidays, photo by Ramona du Houx

On June 16th, the Portland City Council voted 6-3 to ban foam packaging in city stores and restaurants, and voted 6-3 to enact a 5-cent fee on disposable shopping bags.

“These practical and common-sense actions will help to reduce the most common and costly litter in the city,” said Glen Brand, Director of Sierra Club Maine. “Styrofoam and plastic bags are more than unsightly eyesores; their production wastes energy and causes pollution, and plastic bags break down into toxic particles that pose a serious health threat to ocean wildlife.”

The council was confronted with arguments on both ordinance changes. Mayor Michael Brennan joined councilors Jon Hinck, Jill Duson, Ed Suslovic, David Marshall and Kevin Donoghue in favor, while Nicholas Mavodones, John Coyne and Cheryl Leeman voted against them.

“It was an issue I ran on while campaigning for mayor,” said Marshall.”The program encourages people to bring their own reusable bags to stores. Plastic bags have real environmental and economic costs.”

Portland’s single-use bag fee program is modeled on similar programs nationwide that have proven to reduce plastic bag litter clogging storm drains, jamming recycling equipment, and eventually floating out to sea.

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$100 thousand grant award supports environmental sustainable economic development strategy for Maine

June 5th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Creative Economy, Energy Issues, Environment, Issue 41

The Elmina B. Sewall Foundation awarded a $100,000 grant for an innovative project, called Plants to Products, to promote biobased manufacturing in Maine, which aims to convert sustainably harvested wood chips and agricultural waste into value-added renewable chemicals, biobased plastics, and advanced biofuels.

“We applaud the foundation for investing in Maine’s future – good jobs, safer products, healthier communities, and environmental sustainability,” said Mike Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, nonprofit organization that leads the Plants to Products initiative.

The promise of Plants to Products includes new jobs to revitalize Maine’s rural communities, and new products that slash fossil carbon pollution and replace toxic petrochemicals now used to make most plastics and synthetic materials.

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Mainers demand that Mallinckrodt clean up Penobscot River as Federal Court convenes

June 3rd, 2014 · No Comments · Community Maine, Environment, Health Care

Concerned citizens call for justice by holding Mallinckrodt legally responsible for decades of mercury pollution.

Concerned citizens call for justice by holding Mallinckrodt legally responsible for decades of mercury pollution.

“Corporate polluters across America are watching this case closely and waiting to see if a big corporation with deep pockets can break the law, pollute our waterways and not be held responsible,” said MPA Executive Director Jesse Graham. “At stake in this historic trial is the citizens’ right to hold corporations – no matter how rich or powerful – fully accountable for the damage they inflict on our environment and public health.”

Concerned Mainers from up and down the Penobscot River Watershed gathered outside the federal courthouse in Bangor this morning to speak out publicly before the court convenes for a hearing on a lawsuit brought by the Maine People’s Alliance and the Natural Resources Defense Council as part of a 20-year legal fight to hold corporate polluter Mallinckrodt responsible for decades of mercury pollution.

“It’s time for our river to be restored so that we can once again feel safe fishing and eating the lobster and other seafood in that region,” said MPA member Tim Conmee of Orrington. “We need the corporation that has been found responsible for the pollution to be held accountable for cleaning it up. It’s well past time for Mallinckrodt to make this right.”

The crowd, including lobstermen and local parents called on Mallinckrodt, a subsidiary of pharmaceutical and medical device giant Covidien, to end their delay tactics and finally take responsibility for the mercury contamination caused by the former HoltraChem plant in Orrington, Maine.

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