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Enviroment
  • Over $77 Thousand USDA Renewable Energy Grants for Seven Maine Businesses

    By Ramona du Houx

    Seven Maine businesses have been selected to receive Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grants totaling $77,500 for the purchase and installation of renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements.

    The following Maine businesses have been selected to receive REAP grants: 

    • FEDCO Seeds, Inc., in Clinton, has been selected to receive $20,000 to purchase and install a 54.6 kWh ground-mounted solar PV system to benefit their storage facility for seeds, plants and gardening supplies. This system is projected to produce 70,793 kWh annually (replacing 96 percent of their energy demands), or enough electricity to power six homes.
    • Solar Center, LLC., in Arundel, has been selected to receive $19,391 to purchase and install a 26.1 kW solar PV system on three ground-mounted trackers to benefit a newly constructed greenhouse for organic farmers. This system is projected to produce 44,620 kWh annually (replacing more than 140 percent of their historical energy demands), or enough electricity to power four homes.
    • Wilbur B. Bradbury, dba Bradbury Maple, in Bridgewater, has been selected to receive $3,567 to purchase and install a new reverse osmosis system for this maple syrup farm which will concentrate the sap, resulting in decreased fuel oil use for boiling. The system is anticipated to reduce energy demands by 46 percent, saving 11,392 kWh annually, or enough energy to power one home. 
    • Trippcrest Farm, LLC., in Harrison, has been selected to receive $8,081 to purchase and install a 14.85 kW roof-mounted solar PV system to benefit their horse farm. This system is projected to produce 13,961 kWh annually (replacing 100 percent of their business energy demands), or enough electricity to power one home.
    • Harpswell Freezers, LLC., in Harpswell, has been selected to receive $2,534 to purchase and install a 26.5 kW roof-mounted solar PV system at one of their commercial rental real estate properties. This system is expected to produce 29,885 kWh annually (replacing 17 percent of their historic business energy demands), or enough electricity to power two homes.
    •  Power Gripps, USA, Inc., in Sorrento, has been selected to receive $13,228 to purchase and install an 18.4 kW roof-mounted solar PV system to benefit the owner’s business. This system is projected to produce 19,544 kWh annually (replacing 100 percent of their energy demands), or enough electricity to power one home.
    • Waldoboro Environmental Park, Inc., in Waldoboro, has been selected to receive $10,699 to purchase and install a 12.48 kW building-integrated solar PV on a proposed new structure in the business park. This system is predicted to produce 15,622 kWh annually, or enough electricity to power one home.

        REAP provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements. Eligible applicants include tribal business entities, cooperatives and electric utilities. Renewable energy sources include wind, solar, renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters), small hydro-electric, ocean, geothermal or hydrogen derived from these renewable resources. Energy efficiency projects could include upgrades to more efficient motors, adding insulation, HVAC units, and lighting upgrades, among others.

        For more information on this program please contact Cheryl Pelletier, Business Programs Specialist, at (207) 764-4157 ext. 4, or at cheryl.pelletier@me.usda.gov.

  • Latest RGGI auction brings in over $1.5 million - $85 million to date for Maine

     

    By Ramona du Houx

    Maine earned $1,555,662 in The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s (RGGI) 35th auction of carbon dioxide allowances. RGGI is the nation’s first market-based regulatory program to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution and is viewed as a model for other regions.

     Since RGGI’s inception Maine has brought in $85,166,608.15 for weatherization and alternative energy projects, for businesses and homes. Many of these programs and projects are managed through the Efficiency Maine Trust, set up by the Baldacci administration.

    14,371,300 CO2 allowances were sold at the auction at a clearing price of $3.00. Bids for the CO2 allowances ranged from $2.15 to $13.75 per allowance.

    The March 8th auction was the first auction of 2017, and generated $43.1 million for reinvestment in strategic programs, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, direct bill assistance, and GHG abatement programs. Cumulative proceeds from all RGGI CO2 allowance auctions for all the 9 states participating exceed $2.68 billion dollars. 

    In Maine, the program first started when Governor John Baldacci pushed for it’s implementation and had lawmakers introduce a bill. The legislation won unanimous support in Maine’s Senate and House.

    “RGGI is still working and still helping Mainers reduce our energy bills and reduce emissions. It is a win-win and a model for the entire nation,” said State Representative Seth Berry, the House chair of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.

    With ocean acidification on the rise Maine’s lobstermen are worried and have become proponents of RGGI. “Since RGGI’s inception in 2009, we have seen a 35 percent reduction in carbon emissions from power plants and substantial investments in energy efficiency across Maine,” said Richard Nelson a lobster fisherman and member of the Maine Ocean Acidification Commission and the Maine Regional Ocean Planning Advisory Group.

    “The reinvestment of these auction proceeds will help to build on the RGGI states’ track record of achieving emissions reductions together with economic growth,” said Katie Dykes, Chair of the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority and Chair of the RGGI, Inc. Board of Directors.

    During Governor John Baldacci’s tenure his energy office developed a 50-year energy plan to help make the state energy independent. Many of the plans components of were implemented before Governor LePage took office, like becoming a member of RGGI.

    Baldacci's clean energy plan focused on how to get Maine off fossil fuels while bringing clean energy jobs to the state. His administration created grants for weatherization of homes and to help new alternative energy innovations like the floating offshore wind platforms and windmills developed at the University of Maine.

    “Year after year, RGGI delivers triple benefits—economic, social, and environmental,” said Jared Snyder, Deputy Commissioner, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Vice Chair of the RGGI, Inc. Board of Directors.  “More than a decade ago our states chose to step up in the absence of federal action, and independent reports have found significant payback as a result. RGGI is boosting state economies and lowering consumers’ energy bills while driving down carbon emissions and reducing the harmful health effects of fossil fuel pollution. The RGGI states continue to invest in the health of our communities while providing a clear market signal to power producers.”

     

     

    RGGI History — 

    The first pre-compliance RGGI auction took place in September 2008, and the program became effective on January 1, 2009. 

    In 2003, governors from Maine, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont began discussions to develop a regional cap-and-trade program addressing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

    On December 20, 2005, seven of those states announced an agreement to implement RGGI, as outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the Governor's of Maine, Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont. The MOU, as amended, provides the outlines of RGGI. New Jersey is the only state to opt-out of the program under Governor Christie’s leadership, missing out on millions of revenues.

  • LePages' budget proposal endangers state park jobs with private contractor jobs

    Maine's beauty, photo by Ramona du Houx

    By Ramona du Houx

    The Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee and the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee held a joint public hearing on March 10,2017 on portions of Gov. Paul LePage’s budget proposal that would outsource two dozen jobs at Maine’s state parks and eliminate management positions involved in overseeing historic sites or public lands.

    The proposal would not save the state any money and would merely shift funding to private contractors. Private companies have no moral incentives to maintain public lands as state workers have to under Maine's Constitution.

    “This state’s best assets - our people, our natural resources, our quality of life and place - are exactly what Mainers and our many, many visitors value about our state parks,” said Speaker of the House Sara Gideon. “Our friendly, knowledgeable and hard-working rangers are part of what makes the experience so special. This proposal is yet another example of a shortsighted vision that neither saves the taxpayers money nor effectively stewards one of our key economic assets.”

    Maine’s more than 50 state parks and historic sites reported nearly 2.9 million visitors in 2016, setting an attendance record for the second straight year.

    But under the LePage Administration, Mainers are paying more to use their state parks. The price of an annual park pass rose 50 percent this year, from $70 to $105, the first increase since 2002.

    In addition since the consolidation of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Conservation in 2012, the LePage administration has cut the number of staffers throughout the new, larger agency. In some cases, state workers are doing more but not being compensated properly for the extra work. While in other departments - the work isn't getting done.

    “Mainers are paying more, yet the department is forced to do less and less. Key positions are going unfilled and services are being eroded,” said Michelle Dunphy, Chair of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee. “It’s only a matter of time before our iconic Maine brand is damaged as a result. Democrats are focused on conservation policies that result in a stronger, more vibrant economy. ”

    The Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee has now ended its joint committee public hearings. Next week, they will start receiving report backs from the policy committees and hold public hearings on legislation not related to the budget.

     

  • MPUC's anti-solar rules that would raise rates on solar power users - lawmakers need to take action

     Lawmakers could stop extreme anti-solar rules, save ratepayers money and help grow jobs

    By Ramona du Houx

    The amount of solar power added worldwide soared by over 50 percent in 2016, according to data compiled by Europe’s solar power trade body.

    New solar photovoltaic capacity installed reached more than 76 gigawatts just within 2016.

    Most of the increases took place in the US and China. Globally there is now 305GW of solar power capacity, up from around 50GW in 2010 and virtually nothing at the turn of the millennium.

    The dramatic shift in installment has a lot to do with technological advances in the industry coupled with the urgency the climate change threat poses to the world. Add that to the fact — it makes business sense to install solar power as it save consumers and businesses money — and you have a clear path forward for the solar power industry.

    But there is one hitch in Maine—the Maine Public Utilities Commission’s (MPUC’s) new net metering rules include some of the most extreme anti-solar elements in the nation. They will go into effect at the end of the year if the Legislature fails to put a stop to the onerous rules that would make rate payers with solar installments pay more.

     “Under the PUC’s extreme anti-solar rules, for the first time utilities would charge Maine homes and businesses for solar power they produce and consume themselves on site,” said Dylan Voorhees, Climate and Clean Energy Director, Natural Resources Council of Maine. “In the wake of the PUC’s decision, it is essential that Maine lawmakers pass an effective bill that overturns these rules and puts Maine on track to increase our production and use of solar power. But, if allowed to take effect, these new rules will threaten existing and potential new jobs and guarantee that we remain in last place in New England for solar jobs and energy production.”

    Rep. Seth Berry in 2008 at work in the Maine House of Representatives. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    In an expensive new requirement, new solar customers will be forced to install, and ratepayers will pay for, an extra meter for their solar panels — forcing them to pay utilities a fee for solar power they generate, power that never will enter the electricity grid.

    “This rulemaking only underscores the need for the legislature to move quickly to protect jobs, ensure market stability and keep Mainers in control of their energy future,” said Rep. Seth Berry, who is the House chair of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. “The finalized rule by the MPUC takes us in the wrong direction by making major and disruptive changes — despite overwhelming public input regarding risks to our energy and jobs markets.”

    Studies show that solar power delivers valuable benefits to society, the environment and all energy users. Solar is pollution-free, has no fuel cost and eliminates the need for dirty power plants and expensive transmission lines.

    “Clean renewable energy sources are the best pathway our state has to lower energy prices, create more good-paying jobs and lesson our carbon footprint,” said Rep. Berry.

    The MPUC failed to conduct any costs and benefits analysis of this new net metering, so they cannot say with any authority whether these rules will help or harm ratepayers. However, previous studies by the MPUC clearly indicate that increased use of distributed solar in Maine leads to lower electric rates.

    "This rulemaking only underscores the need for the Legislature to move quickly to protect jobs, ensure market stability and keep Mainers in control of their energy future. We urge the legislature to act swiftly to restore good solar policy for Maine’s future," said Environment Maine campaigns director Laura Dorle.

    The best and swiftest solution is for the Legislature to enact an effective law to move Maine forward this session, before these extreme rules take effect at the end of 2017.

    “The Legislature should be setting solar policy in Maine, not the MPUC. With others, NRCM is also likely to file a ‘motion for reconsideration’ with the PUC, giving them one last chance to set aside these extreme changes,” said Voorhees.

    The Office of the Public Advocate, which represents ratepayers, testified last year that it had “significant concerns with the rules,” noting they “include provisions that are unclear, unworkable, and potentially unlawful.”

    Public opposition to this policy included more than 4,000 comments received by the MPUC. Polling shows that a strong majority of Mainers from all counties and political affiliations oppose this rollback.

     

  • Former CEO and Executive Director of The Silk Road Project will lead MECA

    The Maine College of Art’s (MECA) Board of Trustees has announced the appointment of Laura Freid, Ed.D., as the 18th president of the 135 year-old institution.

    Freid comes to MECA as a passionate and proven advocate for the arts and education, most recently serving in partnership with internationally acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma, as CEO and Executive Director of The Silk Road Project, a global cultural arts organization based at Harvard University.

    Silkroad works to connect the world through the arts, presenting musical performances and learning programs, and fostering radical cultural collaboration around the world to lead to advancing global understanding.

    Her prior leadership experience includes serving as Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and University Relations at Brown University and Chief Communications Officer at Harvard University where she was publisher ofHarvard Magazine.

    Led by alumnus Brian Wilk ’95, incoming chair of MECA’s Board of Trustees, and Vice President at Hasbro Toys, MECA’s presidential search process officially started in August  2016, when a search committee composed of a diverse group of representatives from within the MECA community convened to discuss and understand the most essential attributes needed in the College’s next leader.

    In announcing the choice, Wilk remarked on the thorough and extensive nature of the selection process. “It was clear to the entire search committee that we needed someone who has the skills, experience, and appetite to continue building our mission of educating artists for life while expanding our reputation as an international destination for world-class arts education. After carefully considering our impressively deep pool of seasoned candidates from all over the world, our search committee unanimously agreed that Dr. Laura Freid was the right person to guide MECA through our next critical period of growth.”  


    Debbie Reed, chair of the MECA Board of Trustees, described Freid as “an exceptional leader who understands MECA’s mission and the importance of creativity.” According to Reed, “From the moment we met Laura, we were interested in learning more about her demonstrated track record of engaging multiple constituencies while serving in senior leadership roles at multiple institutions. The Board of Trustees looks forward to an exciting future under Laura’s leadership as we move the College forward.”

    “I am grateful for the dynamic leadership that has guided MECA to date and to the entire College community and the city of Portland for creating such an exciting American center for the arts, culture and entrepreneurship,” Freid said. “In times as rife with international, political, and economic tensions as we are experiencing today, I believe investing in the arts has never been more imperative. Art gives us meaning and identity, helping us reflect on and shape our lives; it is fundamental to our well-being. That is why I believe providing artists with the education they need to succeed is such a critical and vital mission.”

    Freid’s educational background is rooted in the philosophy of aesthetics and in the history of reputation in higher education. She holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Washington University, an MBA from Boston University Graduate School of Management, and an Ed.D. from University of Pennsylvania.

    Freid will take office on or before July 1st, replacing Interim President Stuart Kestenbaum, Maine’s Poet Laureate and former Director of the Haystack Mountain School of Arts. Kestenbaum stepped in to lead during a transition year after Don Tuski, Ph.D. accepted the position of President at Pacific Northwest College of the Arts in Portland, Oregon, on the heels of six years of continuous enrollment and endowment growth at MECA.

  • Let’s take up Rachel Carson’s challenge

    Human evolution shows that our emotions such as fear, anger and sadness should not rule us if we want to maintain the ties that are critical to our survival. 

    By Martha Freeman of Portland, a former Maine state planning director for eight years in the Baldacci administration and the editor of “Always, Rachel: The Letters of Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman, 1952-1964.”

    Rachel Carson was a friend of mine, although she died when I was only 11 years old.

    If you’re not a baby boomer or older, you may not know her name. You may not know that she was a best-selling author in the 1950s and 1960s, or that her work as a scientist and writer led to the nationwide banning of DDT and the beginning of the environmental movement.

    Recently, the Public Broadcasting System’s “American Experience” aired a film about Rachel Carson’s life and work. If you view it, you’ll learn that the most important revolution she engaged in involved more than stopping pollution by pesticides. She was as concerned with halting heedless interference with interrelationships in the natural world, including those among humans. She was concerned about government’s relationship with the public, businesses’ responsibility toward consumers, the contamination of human discourse by falsehood. Sound familiar from the headlines, posts and tweets of today?

    Rachel Carson came into my life when she built a summer place near my grandparents’ cottage on the Maine coast. She and my grandmother became dear friends. As a youngster, I was along for parts of their journey. As an adult, through reading the letters to each other these friends saved, Rachel Carson became closer to me.

    I saw, as she did, that the web of human relations, embedded in human nature, is as crucial to our world’s well-being as any other set of environmental links. To pollute that web is as toxic as pouring poison into a river.

    And that web is being fouled today. Self-righteousness, the outlook of might making right, grandiosity in the face of humbling challenges are ascendant. These responses took root in the soil of economic turmoil and human dislocations.

    It’s natural for people to fear unsettling change. We’re as motivated by our biology as any plant or animal experiencing a threat. Our brains wire us to feel fear, anger, and sadness as we cope. But it’s stupid, and human evolution shows this, for those emotions to rule when we’re challenged.

    Modern humans best overcome threats when deploying empathy, whether toward allies or adversaries. If you can’t put yourself in the other fellow’s shoes, you’re missing out on rational and emotional intelligence. It’s intelligence that forms coalitions in the home, at work, across all forms of human relations and leads to progress.

    Brittle and brute tactics are not a mature, or ultimately successful, response to human problems. These approaches may appear to bring success in the short term. Using them may generate feelings of slights vindicated. But in their wake, the whole of which we each are a part will eventually wither. The long term will not be healthful for our children and other living things.

    Having empathy, valuing the intricate web of human relationships, is not the stance of cowards. It’s the essence of courage. Rachel Carson faced disparagement from private enterprise, media and public officials. A gentle and petite woman, she stood with backbone against detractors, employing her most effective tools: facts, understanding, caring, calmness.

    In 1962, in one of her last public presentations before her death, Rachel Carson spoke at the Scripps College commencement. Her groundbreaking book, “Silent Spring,” had just been published. She continued its theme of environmental interdependence in her remarks, but broadened the context:

    “Your generation must face realities instead of taking refuge in ignorance and evasion of truth. Yours is a grave and a sobering responsibility, but it is also a shining opportunity. You go out into a world where mankind is challenged, as it has never been challenged before, to prove its maturity and mastery — not of nature but of itself.”

    It’s time to take up Rachel Carson’s challenge again.

    We must reward mature behavior and remove our attention from immature distractions, as mothers do when their kids are acting out. We must expand our circles of affection, as young people have done. We must prove the masters of our fear, anger and any anxious interest in belittling others.

    Humans naturally advance in community. Our sense of community evolves. As it has, life has become better for the human family. Only a short-sighted, impulsive and immature perspective seeks to break rather than strengthen our bonds.

    As Rachel Carson taught, everything in nature is interrelated and interdependent — including all of us. As we care for our environment, so must we care for all humankind. It’s a fact that we can’t escape being on this earth together.

  • Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters aims to keep and enhance national monument

    By Ramona du Houx

    Six months after President Barack Obama created a new national monument in Maine, a new nonprofit organization, Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters, has formed to support Maine’s new national monument. Maine's open wild spaces draw people to the state to recreate and spend millions. Over 22 million tourists flock to the state every year to see the state's natural beauty.

    Many residents see the wisdom of protecting this monument and ensuring its upkeep. They understand the tremendous value the Katahdin region has. But some others, for their own reasons, distrust the National Park Service.

    Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters, private group, is not part of the National Park Service but intends to enter into an agreement to work collaboratively with and support the mission of the National Park Service that manages the monument.

    “Initially, the friends group will focus on building volunteer opportunities, developing education programs and advocating for the monument,” said Lucas St. Clair, president of the Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters. “Eventually, the nonprofit organization will provide financial support for specific projects in the monument and surrounding communities, raise private funds to supplement—not replace—federal appropriations, protect the integrity of the monument and its resources, and speak for users in the betterment of monument operations.”  

    Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters will work to preserve and protect the outstanding natural beauty, ecological vitality and distinctive cultural resources of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument and surrounding communities for the inspiration and enjoyment of all generations.

    “Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument can become a first-class destination for visitors to northern Maine,” said Anita Mueller, vice president of Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters. “I look forward to working with the National Park Service to develop services, facilities and programs that will make the experience of visiting the national monument a wonderful, lifetime memory.”

    “All of us at Friends of Acadia are excited by this announcement and want to welcome the Friends of Katahdin Woods & Waters into the community of friends groups that help serve national parks and national monuments throughout the country,” said David MacDonald, president of Friends of Acadia in Bar Harbor Maine. 

    Friends of Acadia has received incredible support from volunteers, businesses, and surrounding communities who want to give back to Acadia, and public-private partnerships like this will only become more important in the future.  We look forward to being a resource and partner with our friends to the north.” Friends of Acadia has granted more than $25 million to the park and surrounding communities since its founding in 1986 in support of dozens of projects, including youth programs, restoration of Acadia’s trails and carriage roads, and establishment of the fare-free Island Explorer bus system.  

    While their is a tremdous amount of support for the Katahdin National Monument, Maine's Governor LePage has sounded off in a negaitive way, wanting the designation taken away by President Trump. LePage wrote a letter to the new President asking to abolish the designation, although the region has already seen an upswing in interest and tourism since Obama's ruling. 

    “Already we have seen opportunities to partner with the National Park Service,” said Terry Hill from Mt. Chase.  “This winter, our local snowmobile club partnered with the National Park Service to put new decking on two snowmobile bridges within the national monument. I look forward to working with the Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters to find additional opportunities to improve the visitors’ experience at the national monument. We want to increase the number of people who are involved in making the monument better.”

    “We know that the national monument has many valuable historical artifacts from the days when Native people traveled up the Penobscot for hunting and fishing to the storied times of log drives and paper making,” said Don Hudson, treasurer of Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters. “Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters could help the national monument protect those artifacts and tell those stories to thousands of visitors.”

    “The national monument currently has some excellent hiking, paddling, biking and cross country skiing,” said Cathy Johnson, secretary of Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters. “But there could be much more. We look forward to helping the National Park Service identify and develop additional opportunities for active, outdoor recreation.”

    The Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters is launching with a thirteen-member board of directors with an immediate goal of attracting additional members. The public can join the group by going to https://friendsofkatahdinwoodsandwaters.org 

    “There has been an outpouring of support for the national monument since it was created,” said Molly Ross, from Arlington, VA. “Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters will provide a place for supporters from Maine to Mississippi to Montana and beyond to go to find out what is going on in the national monument and how they can help support it.”

  • Maine urged to take stronger action against power plant pollution with RGGI

    On February 8, 2017, representatives of nine states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic met to discuss taking stronger action to cut global warming pollution. These states, part of a regional program that limits pollution from power plants called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative,(RGGI) are preparing to make a decision about how much to cut pollution from 2020 to 2030.

    Across the region, RGGI states have cut power plant pollution in half since 2005, and RGGI states have generated more than $2.5 billion for clean energy investment.

    To date RGGI has brought in $83,612,946.15 to the state of Maine for weatherization and alternative energy projects, for businesses and homes. Many of these programs and projects are managed through the Efficiency Maine Trust, set up by Governor John Baldacci. 

    RGGI is the first mandatory market-based program in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. RGGI is a cooperative effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector.

    In January, 2017, NASA announced that 2016 was the hottest year on record for our planet, breaking records last set in 2015 and 2014. We know global warming is happening and we know that we are the cause.

    Maine is already beginning to experience more extreme weather events and sea levels along New England and the mid-Atlantic coast are rising faster than every other region of coast.

    "There’s never been a more urgent time to talk about cutting pollution. So we are glad to see Maine updating the best regional clean air and climate program in America – the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative," said Emma Rotner, Campaign Organizer with Environment Maine.

    RGGI cleans the air and improves health outcomes-

    A new analysis last month showed that over its first 6 years, the program saved 600 lives, averted 9,000 asthma attacks, and prevented 260,000 days where people would have had to restrict daily activities, such as exercise, due to air pollution.

    RGGI helps accelerate our country transition away from dirty fuels and toward clean energy.

    "We make power plant owners pay for every ton of pollution they emit. That is driving a lot of great clean energy projects in our communities. For example, from 2013-2015 Efficiency Maine used $25 million to create more energy efficient homes and businesses, drastically cutting down on energy costs (http://www.nrcm.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/RGGI4pagerFINAL.pdf). However, we can and must do more," said Rotner.

    "Over the next three months, we have a chance to double the strength of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Doing so would cut pollution faster, help us live longer and healthier lives, speed our transition to clean energy and strengthen our economy.

    "With leadership unlikely to come from Washington DC, states must show the way forward.

    "We urge Governor LePage to keep Maine leading the charge on climate. We should double the strength of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to cut pollution in half again by 2030 and invest more in energy efficiency, wind and solar power. Together we can build a renewable energy future, and deliver clean air and a safe, healthy climate for us all.”

  • Scientists call on Collins

    The Penobscot is polluted with mercury - we need the EPA

    Editorial by Dianne Kopec and Aram Calhoun,

    As the name implies, the goal of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to protect our environment, and it has worked toward that goal since it was created in 1970. That start date is important to the people and the environment of the lower Penobscot River, for in late 1967, the HoltraChem chlor-alkali plant began operating in Orrington on the banks of the river. In the first four years of the plant’s operation, waste mercury was routinely discharged into the river. Much of that mercury continues to contaminate the Penobscot.

    We ask that the community, and Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King — who will soon vote on the nominee to head the agency, Scott Pruitt — consider the value of the EPA and the critical importance of appointing a director who embraces the mission of protecting our environment.

    Senator Susan Collins – (202) 224-2523 Senator Angus King – (202) 224-5344

    We are scientists. We examined the impact of the mercury discharges into the river as part of the Penobscot River Mercury Study, an independent court-ordered study of mercury contamination of the Penobscot River from the HoltraChem plant. This work gave us first-hand knowledge of the value of the EPA and of the environmental consequences when regulations are absent or not enforced.

    One of the first actions of the EPA was a thorough revision of water pollution laws and the creation of the Clean Water Act, which was passed by Congress in 1972.

    For the first time in our history, the government began regulating pollutant discharges into surface waters. It was no longer legal for the Orrington chemical plant to dump its waste mercury into the Penobscot. Instead, HoltraChem began storing the waste mercury in landfills that greatly reduced the amount of mercury entering the river. Yet, roughly 90 percent of an estimated nine tons of mercury that was ultimately released into the Penobscot River was discharged before the EPA began regulating pollutant discharges into our rivers, streams and lakes.

    Today, the evidence of those mercury discharges can be seen in the sediment of the Penobscot River. Buried 16 inches below the surface of the sediment is a layer of extreme mercury contamination, deposited during the early years of plant operation.

    The sediment deposited after EPA was created is less contaminated.

    Yet, buried contaminants do not always remain hidden. River and slough channels can change course, releasing long-buried mercury into the surface sediment that is swept up and down the river with the tide. So in some parts of the lower Penobscot the most contaminated sediment is not buried, but near the surface, where it enters our food web and accumulates in our fish, birds and lobster.

    Now 50 years later, we have mercury concentrations in waterfowl almost four times greater than the Maine action level for mercury in muscle tissue, prompting the state’s first health advisory on the consumption of breast meat from ducks. Migratory song birds arrive in marshes along the lower Penobscot with low mercury burdens, but quickly accumulate mercury concentrations in their blood that exceed levels known to cause reproductive failure. Average mercury concentrations in lobster living near the mouth of the Penobscot River are two to three times greater than the Maine action level, and individual lobster have concentrations over six times greater.

    There is now a state ban on lobster harvesting in that area. Without EPA regulations, the river would be even more contaminated. Finally, mercury concentrations in the surface sediments of the river are seven to 10 times greater than background concentrations in rivers Down East, and we estimate it will take a minimum of 60 to 400 years, depending on the area, for the Penobscot to clean itself.

    Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general, has been nominated to head the EPA, despite the fact that he is a leading advocate against the agency. His history of suing the EPA over environmental regulations, the same regulations that now limit discharges to the Penobscot, should disqualify him from service as the agency’s director.

    This is only one example of the positive role the EPA plays in safeguarding public and environmental health. Environmental regulations save our country money, provide jobs, and ensure the health of all animals, plants and the humans who see clean air, water and soil as an American right. The EPA needs a leader who will defend that right.

    Dianne Kopec is an adjunct instructor in the department of wildlife, fisheries, and conservation biology at the University of Maine in Orono. Aram Calhoun is a professor of wetlands ecology at UMaine. Peter Santschi, a regents professor in the department of marine sciences at Texas A&M University in Galveston, and Ralph Turner, a mercury researcher at RT Geosciences Inc., also contributed to this piece.

  • When seeing the rare Great Gray Owl in Maine be respectful

    Great gray owl makes rare stop in Maine

    But when a celebrity bird shows up, we go loopy. I speak from recent experience. A couple of weeks ago, a great gray owl took up temporary residence in Milford, just east of Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.

    Charismatically speaking, this is the George Clooney of the bird world. If Tom Brady were a birder, he would drop whatever he was doing next weekend to go see it.

    The great gray owl is a rare visitor from the north. It is considered the tallest owl in the world, with a wingspan of up to five feet. But it’s all fluff and feathers, weighing only half as much as a snowy owl. A great horned owl could trounce it with one talon tied behind its back. Snowy owls are powerful and fast, able to chase down birds in flight. Great horned owls are even more powerful, able to carry off large prey.

    Great gray owls, on the other hand, prey almost exclusively on wimpy rodents. They can hear and pounce on small animals tunneling under two feet of snow, but their light weight and small feet prevent them from hunting anything larger. Great gray owls may appear huge, but mightiness is not their thing.

    Great gray owls are also rare. Even in their boreal forest homelands of Canada, northern Europe, and Russia, they are scarce, probably numbering fewer than 200,000 worldwide. Approximately half of those are in North America, mostly in Canada. It is the official bird of Manitoba. A small percentage breeds in northern Minnesota and mountains of the western U.S. Generally, they are content to stay home.

    Great gray owls appear in Maine only once every four years or so. Seeing one here is such a prized experience, I would shove Scarlett Johansson out of the way if she was blocking my view.

    Therein lies the problem. Celebrity birds draw a huge crowd, and this one has. There is a fine line between gathering to appreciate a bird, and crowding it to the point of killing it. But nobody can say with confidence where that line is. It has been the subject of constant debate within the birding community since the first day the owl appeared.

    Unfortunately, great gray owls are their own worst enemy. Like many birds of the far north, they are practically oblivious to people. They will perch in daylight and in plain view while watching for prey, as scores of paparazzi surround them. People do not threaten the owl directly. Rather, the risk is that having too many people around may drive away owl food. The main reason a great gray owl flies to Maine is because it couldn’t find enough food at home. It is safe to presume that an owl here is already hungry and stressed, perhaps on the verge of expiring. If crowding an owl makes it expend energy to continually change perches, or if it is constantly being provoked to look at the camera when it should be hunting, the bird can be loved to death.

    Probably that won’t happen. Some photographers actually release mice to bait rare owls into close approaches, which can result in awesome, if questionably ethical, photos. If the owl gets to eat the mouse, who’s to say the owl is worse off? There are documented cases where baiting an owl accidentally encouraged it to fly into traffic. Those cases did not end well. On the other hand, a starving owl probably stands its best chance of survival if there are witnesses around to assist in its capture and rehabilitation.

    So the best rule of thumb is to avoid changing a celebrity owl’s behavior. If anyone gets so close that the bird feels compelled to move, that’s bad. Nowadays, keeping a respectful distance is not difficult. The proliferation of big cameras and superzooms allows most photographers to get great shots without needing to crowd or distract the bird. Trying to get a selfie with a smartphone? That’s way too close, Kim Kardashian.

    Remember that too much commotion drives away prey. An owl’s hearing is tuned to the high-pitched sounds of rodents, so there may be scant effect on its ability to hear a meal over lower-pitched human noise. But shouting, conversation, guffaws, honking, and running engines can keep prey underground. In short: keep distant, keep quiet, gleefully admire, leave quickly.

    Bob Duchesne serves as vice president of Maine Audubon’s Penobscot Valley Chapter.Working at the DOC, under the Baldacci administration Bob developed the Maine Birding Trail, with information at mainebirdingtrail.com. He can be reached at duchesne@midmaine.com.

  • Impact of the Affordable Care Act in Maine and how Dirigo Health helped

    By Ramona du Houx

    Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 thousands of Mainers have gained coverage, and hundreds of thousands more have had their coverage substantially improved.

    On January 16, 2017 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released an extensive compilation of state-level data illustrating the substantial improvements in health care for all Americans over the last six years.

    The data show that the uninsured rate in Maine has fallen by 17 percent since the ACA was enacted, translating into 22,000 Mainers gaining coverage, some transfered to the ACA from the established state program, Dirigo Health Care. 

    Photo: President Barack Obama came to Maine after the ACA was enacted and praised Governor John Baldacci for his work on the creation of the Dirigo Health Care Act. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    “As our nation debates changes to the health care system, it’s important to take stock of where we are today compared to where we were before the Affordable Care Act,” said Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “Whether Mainers get coverage through an employer, Medicaid, the individual market, or Medicare, they have better health coverage and care today as a result of the ACA. Millions of Americans with all types of coverage have a stake in the future of health reform. We need to build on our progress and continue to improve health care access, quality, and affordability, not move our system backward.”

    Photo: Governor John Baldacci with Robin Mills talking about Dirigo Choice in 2007. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    Maine was an unusual case, because the state had enacted the Dirigo Health Care Act during the Baldacci administration, and many of the ACA benefits were already apart of Dirigo. Because of Dirigo it was easier to transfer over to the ACA.

    Governor John Baldacci deserves recognition for creating a model for the ACA. Other portions of Dirigo were dismantled by Gov. Paul LePage, who succeeded Baldacci. Never-the-less Baldacci's Dirigo saved thousands of lives by giving people health insurance for the first time, by expanding preventative care, covering more young adults, by eliminating the pre-existing condition and discrimination against women in health coverage.

    Dirigo Choice, the insurance branch of Dirigo Health, insured more than 40,000 Mainers and also became a model for President Obama’s ACA. In 2010 Monique Kenyon said, "We were shocked,” when she found out her husband was suffering from cancer. “Being a middle-income family we didn’t qualify for any assistance. We couldn’t afford all the treatment without insurance, but insurance companies wouldn’t accept him because he has this preexisting condition. He’s still with us because of Dirigo Choice.”

    Signed into law in the 2003 Dirigo Health Care Reform Act was a bold step toward universal health coverage during a time when policymakers in Washington D.C. and in state houses struggled to take even small steps. A few years later Governor Romney of Massachusetts used elements of Dirigo in his health care policies.

    “In many ways, Dirigo was a pace-setter and blueprint to national reform,” said Trish Riley, former director of Maine Governor John Baldacci’s Office of Health Policy and Finance. Riley said the program saved many lives by helping thousands of uninsured gain access to medical care and enabling more than 1,000 small businesses to provide insurance for their owners and employees.

    Baldacci expanded Medicare, covering many more Mainers, but LePage has refused to accept this part of the ACA, so thousands who were on, what the state calls MaineCare were kicked off because of LePage -  too many have died.

    In 2003, Maine ranked 16th healthiest among the states; in 2010 Maine was in the top ten. In 2003, Maine ranked 19th among the states in covering the uninsured; in 2010 Maine was sixth. With Dirigo Health, Maine created an efficient public health system with eight districts that cover the entire state through Healthy Maine Partnerships. During the Baldacci administration the state reached a milestone in healthcare coverage, won awards for Dirigo and became a model for the nation. (photo below taken in 2010)

    The ACA picked up the torch and contained to save the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people in Maine.

    Highlights of theACA  data include:

    Employer Coverage: 702,000 people in Maine are covered through employer-sponsored health plans. 

    Since the ACA this group has seen:

    An end to annual and lifetime limits: Before the ACA, 431,000 Mainers with employer or individual market coverage had a lifetime limit on their insurance policy. That meant their coverage could end exactly when they needed it most. The ACA prohibits annual and lifetime limits on policies, so all Mainers with employer plans now have coverage that’s there when they need it.
    Young adults covered until age 26: An estimated 8,000 young adults in Maine have benefited from the ACA provision that allows kids to stay on their parents’ health insurance up to age 26.

    Free preventive care: Under the ACA, health plans must cover preventive services — like flu shots, cancer screenings, contraception, and mammograms – at no extra cost to consumers. This provision benefits 588,281 people in Maine, most of whom have employer coverage.

    Slower premium growth: Nationally, average family premiums for employer coverage grew 5 percent per year 2010-2016, compared with 8 percent over the previous decade. Family premiums are $3,600 lower today than if growth had matched the pre-ACA decade.


    Better value through the 80/20 rule: Because of the ACA, health insurance companies must spend at least 80 cents of each premium dollar on health care or care improvements, rather than administrative costs like salaries or marketing, or else give consumers a refund. Mainers with employer coverage have received $2,507,067 in insurance refunds since 2012.


    Medicaid: 273,160 people in Maine are covered by Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, including 115,217 children and 52,077 seniors and people with disabilities covered by both Medicaid and Medicare. The ACA expanded Medicaid eligibility and strengthened the program for those already eligible.

    40,000 Mainers could gain coverage: An estimated 40,000 Mainers could have health insurance today if Maine expanded Medicaid under the ACA. Coverage improves access to care, financial security, and health; expansion would result in an estimated 5,000 more Mainers getting all needed care, 5,700 fewer Mainers struggling to pay medical bills, and 50 avoided deaths each year.
    Thousands of Mainers with a mental illness or substance use disorder could get help: Nearly 30 percent of those who could gain coverage if more states expanded Medicaid have a mental illness or substance use disorder.


    Maine could be saving millions in uncompensated care costs: Instead of spending $40 million on uncompensated care, which increases costs for everyone, Maine could be getting $430 million in federal support to provide low-income adults with much needed care.
    Children, people with disabilities, and seniors can more easily access Medicaid coverage: The ACA streamlined Medicaid eligibility processes, eliminating hurdles so that vulnerable Mainers could more easily access and maintain coverage.


    Maine is improving health care for individuals with chronic conditions, including those with severe mental illness: The ACA established a new Medicaid flexibility that allows states to create health homes, a new care delivery model to improve care coordination and lower costs for individuals with chronic conditions, such as severe mental illness, Hepatitis C, diabetes and heart disease
    Individual market: 75,240 people in Maine have coverage through the Marketplace. Individual market coverage is dramatically better compared to before the ACA:

    No discrimination based on pre-existing conditions: Up to 590,266 people in Maine have a pre-existing health condition. Before the ACA, these Mainers could have been denied coverage or charged an exorbitant price if they needed individual market coverage. Now, health insurance companies cannot refuse coverage or charge people more because of pre-existing conditions.
    Tax credits available to help pay for coverage: Before the ACA, only those with employer coverage generally got tax benefits to help pay for health insurance. Now, 63,896 moderate- and middle-income Mainers receive tax credits averaging $342 per month to help them get covered through HealthCare.gov.

    Women pay the same as men: Before the ACA, women were often charged more than men just because of their gender. That is now illegal thanks to the ACA, protecting roughly half the people of Maine.

    Greater transparency and choice: Before the ACA, it was virtually impossible for consumers to effectively compare insurance plan prices and shop for the best value. Under the ACA, Maine has received $5 million in federal funding to provide a more transparent marketplace where consumers can easily compare plans, choosing among 25 plans on average.

    Medicare: 315,160 people in Maine are covered by Medicare. The ACA strengthened the Medicare Trust Fund, extending its life by over a decade.

    Medicare enrollees have benefited from:

    Lower costs for prescription drugs: Because the ACA is closing the prescription drug donut hole, 18,970 Maine seniors are saving $19 million on drugs in 2015, an average of $986 per beneficiary.
    Free preventive services: The ACA added coverage of an annual wellness visit and eliminated cost-sharing for recommended preventive services such as cancer screenings. In 2015, 165,892 Maine seniors, or 71 percent of all Maine seniors enrolled in Medicare Part B, took advantage of at least one free preventive service.

    Fewer hospital mistakes: The ACA introduced new incentives for hospitals to avoid preventable patient harms and avoidable readmissions. Hospital readmissions for Maine Medicare beneficiaries dropped 4 percent between 2010 and 2015, which translates into 232 times Maine Medicare beneficiaries avoided an unnecessary return to the hospital in 2015. 

    More coordinated care: The ACA encouraged groups of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers to come together to provide coordinated high-quality care to the Medicare patients they serve. 6 Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) in Maine now offer Medicare beneficiaries the opportunity to receive higher quality, more coordinated care.

    ACA Content created by Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (ASPA)

  • Rep. Devin combats ocean acidification, addresses conference with Gov. Jerry Brown

    Rep. Mick Devin, of Newcastle, ME, joined fellow members of the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification, including California Governor Jerry Brown, at a combat acidifacation launch event in CA. 

    Maine recognized as a national leader in fighting for healthier oceans 

    By Ramona du Houx

    In December of 2016,  U.S. and global leaders launched the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification in Coronado, CA.  Rep. Mick Devin, D-Newcastle, represented Maine at the event and was a key speaker. 

    “It was an honor to show the rest of the country how Maine is a leader when it comes to addressing the quality of the water in our oceans,” said Rep. Devin. “Scientists are working around the clock because they know how many people depend on the ocean to make a living.”

    The oceans are the primary protein source for 2.6 billion people, and support $2.5 trillion of economic activity each year. Maine's lobster industry could suffer greatly from ocean acidification. Catches like this one would only be read in history books. This lobster was put back into the ocean, as it's way beyond the size fishermen can legally catch.

    Maine is seen as the leading state on the East Coast addressing ocean acidification.  Maine was the first state to establish an Ocean Acidification Commission.  As a result of the commission the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Alliance, or MOCA, was established. 

    Ocean acidification occurs when carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use and other carbon sources dissolves in the water and forms carbonic acid. Other sources of acidification include fresh water from rivers and decomposing algae feeding off nutrients in runoff. Carbonic acid dissolves the shells of shellfish.

    Maine’s major inshore shellfisheries, including clams, oysters, lobsters, shrimp and sea urchins, could see major losses if ocean acidification is left unchecked.

    At the conference, Devin addressed how state leaders are using science to establish priorities in dealing with the rising acidity of the earth’s oceans. He explained how Maine used those priorities to develop a long-term action plan.  

    He stressed the importance of addressing ocean acidification by developing plans to remediate and adapt to it. Devin said that strategy is crucial for Maine to maintain its healthy marine economy, particularly the commercial fishing and aquaculture industries, which are valued well in excess of billion dollars annually. 

    Devin finished his presentation by showing a slide of a boiled lobster dinner and repeating his trademark line about one reason the marine economy matters to so many: “People do not visit the coast of Maine to eat a chicken sandwich.” 

    The Alliance includes several state governments, governments of Canadian provinces, North American tribal governments, and countries as far away as France, Chile and Nigeria. 

    While lobsters are the iconic image of Maine, many other shell fish will be effected, like musscles, and clams. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    Members have five primary goals: advancing scientific understanding of ocean acidification; taking meaningful actions to reduce causes of acidification; protect the environment and coastal communities from impacts of a changing ocean; expanding public awareness and understanding of acidification; and building sustained global support for addressing the problem.

    Devin, a marine biologist at the Darling Center in Walpole and a member of the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee, is serving his third term in the Maine House. He represents Bremen, Bristol, Damariscotta, Newcastle, part of Nobleboro, part of South Bristol, Monhegan Plantation and the unorganized territory of Louds Island.

     

  • Mainers call on Sen. Collins to oppose Trump's fossil fuel cabinet

    Enviromental leaders from Maine: Professor Charles Tilburg of the University Of New England, Glen Brand- the Sierra Club Maine Director, and Sarah Lachance and Bob Klotz from 350 Maine, take a stand to stop President-elect Trump pushing through his climate-denying nominees, at a press conference where they called on Sen. Susan Collins to vote against these nominees.  Courtesy photo.

    By Ramona du Houx

    Environmental leaders from Maine are calling on Senator Susan Collins to reject President-elect Trump’s climate-denying nominees to head the EPA, Energy, and State Departments. Trump aims to put foxes in the hen house, without weighing the damage that will happen to the world.

    “It’s time Senator Collins shows true leadership at this critical point in history when we know the science is clear and we must act now on real climate policy,” said Sarah Lachance, spokesperson for 350 Maine.  “Her first step in doing that is to say no to these cabinet nominees of climate deniers.”

    At a news conference organized by Sierra Club and 350 Maine and at a public protest in front of Sen. Collins’ Portland office, speakers denounced Trump’s “fossil fuel” cabinet nominees: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt for EPA; Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State; and Rick Perry to run the Energy Department.

    One of the reasons some Republicans insist that climate change is not happening, when close to 90 percent of Americans say it is, simply is because if they continue to do nothing to stop it, then they are declaring they don't care what happens to millions of people around the world. Another reason - the oil companies will have to limit their activities that are contributing to climate change. That means -revenue losses.

    The march to Sussan Collins offices to make sure she knows she shouldn't support oil copany excs.

    “As one of the only Republican Senators who accepts the scientific consensus on climate change and supports action to address the climate crisis, Sen. Collins will play a pivotal role in approving or rejecting Trump’s “fossil fuel” cabinet,” said Glen Brand, Sierra Club Maine Chapter Director.  

    “The underlying causes of climate change are no longer debated within the scientific community,” said Professor Charles Tilburg, Associate Dean, College of Arts & Sciences at the University Of New England. “We have moved beyond this settled issue to examine the effects of the change on our environment.”

    For years, Scott Pruitt has led the legal charge to kill the EPA’s historic Clean Power Plan and other important environmental safeguards like stronger standards, and he has regularly conspired with the fossil fuel industry to attack EPA protections.

    Pruitt is an unabashed climate science denier. Despite the overwhelming scientific consensus recognized by NASA, as recently as last May, Pruitt falsely said that “that debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.” 

    As Secretary of State, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson would literally put the most powerful, private fossil fuel corporate interests in charge of our nation’s foreign policy.   For many years, Exxon Mobil was the driving force and a major funding source supporting climate denialism propagandists.

    UPDATE: on January 20th Collins stood by Sessions- showing she's no moderate

    Trump has nominated another denier of climate science, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, to lead the very department that Perry pledged to eliminate when he was a presidential candidate. 

    Recently, at a talk at Bowdoin College, Sen. Collins reiterated that she believes humans are causing climate change and that governmental action will be needed to solve the problem. “I have supported over and over again the ability of the EPA to advance greenhouse gas emissions policy—the Clean Power Act, for example.”  

    “Senator Collins can’t have it both ways:  she cannot support climate science deniers for critically important cabinet posts AND support policies to protect our climate and promote clean energy,” added Sierra Club’s Glen Brand.

    Following the news conference, more than 100 Maine climate activists  conducted a public protest at  in front of Sen. Collins’ Portland office before meeting with a senior member of the Senator’s staff. (photos)

  • Maine lobstermen know the threat posed by climate change-we must act.

    Editorial by Richard Nelson, lobster fisherman for more than 30 years, member of the Maine Ocean Acidification Commission and the Maine Regional Ocean Planning Advisory Group. He lives in Friendship.

    I rose the other morning and began my preparations to head out on the water from Friendship Harbor to take up the my last load of lobster traps. My thoughts turned from from closing out my season to chuckling over my selection of boots for the day. My dear wife had made a special trip to the attic a month and a half ago to bring down my insulated winter boots, and I became aware of the fact that, with temperatures again climbing to the mid-40s, they would remain unworn this year.

    Many of the thoughts and decisions fishermen make are based on conditions in the environment in which we work. This is certainly not something new. Maine’s lobster industry, which is dependent on a healthy ocean and an abundant resource of lobsters, has a long established heritage of conservation.

    Our good management decisions of the past include throwing back both the large breed stock lobsters and small lobsters, putting escape vents in traps and returning egg bearing female lobsters into the water, marking them to ensure they are protected through future molts. We saw the need to set trap limits and become a limited access fishery, all the while remaining a small-boat, owner-operated fleet.

    Although these choices have helped create a fishery that is flourishing while others are not, we face environmental challenges that are beyond local control and more complex than our marine management system can address.

    The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99 percent of the world’s oceans and is uniquely susceptible to ocean acidification. The root cause is rising carbon emissions from burning of fossil fuels. Ocean warming is believed to be a strong factor contributing to the lack of cod and shrimp, the influx of invasive species and other issues, while acidified waters are linked to the hindered ability of shellfish to produce their shells. Not only do these affect fishermen as businessmen by threatening our livelihood, but they also serve to kick-in that heritage of conservation within us.

    We realize, along with other Mainer’s, that we can no longer solve these climate issues alone but must reach out beyond our industry to friends, neighbors and decision-makers in government to support policies to maintain a healthy ocean and the resources on which we depend. But lately the help we seek on the state and federal levels has become a muddled landscape, especially since the election.

    One of the clear and consistent pathways left is the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which is a cooperative market-based initiative among nine northeastern states to reduce carbon pollution from power plants and spur investments in energy efficiency and clean energy production. While still allowing some self-direction by the power industry, it shifts the burden of carbon pollution costs from families and communities to the polluters and the fossil fuel companies themselves. Since its inception in 2009, we have seen a 35 percent reduction in carbon emissions from power plants and substantial investments in energy efficiency across Maine.

    This year, the program is under review, and proponents are seeking to reduce emissions by 5 percent per year from 2020 to 2030 and a doubling of our renewable power supply. The decisions made now will ensure we take full advantage of the initiative to achieve cost-effective, long-term climate goals. Action to achieve these goals would go a long way in sustaining Maine’s fisheries, both as part of what makes Maine special and the economic drivers they have become.

    From carbon policy to ocean debris, from remediating ocean acidification to increased severe weather events, all have become part of the realities and thoughts of a Maine fisherman. Let’s get our boots on and get to work.

  • The 128 Legislature and how to help the state out of stagnation

     By Ramona du Houx

    Members of the 128th Legislature were sworn into the Maine House of Representatives on December 7, 2016, led by Democratic Speaker of the House Sara Gideon. There are 25 new members and 52 returning representatives in the House, including 36 women.

    “Today, we start out with a Maine economy that is lagging behind New England and the rest of the country in terms of economic growth, recovery of jobs lost during the recession and wage growth,” said Gideon, D-Freeport.  “We lead New England when it comes to the number of Maine children and seniors living in poverty. Those are the facts.  And here is another fact: We have to do better. We will always work together and come to the table in search of common ground to help the 1.3 million Mainers who expect us to rise above politics.” 

    There are issues that could grow Maine’s economy, which haven’t been addressed during the LePage administration. Instead he’s focused on cutting benefits and lowering taxes for the wealthy. in his speach today to the lawmakers he talked about changing the Minimum wage referendum that passed, not about how to grow jobs.

    In a recent interview, Former Governor John Baldacci sited a study conducted by Former Governor King, which listed the top areas in need of investment that still remain areas that need funding.

    "The two leading factors in the study were the education and training of the population and the amount of Research and Development funds invested to help businesses get the latest cutting edge technologies so they can compete successfully with other businesses anyone in the world,” said Gov. Baldacci.

    Maine has suffered under LePage by the lack of Research and Development (R&D) funds that used to spur economic activity as the research, conducted at the University of Maine and other laboratories, was regularly used by start-up Maine companies, there-by growing jobs across Maine. The people have always voted overwhelmingly for R&D bonds in Maine. But LePage doesn’t believe in bond issues and has held bond funds hostage in the past.

    "We've been doing a terrible job at putting resources in Research and Development," said Gov. Baldacci, who invested dramatically in R&D during his administration. "We also need to focus on job training. We're not doing enough to match jobs to the industries established here. Our Labor Department needs to be our Human Resource Department. There are plenty of job opportunities out there that need trained workers and plenty of workers who want the opportunity to work. Our people, families, and small businesses aren't looking for a handout, but are looking for opportunities. Our responsibility is to make sure that happens throughout all of Maine."

    Baldacci started this work with Former Labor Secretary Laura Fortman, but little has been done to progress these job opportunities under the LePage administration.

    The lack of these investments, along with other LePage policies has led to stagnation in Maine.

    “Under Republican leadership, Maine has lagged behind in the national economic recovery. We work longer hours than our neighbors in any other state in New England, yet the purchasing power of our paychecks in one of the lowest in the country. Meanwhile, our governor has turned a blind eye as five of our friends, family members and neighbors die every week from the opioid epidemic. I look forward our leadership team’s work over the next few months to create good jobs and a fair economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top." 

    Members of the House include teachers, small business owners, nonprofit leaders, a former mill electrician, prominent civil rights advocates, farmers, former law enforcement officials, and veterans. 

    “I’m proud of the bipartisan work we achieved last session, particularly to improve services for veterans, but there is more work to be done,” said veteran Marine Rep. Assistant Majority Leader Jared Golden. “In the short term, our first task is to pass a balanced budget that reflects the needs of our state, but we also have to keep an eye on the future. Maine needs to create good paying jobs by investing in the infrastructure our communities need to compete. I look forward to working with my colleagues to address these and other challenges facing our state.”

  • Democrats won a battle for greater transparency for LePage's forensic facility plan

    Photo and article by Ramona du Houx

    Maine democrats won a battle for greater transparency to build a secure forensic facility next to the Riverview Psychiatric Center on November 30, 2016. 

    Democrats said the forensic unit project needs vetting by the Legislature’s appropriations and health and human services committees for a range of reasons including the financing, operations and policy matters related to who would be housed in the facility. Gov. LePage intends for the facility to be privately run, which could jeopardize the health and wellbeing of citizens if not carefully monitored. That overseeing duty needs to be clarified by the Legislature.

    “This is a fundamental change in how Maine cares for forensic patients that demands proper legislative oversight and public input.” said Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon “DHHS has never brought this proposal to the Legislature, but is essentially threatening to build the project elsewhere and at greater cost if they don't get their way. We must provide proper care to Mainers with serious mental illness, and we are committed to making this happen with the proper oversight that protects this vulnerable population.”

    The Democrats present at the Legislative Council meeting – Gideon, Speaker Mark Eves and House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe – sought to table the proposal so it could be fully vetted as soon as the 128the Legislature convenes in January.

    House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, however, forced a vote to simply approve the project. His motion failed by a vote of 3-3.

    “Let’s remember what got us here in the first place. Three years ago, the feds came in and found that Riverview patients were severely abused – sometimes even with pepper spray and Tasers,” said Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, House chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. “As lawmakers, we have a duty to ensure the safety and well-being of the patients in the state’s care. We can’t simply hand a blank check over to the administration.”

     

  • Paris Climate Agreement Ratification becomes official, now time for action


    By Ramona du Houx

    Thanks to leadership from President Barack Obama, on October 4, 2016 the Paris Climate Agreement cleared a major hurdle as the European Union voted to join the United States, China, India and other nations in ratifying the agreement.  

    The climate agreement has two requirements before it can go into effect: It must be ratified by 55 nations, and the ratifying countries must account for 55 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

    With representatives from the 28 European Union member countries voting 610 to 38 in favor of the agreement, nations now representing more than 55 percent of the world’s global warming pollution have signed on – crossing the minimum threshold for the agreement to become official.

    Under the agreement, global leaders have committed to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius with an aspirational goal of 1.5° C, a benchmark scientists say is critical to avoid the most dangerous impacts of global warming –  including disruption of our food supply, increasingly extreme weather, and loss of coastal regions to flooding.

    The planet has already warmed nearly 1° C above the 20th century average, and scientists have warned that urgent, wide-scale action will be required to stop temperatures from rising much further. 

    “We’re thrilled that global leaders have moved quickly to ratify this important agreement to preserve our climate. It sends a strong signal that the world plans to do more, faster to protect our communities, our families and our future," said Anna Aurilio, Global Warming Solutions Program Director for Environment America.

    Now it's time for the nations around the world to take action for the people's of the world and everyone's future. The impacts of global warming are being felt worldwide and represent life threatening situations for millions. 

    "Here in the United States, we must redouble our efforts to reduce – and eventually eliminate – global warming pollution. President Obama has already put America on track to slash emissions from vehicles and power plants, but we can and must do much more," said Aurillio. "Here in Maine, Governor LePage should act to accelerate our transition to clean electricity by doubling the strength of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to further limit global warming pollution from power plants."

    RGGI is the first mandatory market-based program in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. RGGI is a cooperative effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector.

    The program, first started in Maine when Governor John Baldacci pushed for it’s implementation and had a bill introduced. The legislation won unanimous support in Maine’s Senate and House. To date RGGI has brought in $81,837,449.15 to the state for weatherization and alternative energy projects, for businesses and homes.

    “RGGI is working. It is helping Mainers reduce our energy bills and reduce emissions. It is a win-win and a model for the entire nation," said Former State Representative Seth Berry, who sat on Maine’s legislative committee that approved the final RGGI rules.

    The world has the tools to shift away from dirty and dangerous fossil fuels towards a 100 percent renewable energy future powered by solar, wind, and energy efficiency. And while contries implement their stratigies- thousands of jobs will be created.

  • New National Offshore Wind Strategy to Drive Deployment Great for Maine

    by Ramona du Houx

    In Sepyember, 2016 U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the publication of a collaborative strategic plan to continue accelerating the development of offshore wind energy in the United States, the National Offshore Wind Strategy: Facilitating the Development of the Offshore Wind Industry in the United States,which could help enable 86 gigawatts of offshore wind in the United States by 2050. The strategy details the current state of offshore wind in the United States, presents the actions and innovations needed to reduce deployment costs and timelines, and provides a roadmap to support the growth and success of the industry.

     This new wind energy strategy is a part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan that will create American jobs and cut carbon pollution by developing America's clean energy resources.

    The strategy builds on DOE and DOI’s first joint offshore wind strategy, published in 2011. Since then, the Energy Department has allocated nearly $200 million to support three cutting-edge offshore wind demonstration projects led by the University of Maine, New Jersey’s Fishermen’s Energy, and Ohio’s Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation, and research and development investments in technologies that specifically address the opportunities and challenges across U.S. waters.

    “This Administration has made significant investments in clean energy technologies, supporting a diversified energy portfolio to help meet our Climate Action Plan goal of permitting 20,000 MW of renewable electricity generation on public lands and waters by 2020,” said Secretary Jewell. “Thanks to involvement by partners at all levels of government, community stakeholders, tribes and the public, we've been able to stand up the first federal offshore wind energy program in the history of the U.S. and we are confident the strategy we're outlining today will chart a course for additional investment in clean energy technologies that can help power America's future.”

    Since 2010, the Department of the Interior has issued 11 commercial leases for offshore wind development, nine of which generated approximately $16 million through competitive lease sales and covered more than one million acres of federal waters.

    “Offshore wind has experienced enormous progress during the Obama administration. The first offshore wind farm has now finished construction, and we have gone from zero offshore wind areas leased before this administration to eleven areas that total the size of Rhode Island,” said Energy Secretary Moniz. “Today’s collaborative strategic plan is part of a long-term commitment to support innovation that enables widespread offshore wind deployment and shows how offshore wind will benefit our country with new jobs, less pollution, and a more diversified electricity mix.”

    The National Offshore Wind Strategy identifies key challenges facing the industry and more than 30 specific actions that DOE and DOI can take over the next five years to address those challenges.

    These actions fall into three strategic areas:

    1. Reducing technical costs and risks. DOI proposes the joint development of standard data collection guidelines to foster predictability and inform safe project development  and DOE will work to increase annual energy production and reliability of offshore wind plants.
    2. Supporting effective stewardship. DOI commits to numerous actions to ensure that the regulatory process is predictable, transparent, efficient and informed by lessons learned from regulators in other countries. Additionally, as the first generation of installed projects come online, DOI and DOE will collect field data on parts of offshore development including impacts on marine life and turbine radar interference in order to support future offshore wind siting and plan reviews.
    3. Improving the market conditions for investment in offshore wind energy. Studies are needed help quantify the broad grid integration impacts of adding significant amounts of offshore wind energy to the power system. Such information could significantly benefit the offshore wind community by informing state policies critical to supporting development.

    DOE has found that developing 86,000 MW of these offshore wind energy resources by 2050 would support 160,000 jobs, reduce power sector water consumption by 5 percent, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.8 percent.

  • Equal Protection of the Laws: America’s 14th Amendment - A Maine Exhibit

    Justice?, by Ramona du Houx
     
    Maine's Equal Protection of the Laws: America’s 14th Amendment exhibit opens on Thursday, September 22nd and runs through December 22nd, 2016
     
    The exhibit will be at the Michael Klahr Center on the campus of the University of Maine at Augusta, 46 University Drive in Augusta.
    Featured are 36 works by 17 Maine artists who were inspired by the rights granted by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
    Themes depicted relate to many areas of American society covered by the amendment: including due process, liberty, gender and sexuality, race, legal protections, equality in the workplace, housing, education, law enforcement, rights of the incarcerated, tolerance, and local, state, and federal representation
    The exhibit is being hosted by the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, in conjunction with the Harlow Gallery of the Kennebec Valley Art Association, with support from the Maine Humanities Council and associated program support by the Maine Arts Commission.
     
    The Holocaust and Human Rights Center is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or weekends and evenings by appointment or when other events are being held.
    People Power, by Ramona du Houx
     

    Participating artists are listed below alphabetically by town:

    Augusta: Anthony Austin
    Bangor: Jeanne Curran
    Biddeford: Roland Salazar
    Brunswick: Mary Becker Weiss
    Camden: Claudia Noyes Griffiths
    Falmouth: Anne Strout
    Gardiner: Allison McKeen
    Hallowell: Nancy Bixler
    Lincolnville: Petrea Noyes
    Manchester: Bruce Armstrong
    Solon: Ramona du Houx
    Tenants Harbor: Otty Merrill
    Town Unknown: Julian Johnson
    Waterville: Jen Hickey
    West Rockport: Barbra Whitten
    Wilton: Rebecca Spilecki
    Winslow: Mimi McCutcheon

    There are several events planned in association with this project, including the Pride Film Festival – a series of four free films held Friday nights in October at 7 p.m. The films this year are The Boys in the Band (10/7), Fire (10/14), Paragraph 175 (10/21), and The Danish Girl (10/28).
     
    Mike Daisey’s one man play The Trump Card had sold out runs this fall in Washington and New York and is now touring throughout the country. With special permission from the playwright, HHRC Program Director and UMA adjunct professor of drama David Greenham will read the hard-hitting and hilarious monologue on Saturday, October 22nd at 7 p.m. and Sunday, October 23rd at 2 p.m.
    The Trump Card reminds all of us of the role we have played in paving the way to create one of the most divisive presidential campaigns in recent memory. Tickets for The Trump Card are $15 and proceeds benefit HHRC’s educational outreach programs.
    As the Stage Review put it, “Daisey breaks down what makes Trump tick—and in doing so illuminates the state of our American Dream and how we’ve sold it out.” 
     
    14th Amendment by Allison McKeen 
    The HHRC is also pleased to host Everyman Repertory Theater’s production of Lanford Wilson’s Talley’s Folly November 17th, 18th and 19th. The Pulitzer Prize winning play is a love story set in Missouri in 1942 and addresses issues of prejudice and the injustices that caused many to flee Europe in the years leading up to World War II.  
    The New York Times said about the play, “It is perhaps the simplest, and the most lyrical play Wilson has written—a funny, sweet, touching and marvelously written and contrived love poem for an apple and an orange.”   Tickets go on sale September 27th.
     
    Also in November, a group of UMA drama students under the direction of adjunct drama professor Jeri Pitcher will present a reading of their work in progress called Created Equal. The project, created in partnership with the HHRC, the UMA Writing Center, and UMA students will focus on the importance of the 14th amendment today. A full performance of the piece is planned for the spring of 2017.
  • ME's proceeds from Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s close to $82M

    Maine makes over $2,270,635in 33rd auction

    Article by Ramona du Houx

    Maine brought in $2,265,634.20 from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), 33rd auction of carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances.

    RGGI is the first mandatory market-based program in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. RGGI is a cooperative effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector. 

    The program, first started in Maine when Governor John Baldacci pushed for it’s implementation and had a bill introduced. The legislation won unanimous support in Maine’s Senate and House. To date RGGI has brought in $81,837,449.15 to the state for weatherization and alternative energy projects, for businesses and homes. 

    “RGGI is working. It is helping Mainers reduce our energy bills and reduce emissions. It is a win-win and a model for the entire nation," said Former State Representative Seth Berry, who sat on Maine’s legislative committee that approved the final RGGI rules.

    States sell nearly all emission allowances through auctions and invest proceeds in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other consumer benefit programs. These programs are spurring innovation in the clean energy economy and creating green jobs in the RGGI states.

    14,911,315 CO2 allowances were sold at the auction at a clearing price of $4.54.

    The September 7th auction was the third auction of 2016, and generated $67.7 million for reinvestment in strategic programs, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, direct bill assistance, and GHG abatement programs. Cumulative proceeds from all RGGI CO2allowance auctions exceed $2.58 billion dollars.

    “This auction demonstrates RGGI’s benefits to each participating state, helping to reduce harmful emissions while generating proceeds for reinvestment. Each RGGI state directs investments according to its individual goals, and this flexibility has been key to the program’s success across a diverse region.” said Katie Dykes, Deputy Commissioner at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Chair of the RGGI, Inc. Board of Directors. “Another key RGGI strength is our commitment to constant improvement, as exemplified in the program review process. The RGGI states are continuing to evaluate program elements and improvements as part of the 2016 Program Review, with the goal of reaching consensus on program revisions that support each state’s unique goals and priorities.

    Governor John Baldacci led the effort in Maine to join RGGI and had a comprehensive energy plan similar to Cuomo. Baldacci's clean energy plan focused on how to get Maine off fossil fuels and bring clean energy jobs to the state. His administration created grants to help new innovations like the floating offshore wind platforms and windmills developed at the University of Maine under Dr. Habib Dagher's leadership. (photo: by Ramona du Houx. Dr. Dagher talks with Gov. John Baldacci about the next steps for wind farm implementation offshore. The prototype of the floating windfarm is the firs photo on the page)

    Nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).        

    “Independent reports have found the reinvestment of RGGI proceeds is creating jobs, reducing consumers’ utility bills, and boosting state economies while driving down carbon emissions,” said Jared Snyder, Deputy Commissioner at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Vice Chair of the RGGI, Inc. Board of Directors. “Our reinvestment of RGGI proceeds is supporting Governor Cuomo’s transformational clean energy and energy efficiency goals to generate 50 percent of New York’s energy from renewable sources and reduce carbon emissions 40 percent by 2030, ushering in the low-carbon economy essential to the wellbeing of future generations.”

  • Maine State Senate Democrats earn great marks for pro-environment votes

    Photos - Ramona du Houx

    Democratic members of the Maine Senate showed their commitment to Maine’s environment and natural resources with their voices and their votes during the 2016 legislative session, according to a scorecard released this week by Maine Conservation Voters.

    This year, nearly all the Senate Democrats earned perfect scores for their voting records.

    “Our natural resources and the industries they support are a linchpin of our economy, and one of the main drivers of Mainers’ high quality of life,” said Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond, of Portland. “I’m proud of Democrats’ record on conservation, clean energy, clean water and clean air.”

    Democrats in the Senate defended the Land for Maine’s Future conservation program from Gov. Paul LePage’s attacks, and supported Maine’s solar energy industry and the creation of green jobs. They stood up for the environment and for taxpayers by rejecting new mining rules that put both at risk. They protected critical energy efficiency programs for home and business owners when Republicans tried to exploit a clerical error to slash approved funding.

    And they supported the creation of a new national monument, along with all the environmental benefits and economic opportunities that come with it.

    “Our votes represent our devotion to the bright future promised by clean energy and good stewardship of our environment,” said Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Dawn Hill, of York. “As legislators, it’s our duty to ensure responsible policy not only for our own benefit, but for the benefit of generations to come.”

    Democratic Senators who earned perfect scores include Alfond and Hill, as well as Sens. Cathy Breen of Falmouth, Susan Deschambault of Biddeford, David Dutremble of Biddeford, Stan Gerzofsky of Brunswick, Geoff Gratwick of Bangor, Anne Haskell of Portland, Chris Johnson of Somerville, Nate Libby of Lewiston, Rebecca Millett of Cape Elizabeth, Dave Miramant of Camden, John Patrick of Rumford and Linda Valentino of Saco.

    “We are grateful to the senators who voted to release voter-approved conservation bonds; to expand solar power and good paying solar jobs; and against the governor's unconstitutional bill to prevent the creation of national monuments,” said Beth Ahearn, political director for Maine Conservation Voters. “We need more leaders like them in the Senate in order to prevent the governor's attacks on conservation from succeeding."

  • Volunteer for 33rd Annual Maine Audubon Loon Count July 16

    Volunteers Take to the Lakes for 33rd Annual Maine Audubon Loon Count

    On Saturday, July 16, Maine Audubon will conduct its 33rd annual Loon Count. Over 900 Mainers have volunteered to survey lakes and ponds across the state, collecting valuable scientific data that informs and supports conservation efforts.

    This year’s count takes place between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m. Counters are assigned areas to count from shore or by boat, and regional coordinators will compile the results and send them to Maine Audubon for analysis.

    “Loons need lakes with clean, clear water and lots of fish, so they are good indicators of lake health,” said Susan Gallo, director of the Maine Loon Project. “A lake that’s good for loons is good or all kinds of other wildlife — and good for people, too.”

    “The annual count has helped build support for laws that keep our lakes and loons healthy, including regulations around lead free tackle, shoreline development, and invasive plants. It’s also been a great way to get people outside, learning about where loons are, where they nest, and how easy it is to share a lake with a loon family,” Gallo said.

    The 2015 Loon Count enlisted 850 volunteers to survey 290 Maine lakes and ponds. Despite the challenges posed by torrential rain that day, Maine Audubon calculated the loon population in the southern half of Maine to be 2,818 adult loons and 218 chicks. While this number is down about 10% for adults compared to the 2014 estimate, the long-term trend remains positive and the 2015 number is twice what the very first estimate of 1,416 adults was in 1984. The estimate for chicks has consistently gone up and down over the last 32 years, with the 2016 estimate falling just below the 32-year average of 267.

    The loon count is the centerpiece of Maine Audubon’s Maine Loon Project. Through the project, Maine Audubon actively engages people in conservation, educates the public about loon biology and conservation, and collects the scientific data needed to advocate for legislation that benefits loons and the lakes where they live.

    Lake visitors and boaters play an important role in letting loons thrive, by keeping boat speed down and by watching loons and their chicks from a distance.

    “Loon nests are very sensitive to changes in water levels,” said Gallo. “A heavy rainstorm, or wake from a boat going too fast too close to shore, can flood their nests, and eggs literally wash away. We’re coming into the busiest time of year on lakes, so it’s important for people to give loons room and follow Maine’s headway speed law when they are within 200 feet of shore.”

    This year, loon counters and others interested in loon conservation also have the opportunity to get involved with two new projects that have developed in partnership with Maine Audubon:

    • The Signs of the Seasons phenology program is looking for volunteers to monitor loons and their chicks throughout the summer.
    • The Maine Lakes Society has created a Loon Smart Award for homeowners enrolled in their Lake Smart program.

    Visit www.maineaudubon.org/loons for more information on these opportunities and how Mainers can help loons. You may also sign up for the 2017 loon count there.

    For more information about the Maine Loon Project or volunteering, please contact Susan Gallo at (207) 781-2330, ext. 216, or sgallo@maineaudubon.org.

  • Penobscot River Restoration Project final milestone - reconnects river to the sea

    In June, 2016 federal, state, local, and tribal representatives, and project partners gathered in Howland, Maine, to mark and celebrate the completion of the last major milestone in the Penobscot River Restoration Project: the newly constructed fish bypass around the dam in Howland.

    “The Service is proud to have spent over a decade working with the partnership to creatively craft and create a better future for the Penobscot River, modeling how we should restore rivers across the globe,” said Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We have completed monumental construction projects, energy improvements, and other steps redefining how the Penobscot River serves fish, the people of Maine, and the Penobscot Indian Nation. This project has managed to do it all: restore vital habitat for fish and wildlife, support energy needs, and create new economic and recreational opportunities throughout the watershed.”

    Completion of this large stream-like channel will allow American shad, river herring, and Atlantic salmon to swim freely around the dam to and from important historic breeding, rearing, and nursery habitat for the first time in more than a century. The Howland fish bypass fulfills the Penobscot Project’s goal of significantly improving access to nearly 1,000 miles of Maine’s largest river for eleven species of native sea-run fish, while maintaining energy through increased hydropower generation at other dams in the watershed.

    (River reflection, photo by Ramona du Houx)

    The Penobscot Project is widely considered one of the largest, most innovative river restoration projects in the nation-

    “Construction of the Howland bypass is another milestone in efforts to restore Maine’s native sea-run fisheries in the Penobscot River,” said Patrick Keliher, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources. “Passage of anadromous fish species is critical to the health of our state’s marine and freshwater ecosystems. This project will not only provide access to hundreds of miles of critical habitat to Maine’s native sea-run fish, it will ensure continued opportunity for renewable power generation on the Penobscot River.”

    Four years ago, in June 2012, the Great Works Dam removal began, followed by the removal of the Veazie Dam at the head of tide in 2013. At the same time, dam owners built a fish elevator at the Milford Dam, now the only dam on the lower Penobscot.  Dam owners increased power generation at several other locations within the Penobscot watershed to maintain and even increase power generation. 

    Today, the river is on the rebound. This year, more than 1.7 million river herring have already passed above dams removed by the Penobscot Project – up from only several thousand before the Veazie Dam was removed. Fish are now swimming upriver past Howland and into the Piscataquis and through the Mattaceunk Dam on the Penobscot in Medway, and have been observed more than 90 miles upriver from Penobscot Bay. In addition, a record-breaking 2,700 shad passed by Milford this spring. In another exciting development, last week fisheries experts saw the first American shad in recent history passing the West Enfield dam.

    New community activities abound. The new national whitewater race, a 4-day event featuring activities from Old Town to Eddington, is entering its second year.  An annual alewife festival and children’s days has begun at Blackman Stream in Bradley, where more than 450,000 river herring swam up the stream this past month.

    “Construction of the Howland bypass is another milestone in efforts to restore Maine’s native sea-run fisheries in the Penobscot River,” said Patrick Keliher, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources. “Passage of anadromous fish species is critical to the health of our state’s marine and freshwater ecosystems. This project will not only provide access to hundreds of miles of critical habitat to Maine’s native sea-run fish, it will ensure continued opportunity for renewable power generation on the Penobscot River.”

    Dam owners, conservation groups, tribal, state, and federal agencies, and citizens, worked together for more than a decade to accomplish the Penobscot River Restoration Project, which better balances restoration of native sea-run fish with hydropower generation.

    “NOAA Fisheries congratulates the Penobscot River Restoration Trust on their completion of the nature-like bypass in Howland, and looks forward to the continued restoration of sea-run fish to the Penobscot River watershed,” says Dan Morris, Deputy Regional Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region. “The Trust, its member organizations, State of Maine, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and Penobscot Indian Nation have been wonderful partners in the Penobscot River Restoration Project over the years.”

    Restoring the Penobscot Indian Nation's river-

    The restored river provides many cultural, economic, and recreational opportunities from the Penobscot headwaters to the Gulf of Maine. As a result of the project, the river now better supports Penobscot Indian Nation tribal culture, renews traditional uses, provides major benefits to fish and wildlife, and increases business and regulatory certainty for dam owners.

    “The Penobscot River watershed is the ancestral home of the Penobscot Nation, and has sustained our tribal members since time immemorial,” said Kirk Francis, Chief of the Penobscot Nation. “The Penobscot River Restoration Project has allowed our tribe to continue our role as the original stewards of this great resource and we are proud to have been a part of a project that will benefit generations of all peoples well in to the future.”

    The Penobscot Project also demonstrates how diverse interests can work together to develop results-based approaches to fisheries restoration and hydropower basin-wide. This type of approach could serve as a model for other efforts around the world.

    Like the overall Penobscot Project, the Howland Bypass was funded through a combination of federal and private sources, with major funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Fish Passage Program.  The Howland Bypass design and construction team included Kleinschmidt, Inter-Fluve, Inc., Haley Aldrich, CES, Inc. and SumCo Eco-Contracting.

    The Penobscot River Restoration Trust is a nonprofit organization responsible for completing the core elements of the Penobscot Project. Members are the Penobscot Indian Nation, American Rivers, Atlantic Salmon Federation, Maine Audubon, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Trout Unlimited, and The Nature Conservancy. Other major partners include the State of Maine (Department of Marine Resources, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife), Department of the Interior (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs), PPL Corporation, and Black Bear Hydro Partners LLC.     

     

  • NRCM blasts Gov. LePage for wasting tax payer funds on his smear campaigns

     

    By Ramona du Houx

    On June 2, 2016 The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) called on Governor Paul LePage to stop spending Maine taxpayer money on his smear campaign against NRCM, which has featured an incendiary “Wanted” poster displayed at a Town Hall meeting in March, weekly attacks by the governor on NRCM in speeches and radio interviews, and most recently an unprecedented harassment letter sent May 27, 2016 from the governor to NRCM members. 

    “Governor LePage is the most anti-environment governor in Maine history. He’s angry because his attacks on Maine’s waters, air, forests, and wildlife have been broadly rejected through bipartisan votes at the State House,” said NRCM Executive Director Lisa Pohlmann. “The steps he’s taking to lash out at a nonprofit organization like NRCM, because we disagree with his misguided agenda, are unprecedented and must stop. The governor should not be using Maine taxpayers’ money for his vendetta against NRCM.”

    Today NRCM is sending a Freedom of Access letter to the Governor’s Chief Counsel requesting copies of all documents in possession of the Office of the Governor that mention NRCM. The letter includes a request for all information about involvement of the governor’s staff and the use of taxpayer funds for research into NRCM’s membership, tracking down addresses of NRCM members, and producing and mailing a letter to NRCM members.    

    “Gov. Paul LePage’s egregious use of taxpayer dollars to send harassing letters to supporters of NRCM is both unethical and unprofessional,” said Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett. “The governor may disagree with the policies promoted by NRCM, but that does not give him license to use his government staff and taxpayer-funded office supplies to harass its donors. I call upon Gov. LePage to apologize to NRCM and to personally compensate the state for the government resources expended on this outrageous effort.” 

    “Last week the governor’s office was scouring the Internet for the addresses of NRCM members so he could send them a harassment letter, but next week he could be sending similar letters to members of any organization that disagrees with his policies. Where does this stop? This tactic harkens back to something that Joseph McCarthy would have done in the 1950s, not a governor of the state of Maine in 2016” said Pohlmann. “In his war against NRCM, the governor is wasting the taxes of hard-working Mainers, including NRCM members, to attack the state’s leading organization that works to protect Maine’s environment and promote a sustainable economy. That is unacceptable behavior."

    Over the past two months, the governor has mentioned NRCM by name at least 40 times in more than a dozen speeches, interviews, and Town Hall meetings—more frequently than he has mentioned any other organization in Maine. 

    “Since elected in 2010, the governor has tried to weaken the laws and safeguards that protect Maine’s lakes, waterways, forests, and wildlife. Maine people don’t support his anti-environment agenda, and a bipartisan majority of Maine lawmakers has consistently voted it down,” said Pohlmann. “The governor is wrong and Maine people are right:  a healthy environment is the very foundation for our economy.”

    “Maine’s environment and economy go hand-in-hand. Over the past 50 years, Maine people, nonprofit groups, businesses, communities, and state lawmakers have worked carefully to create safeguards for Maine’s air, clean water, forests, and wildlife that contribute billions of dollars annually to the Maine economy.”  

    “The governor may believe we need to wreck Maine’s environment to create jobs, but he is wrong.  NRCM will continue to fight against the governor’s radical anti-environment agenda, confident that we represent the overwhelming view of Maine people who love the nature of Maine."

    Citizens and other organizations quickly got behind the NRCM.

    “Governor LePage’s letter is part of an all-too-familiar pattern of irresponsible, abusive behavior.  Whether his target is NRCM or Speaker of the House Mark Eves, he is once again misusing the power of his office, in this case using taxpayer dollars, to wage a baseless campaign against his political opponents," said Glen Brand of the Sierra Club Maine .

    "The content of his NRCM letter is full of falsehoods and attacks against Mainers’ strong environmental ethic and our common-sense understanding that Maine’s economy depends upon protecting our conservation heritage and maintaining a safe and clean environment.Governor LePage is reminding us once again why he has become a state and national embarrassment​.​"​

    The Letter from Gov. LePage to the NRCM's director, Lisa Pohlmann

  • New National Monument would bring real investment to rural Maine

     

     By Ramona du Houx

    Supporters of a new national monument administered by the National Park Service in the Katahdin region of Maine today faced down a lopsided Congressional field hearing, stacked with opponents of the proposal.

     “Our region needs help, not another rehash of the same old arguments against new investment,” said Gail Fanjoy, president of the Katahdin Region Chamber of Commerce. “A new national monument would bring new jobs to our communities and help to revitalize our economy, while also protecting outdoor recreational activities, such as snowmobiling and hunting. And this proposal includes a $40 million endowment to help pay for operations and maintenance.”

    The US House Natural Resources Committee field hearing, organized at the request of Rep. Bruce Poliquin, included only witnesses who oppose the creation of a national monument. No witnesses in support of the plan testified, and no Democrats from the committee attended. Nonetheless more than 45 supporters attended the meeting to show their support and to speak after the field hearing during public comment. Supporters from the region outnumbered opponents who spoke after the field hearing ended.

    “This wasn’t a hearing to learn about the proposal or to answer questions. It was a political stunt meant to capture headlines and give the false impression that the region opposes a new national monument,” said Matt Polstein, a local businessman and supporter of the national monument. “Support for the national monument continues to grow. This show trial is an embarrassment and nothing more than an effort to turn us into props in an attack on the president.”

    On May 16, more than 1,200 people attended a public forum in Orono organized by US Sen. Angus King. Supporters overwhelmingly outnumbered opponents of the national monument. During that forum, Jonathan Jarvis, director of the National Park Service, addressed directly every question asked by opponents of the national monument designation. 

    Congresswoman Chellie Pingree recently wrote President Barack Obama urging him to make the National Monument designation."I believe the case for the creation of a National Monument is strong and is supported by most people in the region and throughout the state," Pingree wrote.

    “For several years, I’ve spoken with hundreds of supporters and opponents in order to have an open conversation about the proposed national park. This has been an open, honest effort,” said Lucas St. Clair. “Rep. Poliquin has been uninterested in hearing the details and learning the facts. He has declined numerous invitations to visit the land in question, and he has ignored the very real concerns of many of his constituents. The economy in rural Maine is hurting. Rep. Poliquin doesn’t have the answers. Instead, he opposes, without a good reason, a plan to invest $100 million in the Katahdin region and create hundreds of jobs.”

    After significant media coverage about the lopsided nature of the hearing, Poliquin invited St. Clair to speak at the public input session and the Natural Resources Committee invited Polstein and St. Clair to testify at the hearing. All the invitations came after the initial list of witnesses was released.

    “This hearing is not a real examination of our community’s situation and the park proposal,” said Anita Mueller, a park supporter. “Our kids are leaving, mills are shuttered and housing prices collapsing. How can Congress be so blind?”

    St. Clair is the president of the board of Elliotsville Plantation, which is the non-profit foundation that has proposed donating 87,500 acres to create the new national monument in the Katahdin region. In addition to donating the land, the foundation will create a $40 million endowment to support ongoing operations and maintenance at the monument, which would be managed by the National Park Service.

    The proposal, which could be an interim step to the creation of a new national park and national recreation area in the Katahdin region, includes permanent protection for traditional outdoor activities and represents a $100 million investment in the Katahdin region.

    A recent independent study found that 10 of the national monuments designated by President Obama have generated more than $156 million in local economic activity annually, supporting more than 1,800 jobs. Between 2011 and 2015, more than 3.9 million people visited the newly designated monuments included in the study.

    The National Park Service reports that Acadia National Park attracted more than 2.5 million visitors in 2014, generating $271 million in local economic output and about 3,500 jobs. Visitation to Acadia increased to 2.8 million visitors in 2015.

    National Monuments have become National partks in the past, which would bring investment to the entire region, as they have done in other areas of the USA.

    For more information, visit: http://mainewoodsnationalmonument.org

  • Maine's Free Fishing Weekend is June 4 & 5

    The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is encouraging everyone to get out on Maine’s waters this weekend to take advantage of free fishing days.

    Free fishing weekend will take place on Saturday, June 4 and Sunday, June 5, when any person may fish for free without a license on Maine’s waterways, except those who have had their license suspended or revoked.

    All other rules and regulations, including bag and possession limits, apply.

  • Congresswoman Pingree urges President Obama to create national monument in Maine

    Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (photo right) wrote to President Obama today to urge him to create a national monument in northern Maine.

    "I am writing today to express my strong support for the creation of a national monument on land owned by Elliotsville Plantation here in Maine.  I believe the case for the creation of a National Monument is strong and is supported by most people in the region and throughout the state," Pingree wrote.

    In her letter, Pingree cited independent polling that shows strong support for a national park or national monument in Maine as well as a recent study that found substantial economic growth in regions where a national monument has been created.

    "I've heard directly and indirectly from business owners throughout my District who benefit from the visitors who travel to Acadia National Park.  Hotels and motels, outdoor recreation equipment dealers, restaurants and other businesses around the state benefit from the millions of visitors headed for Acadia, and I have no doubt the same would be true if a national monument were established in northern Maine," Pingree wrote.

    Full text of Pingree's letter to President Obama is below:

    Dear Mr. President:

    I am writing today to express my strong support for the creation of a national monument on land owned by Elliotsville Plantation here in Maine.  I believe the case for the creation of a national monument is strong and is supported by most people in the region and throughout the state.

     As you know, Senator King recently invited National Park Director Jon Jarvis to a series of meetings and a public hearing in Maine.  Director Jarvis heard a range of voices, differing viewpoints and some legitimate concerns.  Most of the Mainers who turned out at the public hearing supported a national monument designation, which is indicative of the proposal's support across our state.  In fact, according to one recent public survey conducted by an independent polling company, by a 3-to-1 margin Mainers support the creation of a national park from the Elliotsville Plantation.

    According to a recent independent study conducted for small businesses by BBC Research and Consulting, in ten communities in which a national monument has been created during your administration over 1,800 jobs are being supported by the increase in visitors to the area.  And I've heard directly and indirectly from business owners throughout my District who benefit from the visitors who travel to Acadia National Park.  Hotels and motels, outdoor recreation equipment dealers, restaurants and other businesses around the state benefit from the millions of visitors headed for Acadia, and I have no doubt the same would be true if a national monument were established in northern Maine.

    The private landowner who has agreed to donate the land to the American people and provide a $40 million endowment for its operation has made an unprecedented and generous offer.  And as National Park Service Director Jarvis found when he visited the region earlier this month, the flora, fauna and culture significance of the land clearly meet the criteria for creating a national monument with that land.

    In addition, the landowner's offer to donate additional land nearby where traditional recreation uses like hunting, fishing and snowmobiling can take place further ensures the public will be able to enjoy this part of our state in many ways.

    The creation of a national monument in northern Maine would bring economic benefit to our state, is supported by the large majority of our citizens and would permanently protect a unique and beautiful area for the public to use and enjoy.  I urge you to use the authority that Congress granted under the Antiquities Act to create a national monument in northern Maine.

    Sincerely,

    Chellie Pingree

    Member of Congress

  • $7.34 million in federal Brownfield grants for Maine

     On May 21,2016 Congresswoman Chellie Pingree announced that Maine will receive $7,340,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency Brownfield Program to assess and cleanup polluted properties throughout the state.

    “Brownfield grants have been absolutely critical in helping Maine communities move forward by cleaning up sites contaminated by former industrial uses so they can be redeveloped. Both directly and indirectly, they have created and supported many jobs throughout the state,” said Pingree.  “I’m very glad that these communities will receive funds to boost economic development and protect environmental health.”

    Projects in Pingree’s District—which covers Southern, Midcoast, and parts of Central Maine—accounted for $4.14 million of the total. Nine other projects in Maine also received funding.

    Pingree is a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment, which oversees funding for EPA programs.

    Details on projects in Pingree’s District below.

    • Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission, $820,000 (revolving loan fund for Prime Tanning site in Berwick)
    • Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission, $200,000 (assessment for Prime Tanning)
    • Town of Berwick, $500,000 (cleanup for Prime Tanning)
    • Marble Block Redevelopment Corp., $200,000 (assessment for Prime Tanning)
    • Greater Portland Council of Governments, $400,000 (assessment)
    • City of Portland, $800,000 (revolving loan fund)
    • City of Gardiner, $200,000 (assessment)
    • City of Gardiner, $200,000 (cleanup)
    • Midcoast Economic Development District, $820,000 (revolving loan fund)
  • Over 1,200 come together for National Monument meeting in Orono, Maine

     Wearing pro-national monument T-shirts, hats and stickers, hundreds of supporters of a proposal to create a new national monument in Maine packed the Collins Center at the University of Maine for a public input session.

    US Sen. Angus King hosted the meeting, which included National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, who came Maine to learn more about the proposed national monument and to hear from Mainers.

    Some supporters of the Monument designation rode buses from Portland and Augusta to the meeting. They said that the area would finally put on an international stage, draw thousands of tourists and create more jobs in a Katahdin region that needs them.

    “We’re deeply gratified by the hundreds of people who came to Orono to offer their support for the proposal to create a new national monument,” said Lucas St. Clair, the president of Elliotsville Plantation. “It was great to see so many faces from the Katahdin region in the crowd and to see new faces from every corner of Maine speak in favor of the idea.”

    The proposal, which could be an interim step to the creation of a new national park and national recreation area in the Katahdin region, includes permanent protection for traditional outdoor activities and represents a $100 million investment in the Katahdin region.

    “It is printing money. It is bringing economic development, jobs and money to this region,” said Bangor City Council Chairman Sean Faircloth. He cited three national monuments across the U.S. that had created more than 1,500 jobs. He said placing the monument designation on the 87,500-acre Quimby parcel east of Baxter State Park would create “a tremendous economic boon.”

    A recent independent study found that 10 of the national monuments designated by President Obama have generated more than $156 million in local economic activity annually, supporting more than 1,800 jobs. Between 2011 and 2015, more than 3.9 million people visited the newly designated monuments included in the study.

    The National Park Service reports that Acadia National Park attracted more than 2.5 million visitors in 2014, generating $271 million in local economic output and about 3,500 jobs. Visitation to Acadia increased to 2.8 million visitors in 2015.

    For more information, visit: http://mainewoodsnationalmonument.org

    Attendance at the event was estimated at more than 1,200 people, with the vast majority in support of the national monument designation.

    Elliotsville Plantation the non-profit foundation that has proposed donating 87,500 acres to create the new national monument in the Katahdin region. In addition, the foundation will create a $40 million endowment to support ongoing operations and maintenance at the monument, which would be managed by the National Park Service.

  • Maine's Andross Mill in Brunswick to have solar panels installed

    By Ramona du Houx

    The Village Review Board of Brunswick has approved a proposed 160-panel solar array that will grace the roof top of Fort Andross Mill.

     ReVision Energy will start to install the 40-kilowatt solar array, which has a price tag of $127,000, by the end of June.

    Dan Jacques said the catalyst of the solar project came from the lease agreement between Waterfront Maine and one of its major tenants-the Nature Conservancy of Maine.

    "Waterfront agreed to finance the project entirely on their own, and then sell us the electricity … through the lease agreement," said Nature Conservancy Associate State Director Tom Rumpf. "It gives us the ability to have a clean energy source, and we're trying to demonstrate a new potential model for leasees to discuss with their landlord."

    In addition to the solar panels project, Waterfront Maine will also be installing a charging station for electrical vehicles in the mill's parking lot.

    Bowdoin College, in Brunswick, now has the largest solar array in the state. Freeport, just up the road has a community solar project helping residents save.

    Dispite Gov. LePage's veto that killed the potential of adding 600 more jobs in the solar industry in the state, federal tax credits continue to help the industry grow in Maine.

  • Maine air quality improved but still high levels of ozone pollution

    Bangor (above) was named one of four cleanest cities in the Northeast in the Lung Association’s 2016 State of the AirReport. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    By Ramona du Houx

    Air quality in Maine and around the country is improving, according to the American Lung Association’s 17th annual State of the Air report released today, and Bangor was ranked as one of the four cleanest cities in the Northeast.  But despite the trend, high ozone levels continue to plague many counties in Maine, especially in southern and coastal regions.  York County received a grade of “F” for ozone pollution and Cumberland County received a “D”.  Knox and Hancock both received a grade of “C” for ozone pollution.  The town of York, a popular beach town in the summer, had the unhealthiest air in region, according to the national study. 

    “We are very happy for Bangor and to be seeing healthier air overall,” said Jeff Seyler, President & CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast.  “This is what happens when the Clean Air Act is allowed to work as intended, cleaning up smokestacks and tailpipes in order to make our air healthier.  But it’s not all good news, especially if you live in southern or coastal Maine, where unhealthy ozone levels persist and can lead to asthma attacks, reduced lung function, and expensive hospital admissions.”

    Each year the State of the Air report looks at the two most widespread types of pollution - ozone and particle pollution.  Ozone, which is also known as smog, is created in the atmosphere by the reaction of warm air and sunlight on emissions from vehicles and other pollution sources.  When ozone is inhaled, it irritates the lungs and can cause immediate health problems including wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks and even premature death.  The impacts of ozone pollution are sometimes compared to a “sunburn on the lungs”.

    “Air pollution doesn’t respect state borders and the health effects can be very dangerous,” stated Dr. Marguerite Pennoyer, an allergist and immunologist from Scarborough.  “Children, the elderly, and people with lung or heart disease are most at risk, but even healthy adults who work or exercise outdoors can be harmed.  Maine already has one of the highest asthma rates in the nation.  Couple that with the ever-growing impacts of climate change, and you’ve got a recipe for expensive health problems for generations to come.”

    Particle pollution, called fine particulate matter or soot, is a mixture of very tiny solid and liquid particles which come directly from car exhaust, wood fires, coal burning power plants and other smokestacks.  The body's natural defenses, coughing and sneezing, can fail to keep these microscopic particles from burrowing deep within the lungs.  Particle pollution can trigger asthma and heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer, and early death.

    “I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone,” said Jeanette MacNeille, a Topsham (photo above) resident with asthma.  "I have had hundreds of severe asthma episodes, and each comes with the unstoppable terror from being unable to breathe. There is nothing more important than cleaning up our air so that Maine children and adults don’t have to face asthma attacks so often in the future."

    The State of the Air report covers data collected in 2012, 2013 and 2014, and analyzes particle pollution in two ways - through average annual particle pollution levels and short-term spikes in particle pollution. Nationwide, the best progress in this year’s report came in reducing year-round levels of particle pollution. In Maine, year-round particle pollution levels were similar to those in the 2015 report, with all counties with particulate monitors receiving either an “A” or a “B” grade.  These same counties did not see any spikes in short-term particle pollution that reached unhealthy levels.

    “Here in Maine we are on the receiving end of pollution from states to the south and west of us,” said Tyler St. Clair, Healthy Air Coordinator for the American Lung Association in Maine.  “We depend on our neighbors to keep our air healthy.  That’s why we need strong national ozone standards and common sense limits on carbon pollution from power plants.  Maine’s Congressional delegation must push back against the relentless efforts of polluters to weaken or dismantle the Clean Air Act.  We need to make the same progress on ozone pollution that we’ve made on soot particles. Maine kids shouldn’t have to wait one more day for healthier air.”

    York County, home to almost 200,000 people, had 14 days of unhealthy ozone levels in the three-year reporting period.  Cumberland County, with a population of 285,000, followed with nine unhealthy ozone days, while Knox County had five and Hancock County had four unhealthy days.

    “Ozone is harmful to public health and especially children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung diseases,” added Pennoyer.  “When older adults or children with asthma breathe ozone-polluted air, too often they end up in the doctor’s office, the hospital or the emergency room.” 

    Nationwide, ozone pollution has decreased because of efforts to clean up major sources of the emissions that create ozone, especially coal-fired power plants and vehicles.  But counter-balancing this reduction in emissions is the growing impact of climate change, which brings warmer temperatures worldwide that lead to the creation of more ozone pollution.

    “The impacts of climate change on our health and our economy cannot be ignored,” stated Julie Osgood, Senior Director of Operations at MaineHealth.  “Warmer temperatures create a breeding ground for ozone and are amplifying the amount of air pollution and natural allergens we are forced to breathe.  These are costly outcomes that affect children’s learning and workers’ productivity.  That’s why it’s so important to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, put protective ozone standards into use, and ensure that health protections under the Clean Air Act remain effective and enforced.”

     

  • Gov. LePage and his allies push amendments that could damage Maine’s solar industry

    Their Actions Could Cost as Many Jobs as the Madison Mill Closure

    By Ramona du Houx 

    At a State House news conference April 1, 2016 leaders of solar companies across Maine decried the attack on their industry by Governor LePage and his allies, including House Minority Leader Ken Fredette.

    Many Maine’s communities are being torn apart by the loss of mill jobs. Maine’s solar industry could provide opportunities to employ the next generation of blue collar workers. The solar policy bill is projected to create 800-1,000 new jobs in the state without any costs to Maine’s taxpayers and ratepayers.

    Sadie Alley Fereirra of Sun Dog Solar speaks on behalf of jobs and the solar power industry in Maine at the press conference. Sadie holds a degree in Power Engineering Technology from Maine Maritime Academy

    "At a time when Maine's economy desperately needs jobs, we should be embracing and supporting Maine businesses, not trying to run them out of business,” said Vaughan Woodruff, owner of Insource Renewables of Pittsfield, chair of MABEP’s Committee on Renewable Energy (CORE). 

    “Instead of removing barriers to ensure fair treatment of ratepayers, solar power generators, and utility monopolies, the actions of the governor and his supporters threaten to kill our industry. If legislators can move past the governor's rhetoric to support a bipartisan agreement to benefit ratepayers and Maine's economy, the additional jobs across Maine would be enough to fill several mills." 

    In the wake of the creation of a landmark consensus on a solar bill that would create 800 jobs, save all ratepayers money, and move Maine out of last place in the region for solar, Governor LePage and his allies have presented amendments that could wipe out Maine’s solar industry. If the governor’s attack is successful, Maine’s solar industry could lose as many jobs as the 214 that will be lost when the Madison mill closes, which was just announced March 14, 2016.  

    "Maine's Legislature has an opportunity to support a bill that will result in the growth of jobs in Maine-based companies – companies already established in the state, companies that are owned by Mainers, will stay in Maine, and keep their employees in Maine,” said Sam Zuckerman, owner of Maine Solar Solutions of Durham

    The proposed bill would reduce energy costs for all electricity customers, create 800 good jobs across the state, and remove barriers that now prevent towns, businesses, and urban-dwellers from installing solar arrays.

    "The solar policies in Massachusetts and New Hampshire have helped generate many jobs,” said Harry Pollard IV, owner of True Enterprises of York. “Maine has the opportunity and needs to take advantage of the large potential job growth here.”

    LD 1649 does not contain subsidies, rebates, or discounts for solar. Instead, it modernizes parts of Maine’s utility policy that have unfairly created barriers to towns, cities, businesses, and communities going solar, and ensures solar producers are reimbursed fairly for the power they produce and sell to the electric grid. Failure to pass solar legislation this year will leave the LePage-appointed Maine Public Utilities Commission to consider changes to net-metering, and it is widely believed they intend to weaken or halt the program, a change that puts the existing industry at grave risk.

    "Governor LePage and his supporters are putting ideology ahead of the interests of Mainers,” said Woodruff. “At a time when our communities are losing jobs by the hundreds, the governor is ignoring the huge economic benefits of this bill and putting the livelihoods of more than 300 Mainers at risk."

    The solar bill (LD 1649, An Act to Modernize Maine’s Solar Power Policy and Encourage Economic Development), was the result of stakeholders working together over many months, including Maine’s Public Advocate (who looks out for ratepayer interests) and representatives from Maine’s solar industry, utility companies, municipalities, Maine conservation groups, and legislators, including Democratic Representatives Sara Gideon and Marty Grohman and Republican Representative Nathan Wadsworth.

    “LD 1649 has the potential to add an additional 800 new, good-paying jobs across the state,” said Chuck Piper, co-owner of Sundog Solar of Searsport. “One of the many great things about the solar bill is we can create these new jobs without any additional expense to the citizens of Maine. We feel this bill presents a great opportunity to Maine residents.”

    On March 16, the Energy, Utilities, and Technology Committee hosted a mobbed hearing, with two full overflow rooms. More than 70 Mainers got a chance to testify in support of the bill, and only two representatives of Governor LePage spoke in opposition. 

    On March 29, 2016 the committee voted on party lines to pass the bill. With the support of House Republican leader Representative Fredette, Representative Wadsworth pushed an amendment that replaces the entire bill and calls on the PUC to consider changes to net-metering.

    The amendment does not prevent the PUC from weakening net-metering, which they are poised to do if no bill is passed. A second surprise Republican amendment resembles proposals from LePage’s energy director, Patrick Woodcock, and would also take Maine backwards on solar.

    Representatives Wadsworth and Fredette have expressed concerns about ratepayer costs and claimed their amendment intends to “protect net-metering.” However analysis from the Public Utilities Commission and the Office of the Public Advocate shows clearly that continued net-metering will cost ratepayers roughly $10 million/year MORE than passage of LD 1649.

    Maine lags far behind other Northeast states on solar installations and jobs, and the governor’s legislative allies are supporting a measure that would make Maine’s sad situation even worse.

    Solar workers from across Maine discussed the current business climate for solar in Maine and the impacts of this bill on jobs, Maine’s economy, electric rates, and the state’s electrical infrastructure.

  • Maine makes $2,625,735 from Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s 31st auction


    Proceeds to date for the state are over $77 million

    By Ramona du Houx

    Maine brought in $2,625,735 from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), 31st auction of carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances. RGGI is the nation’s first market-based regulatory program to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution.

    The program, initiated in Maine by Governor John Baldacci, has brought in $77,301,179.35 to the state for weatherization and alternative energy projects, for businesses and homes.

    “RGGI is working. It is helping Mainers reduce our energy bills and reduce emissions. It is a win-win and a model for the entire nation," said Former State Representative Seth Berry, who sat on Maine’s legislative committee that approved the final RGGI rules.

    14,838,732 CO2 allowances were sold at the auction at a clearing price of $5.25. Bids for the CO2 allowances ranged from $2.10 to $10.46 per allowance.

    Cumulative proceeds from all RGGI CO2 allowance auctions, for all nine states participating, exceed $2.4 billion dollars. The March 9th auction was the first auction of 2016, and generated $77.9 million for reinvestment in strategic programs, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, direct bill assistance, and GHG abatement programs.

    “With the first auction of 2016, the RGGI states build on a seven-year track record of successfully working together to reduce harmful carbon pollution from the power sector,” said Katie Dykes, Deputy Commissioner at  the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and Chair of the RGGI, Inc. Board of Directors. “Our 2016 Program Review is moving ahead, and with input from stakeholders and experts we look forward to continuing to improve our trailblazing program.”

  • Energy efficiency projects funded by RGGI save Maine hospitals thousands- so they can better serve communities

    “The Aroostook Medical Center is committed to providing high quality healthcare at a reasonable cost, all while being good stewards of our environment,” said Timothy M. Doak, Facility Engineer, The Aroostook Medical Center speaking. “Efficiency Maine, utilizing RGGI funds, has been a critical partner in that endeavor." 

    On February 16, 2016 leaders of major hospitals In Bangor, Aroostook County, and Mid-Coast Maine joined together with a top commercial building efficiency expert and the head of Maine’s leading environmental group to focus on the financial benefits of hospital energy efficiency improvements that have been funded by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

    “The record shows the value of RGGI to our hospitals, to our efficiency businesses, and our environment is enormous,” said Lisa Pohlmann, Executive Director, Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Today we can see the real-world energy efficiency improvements, made possible with RGGI funds, delivering major benefits to the state.” 

    The super-efficient cogeneration plant that served as a backdrop for today’s press conference reduces the amount of natural gas EMMC burns to heat its facility, as well as the amount of electricity they need to buy. RGGI has helped to fund this kind of equipment at locations around the state, including Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor.

    “The Aroostook Medical Center is committed to providing high quality healthcare at a reasonable cost, all while being good stewards of our environment,” said Timothy M. Doak, Facility Engineer, The Aroostook Medical Center. “Efficiency Maine, utilizing RGGI funds, has been a critical partner in that endeavor.  Our most recent project alone is reducing our electrical costs by $89,000 annually, helping us to control health care costs while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This is just one example of how RGGI is benefiting Maine and Mainers.”

    The control room for an efficient boiler at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor demonstrated the importance of channeling RGGI funds to help hospitals and other commercial, industrial, and residential energy users invest in energy efficiency improvements. 

    “We believe that a healthy environment is critical to the health of our patients and families in our community,” said Helen McKinnon, RN, vice president, Support Services, Eastern Maine Medical Center. “Our partnerships with NRCM and Efficiency Maine have been critical to our success in enhancing our ongoing energy conservation and efficiency programs. Not only have these programs reduced our emissions and promoted a healthier environment, but they have decreased our energy costs and allowed us to focus more resources on direct patient care.”

    Not only can energy conservation reduce overall business expenses and harmful carbon pollution - it can also improve lighting conditions for a better workplace environment.

    “Our company works with hospitals and medical facilities throughout the entire state of Maine and in New Hampshire and Vermont. Our work has saved Maine hospitals millions of dollars in operating costs and substantially reduced climate-changing pollution, and we have been awarded multiple awards for energy conservation from Efficiency Maine. To continue this good work, it is extremely important that RGGI funding be available so these energy conservation projects can continue,” said Chris Green, President of Mechanical Services, a Maine corporation with over 100 employees and offices in Portland, Augusta, Bangor, and Presque Isle. 

    “Pen Bay Medical Center is committed to providing high quality, compassionate, patient-centered care to our friends and neighbors in the Midcoast,” said Louis Dinneen, Vice President of Engineering & Facilities at Pen Bay Medical Center. “We are grateful for the partnership of the Efficiency Maine Trust, whose support has allowed us to provide more reliable heating/cooling and brighter and more efficient lighting, all while significantly reducing our operating costs and overall environmental impact.”

    The importance of the Clean Power Plan - RGGI is a model

    The Clean Power Plan sets the first limits ever on carbon pollution from power plants. Power plants are the nation’s largest source of this pollution, generating 40 percent nationwide. The plan is constantly under attack from U.S. Senators in coal-producing states and their allies. The votes of Maine Senators Collins and King are crucial to preserving this much-needed plan.

    “RGGI is seen as a model for other states across the U.S., as they prepare to implement the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Because of RGGI, Maine in a position to easily meet targets set in the Plan,” said Pohlmann.

     Independent economic analysis has revealed that RGGI has provided a net benefit to the economy of Maine and the region since it was started in 2008. Over the last three years alone, RGGI as added $122 million to the Maine State Gross Product as well as hundreds of jobs. (Analysis Group, 2015) The program has also caused a net reduction in energy costs of hundreds of millions of dollars and has dramatically lowered carbon pollution from power plants across the region. Today coal and oil provide a much lower portion of Maine’s electricity mix than they did at the start of RGGI.

    “RGGI is a shining example of how smart, innovative policies can meet our environmental, economic, and energy challenges,” said Pohlmann. “With energy efficiency projects at hospitals like these, we can see how RGGI is providing benefits that reach into our health care community as well. Maine should be proud of its approach to RGGI.”

    Just this past Novemeber over 200 nations agreed to cut back carbon emmissions in Paris at the Climate Conference. The USA was heralded as leading the way. A key component to the implementation of the Paris agreement depends on the USA's Clean Power Plan.

    Despite the success of RGGI, efforts to roll back the program pop up periodically in Augusta, while in Washington, DC, polluters have sought to repeal the Clean Power Plan before it even gets underway. Both kinds of attacks appear blind to the actual benefits of RGGI. Governor LePage has submitted legislation to slash the use of RGGI funds for energy efficiency programs for businesses such as these three hospitals. That legislation is currently in front of Maine’s Energy & Utilities committee.

    “Right now legislation under consideration in Augusta would cut RGGI funding for large energy users by 80 percent, costing Maine businesses and institutions more than $100 million in increased energy bills,” said NRCM’s Lisa Pohlmann. “NRCM supports increasing, or, at least maintaining, current funding levels for energy efficiency.

  • Maine's natural phenomena- snowball waves

    Waves of Snowballs at Sebago lake, Maine was published to Ytube on Dec, 31, 2015 by Stone Point Studios.

    The natural phenomena is rare and only occurs when the ambient temperatures of the air and water are just right. As the waves come to shore the air is cold enough for their crests to form ice. Starting as small balls, as they continue to roll from crest to crest they turn into bigger ice balls, that rock together with an other world beat.

    Since the Ytube video has been published the weather channel and other news agencies have used it as an attraction.

  • Maine lawmakers unanimously pass law to issue voter-approved bonds for land conservation

    Article and photos by Ramona du Houx

    Maine lawmakers unanimously gave their approval to reauthorize $6.5 million in voter-approved Land for Maine’s Future bonds as part of a bipartisan effort to revive the expired bonds.

    “It was great to see how Land for Maine’s Future brought the Legislature together. We did important work today to ensure our state’s most important land conservation effort continues to successfully protect access for all Mainers,” said Rep. Martin Grohman, D-Biddeford.

    An amendment from Grohman stripped the original text of LD 1454 and replaced it with a 5-year reauthorization of bonds approved by voters in 2010. The bonds expired in November of 2015, when Gov. Paul LePage failed to release them.

    “We are delighted that legislators from both sides of the aisle voted unanimously to reinstate the 2010 Land for Maine's Future bonds,” said Beth Ahearn, legislative director for Maine Conservation Voters. “Already promised LMF funding can now be invested in more than 30 projects across Maine to benefit our economy and provide recreational opportunities to all.”

    The Legislature opened the second session by coming together on this issue. The House on the first day of session passed an order to recall LD 1454 from the governor’s desk, and the Senate followed suit. The cooperation prevented a veto of the bill and provided the opportunity to amend it.

    “These valuable conservation projects have waited a long time for funding that was promised, but needlessly delayed,” said Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, the lead Senate Democrat on the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee. “This vote will put them back on track, giving them the go-ahead to protect valuable natural resources in my community for generations.”

    Sen. Breen thanked the countless citizens of Maine who demanded the bonds be issued and the conservation projects be allowed to move forward. “They voted more than five years ago to authorize these projects, and they demanded, rightfully, that their decision be respected.”

    The bill — LD 1454, “Resolve, Reauthorizing the Balance of the 2009 Bond Issue for Land Conservation Projects” — will be sent to Gov. Paul LePage. He has 10 days to sign the bill into law, veto it, or let it pass into law without his signature.

  • President Obama's full State of the Union, 2016

     PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, my fellow Americans:  

    Tonight marks the eighth year that I’ve come here to report on the State of the Union.  And for this final one, I’m going to try to make it a little shorter.  (Applause.)  I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa.  (Laughter.)  I've been there.  I'll be shaking hands afterwards if you want some tips.  (Laughter.) 

    And I understand that because it’s an election season, expectations for what we will achieve this year are low.  But, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the constructive approach that you and the other leaders took at the end of last year to pass a budget and make tax cuts permanent for working families.  So I hope we can work together this year on some bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform -- (applause) -- and helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse.  (Applause.)  So, who knows, we might surprise the cynics again. 

    But tonight, I want to go easy on the traditional list of proposals for the year ahead.  Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty, from helping students learn to write computer code to personalizing medical treatments for patients.  And I will keep pushing for progress on the work that I believe still needs to be done.  Fixing a broken immigration system.  (Applause.)  Protecting our kids from gun violence.  (Applause.)  Equal pay for equal work.  (Applause.)  Paid leave.  (Applause.)  Raising the minimum wage. (Applause.)  All these things still matter to hardworking families.  They’re still the right thing to do.  And I won't let up until they get done.

    But for my final address to this chamber, I don’t want to just talk about next year.  I want to focus on the next five years, the next 10 years, and beyond.  I want to focus on our future.

    We live in a time of extraordinary change -- change that’s reshaping the way we live, the way we work, our planet, our place in the world.  It’s change that promises amazing medical breakthroughs, but also economic disruptions that strain working families.  It promises education for girls in the most remote villages, but also connects terrorists plotting an ocean away.  It’s change that can broaden opportunity, or widen inequality.  And whether we like it or not, the pace of this change will only accelerate.

    America has been through big changes before -- wars and depression, the influx of new immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, movements to expand civil rights.  Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change; who promised to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control.  And each time, we overcame those fears.  We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the “dogmas of the quiet past.”  Instead we thought anew, and acted anew.  We made change work for us, always extending America’s promise outward, to the next frontier, to more people.  And because we did -- because we saw opportunity where others saw only peril -- we emerged stronger and better than before.

    What was true then can be true now.  Our unique strengths as a nation -- our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery, our diversity, our commitment to rule of law -- these things give us everything we need to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come. 

    In fact, it’s in that spirit that we have made progress these past seven years.  That's how we recovered from the worst economic crisis in generations.  (Applause.)  That's how we reformed our health care system, and reinvented our energy sector.  (Applause.)  That's how we delivered more care and benefits to our troops coming home and our veterans.  (Applause.) That's how we secured the freedom in every state to marry the person we love.  (Applause.) 

    But such progress is not inevitable.  It’s the result of choices we make together.  And we face such choices right now.  Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, turning against each other as a people?  Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, in what we stand for, in the incredible things that we can do together?

    So let’s talk about the future, and four big questions that I believe we as a country have to answer -- regardless of who the next President is, or who controls the next Congress. 

    First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?  (Applause.) 

    Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us -- especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change?  (Applause.) 

    Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?  (Applause.) 

    And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?

    Let me start with the economy, and a basic fact:  The United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world.  (Applause.)  We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private sector job creation in history.  (Applause.)  More than 14 million new jobs, the strongest two years of job growth since the ‘90s, an unemployment rate cut in half.  Our auto industry just had its best year ever.  (Applause.)  That's just part of a manufacturing surge that's created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years.  And we’ve done all this while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters.  (Applause.) 

    Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction.  (Applause.)  Now, what is true -- and the reason that a lot of Americans feel anxious -- is that the economy has been changing in profound ways, changes that started long before the Great Recession hit; changes that have not let up. 

    Today, technology doesn’t just replace jobs on the assembly line, but any job where work can be automated.  Companies in a global economy can locate anywhere, and they face tougher competition.  As a result, workers have less leverage for a raise.  Companies have less loyalty to their communities.  And more and more wealth and income is concentrated at the very top.

    All these trends have squeezed workers, even when they have jobs; even when the economy is growing.  It’s made it harder for a hardworking family to pull itself out of poverty, harder for young people to start their careers, tougher for workers to retire when they want to.  And although none of these trends are unique to America, they do offend our uniquely American belief that everybody who works hard should get a fair shot.

    For the past seven years, our goal has been a growing economy that works also better for everybody.  We’ve made progress.  But we need to make more.  And despite all the political arguments that we’ve had these past few years, there are actually some areas where Americans broadly agree.

    We agree that real opportunity requires every American to get the education and training they need to land a good-paying job.  The bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind was an important start, and together, we’ve increased early childhood education, lifted high school graduation rates to new highs, boosted graduates in fields like engineering.  In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by providing Pre-K for all and -- (applause) -- offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one.  We should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids.  (Applause.) 

    And we have to make college affordable for every American.  (Applause.)  No hardworking student should be stuck in the red.  We’ve already reduced student loan payments to 10 percent of a borrower’s income.  And that's good.  But now, we’ve actually got to cut the cost of college.  (Applause.)  Providing two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student is one of the best ways to do that, and I’m going to keep fighting to get that started this year.  (Applause.)  It's the right thing to do.  (Applause.) 

    But a great education isn’t all we need in this new economy. We also need benefits and protections that provide a basic measure of security.  It’s not too much of a stretch to say that some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package for 30 years are sitting in this chamber.  (Laughter.)  For everyone else, especially folks in their 40s and 50s, saving for retirement or bouncing back from job loss has gotten a lot tougher.  Americans understand that at some point in their careers, in this new economy, they may have to retool and they may have to retrain.  But they shouldn’t lose what they’ve already worked so hard to build in the process. 

    That’s why Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever.  We shouldn’t weaken them; we should strengthen them. (Applause.)  And for Americans short of retirement, basic benefits should be just as mobile as everything else is today.  That, by the way, is what the Affordable Care Act is all about.  It’s about filling the gaps in employer-based care so that when you lose a job, or you go back to school, or you strike out and launch that new business, you’ll still have coverage.  Nearly 18 million people have gained coverage so far.  (Applause.)  And in the process, health care inflation has slowed.  And our businesses have created jobs every single month since it became law.

    Now, I’m guessing we won’t agree on health care anytime soon.  (Applause.)  A little applause right there.  Laughter.)  Just a guess.  But there should be other ways parties can work together to improve economic security.  Say a hardworking American loses his job -- we shouldn’t just make sure that he can get unemployment insurance; we should make sure that program encourages him to retrain for a business that’s ready to hire him.  If that new job doesn’t pay as much, there should be a system of wage insurance in place so that he can still pay his bills.  And even if he’s going from job to job, he should still be able to save for retirement and take his savings with him.  That’s the way we make the new economy work better for everybody.

    I also know Speaker Ryan has talked about his interest in tackling poverty.  America is about giving everybody willing to work a chance, a hand up.  And I’d welcome a serious discussion about strategies we can all support, like expanding tax cuts for low-income workers who don't have children.  (Applause.)  

    But there are some areas where we just have to be honest -- it has been difficult to find agreement over the last seven years.  And a lot of them fall under the category of what role the government should play in making sure the system’s not rigged in favor of the wealthiest and biggest corporations.  (Applause.) And it's an honest disagreement, and the American people have a choice to make.

    I believe a thriving private sector is the lifeblood of our economy.  I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed.  There is red tape that needs to be cut.  (Applause.)  There you go!  Yes!  (Applause  But after years now of record corporate profits, working families won’t get more opportunity or bigger paychecks just by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at everybody else’s expense.  (Applause.)  Middle-class families are not going to feel more secure because we allowed attacks on collective bargaining to go unanswered.  Food Stamp recipients did not cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did.  (Applause.)  Immigrants aren’t the principal reason wages haven’t gone up; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that all too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns.  It’s sure not the average family watching tonight that avoids paying taxes through offshore accounts.  (Applause.)   

    The point is, I believe that in this In new economy, workers and start-ups and small businesses need more of a voice, not less.  The rules should work for them.  (Applause.)  And I'm not alone in this.  This year I plan to lift up the many businesses who’ve figured out that doing right by their workers or their customers or their communities ends up being good for their shareholders.  (Applause.)  And I want to spread those best practices across America.  That's part of a brighter future.  (Applause.) 

    In fact, it turns out many of our best corporate citizens are also our most creative.  And this brings me to the second big question we as a country have to answer:  How do we reignite that spirit of innovation to meet our biggest challenges?

    Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there.  (Laughter.)  We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight.  And 12 years later, we were walking on the moon.  (Applause.)   

    Now, that spirit of discovery is in our DNA.  America is Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers and George Washington Carver.  America is Grace Hopper and Katherine Johnson and Sally Ride.  America is every immigrant and entrepreneur from Boston to Austin to Silicon Valley, racing to shape a better world.  (Applause.)  That's who we are. 

    And over the past seven years, we’ve nurtured that spirit.  We’ve protected an open Internet, and taken bold new steps to get more students and low-income Americans online.  (Applause.)  We’ve launched next-generation manufacturing hubs, and online tools that give an entrepreneur everything he or she needs to start a business in a single day.  But we can do so much more. 

    Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer.  Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources that they’ve had in over a decade. (Applause.)  So tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done.  And because he’s gone to the mat for all of us on so many issues over the past 40 years, I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control.  (Applause.)  For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the families that we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.  (Applause.) 

    Medical research is critical.  We need the same level of commitment when it comes to developing clean energy sources.  (Applause.)  Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it.  You will be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.  (Applause.)   

    But even if -- even if the planet wasn’t at stake, even if 2014 wasn’t the warmest year on record -- until 2015 turned out to be even hotter -- why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future? (Applause.) 

    Listen, seven years ago, we made the single biggest investment in clean energy in our history.  Here are the results. In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power.  On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, and employs more Americans than coal -- in jobs that pay better than average.  We’re taking steps to give homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy -- something, by the way, that environmentalists and Tea Partiers have teamed up to support.   And meanwhile, we’ve cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly 60 percent, and cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.  (Applause.)  Gas under two bucks a gallon ain’t bad, either.  (Applause.) 

    Now we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from old, dirtier energy sources.  Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future -- especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels.  We do them no favor when we don't show them where the trends are going.  That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet. And that way, we put money back into those communities, and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system.  (Applause.) 

    Now, none of this is going to happen overnight.  And, yes, there are plenty of entrenched interests who want to protect the status quo.  But the jobs we’ll create, the money we’ll save, the planet we’ll preserve -- that is the kind of future our kids and our grandkids deserve.  And it's within our grasp. 

    Climate change is just one of many issues where our security is linked to the rest of the world.  And that’s why the third big question that we have to answer together is how to keep America safe and strong without either isolating ourselves or trying to nation-build everywhere there’s a problem.

    I told you earlier all the talk of America’s economic decline is political hot air.  Well, so is all the rhetoric you hear about our enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker.  Let me tell you something.  The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth.  Period. (Applause.)  Period.  It’s not even close.  It's not even close. (Applause.)  It's not even close.  We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined.  Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world.  (Applause.)  No nation attacks us directly, or our allies, because they know that’s the path to ruin.  Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead -- they call us.  (Applause.)

    I mean, it's useful to level the set here, because when we don't, we don't make good decisions.    

    Now, as someone who begins every day with an intelligence briefing, I know this is a dangerous time.  But that’s not primarily because of some looming superpower out there, and certainly not because of diminished American strength.  In today’s world, we’re threatened less by evil empires and more by failing states. 

    The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia.  Economic headwinds are blowing in from a Chinese economy that is in significant transition.  Even as their economy severely contracts, Russia is pouring resources in to prop up Ukraine and Syria -- client states that they saw slipping away from their orbit.  And the international system we built after World War II is now struggling to keep pace with this new reality.

    It’s up to us, the United States of America, to help remake that system.  And to do that well it means that we’ve got to set priorities.

    Priority number one is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks.  (Applause.)  Both al Qaeda and now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people, because in today’s world, even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of damage.  They use the Internet to poison the minds of individuals inside our country.  Their actions undermine and destabilize our allies.  We have to take them out.

    But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands.  Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks, twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages -- they pose an enormous danger to civilians; they have to be stopped.  But they do not threaten our national existence.  (Applause.)  That is the story ISIL wants to tell.  That’s the kind of propaganda they use to recruit.  We don’t need to build them up to show that we’re serious, and we sure don't need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is somehow representative of one of the world’s largest religions.  (Applause.)  We just need to call them what they are -- killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed.  (Applause.)  

    And that’s exactly what we’re doing.  For more than a year, America has led a coalition of more than 60 countries to cut off ISIL’s financing, disrupt their plots, stop the flow of terrorist fighters, and stamp out their vicious ideology.  With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we’re taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, their weapons.  We’re training, arming, and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria. 

    If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, authorize the use of military force against ISIL.  Take a vote.  (Applause.)  Take a vote.  But the American people should know that with or without congressional action, ISIL will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them.  If you doubt America’s commitment -- or mine -- to see that justice is done, just ask Osama bin Laden.  (Applause.)  Ask the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, who was taken out last year, or the perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks, who sits in a prison cell.  When you come after Americans, we go after you.  (Applause.)  And it may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limits.  (Applause.)  

    Our foreign policy hast to be focused on the threat from ISIL and al Qaeda, but it can’t stop there.  For even without ISIL, even without al Qaeda, instability will continue for decades in many parts of the world -- in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, parts of Pakistan, in parts of Central America, in Africa, and Asia.  Some of these places may become safe havens for new terrorist networks.  Others will just fall victim to ethnic conflict, or famine, feeding the next wave of refugees.  The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet-bomb civilians.  That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage.

    We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis, even if it's done with the best of intentions.  (Applause.)  That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately will weaken us.  It’s the lesson of Vietnam; it's the lesson of Iraq -- and we should have learned it by now.  (Applause.)   

    Fortunately, there is a smarter approach, a patient and disciplined strategy that uses every element of our national power.  It says America will always act, alone if necessary, to protect our people and our allies; but on issues of global concern, we will mobilize the world to work with us, and make sure other countries pull their own weight.   

    That’s our approach to conflicts like Syria, where we’re partnering with local forces and leading international efforts to help that broken society pursue a lasting peace.

    That’s why we built a global coalition, with sanctions and principled diplomacy, to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.  And as we speak, Iran has rolled back its nuclear program, shipped out its uranium stockpile, and the world has avoided another war.  (Applause.)   

    That’s how we stopped the spread of Ebola in West Africa.  (Applause.)  Our military, our doctors, our development workers -- they were heroic; they set up the platform that then allowed other countries to join in behind us and stamp out that epidemic. Hundreds of thousands, maybe a couple million lives were saved.

    That’s how we forged a Trans-Pacific Partnership to open markets, and protect workers and the environment, and advance American leadership in Asia.  It cuts 18,000 taxes on products made in America, which will then support more good jobs here in America.  With TPP, China does not set the rules in that region; we do.  You want to show our strength in this new century?  Approve this agreement.  Give us the tools to enforce it.  It's the right thing to do.  (Applause.)   

    Let me give you another example.  Fifty years of isolating Cuba had failed to promote democracy, and set us back in Latin America.  That’s why we restored diplomatic relations -- (applause) -- opened the door to travel and commerce, positioned ourselves to improve the lives of the Cuban people.  (Applause.) So if you want to consolidate our leadership and credibility in the hemisphere, recognize that the Cold War is over -- lift the embargo.  (Applause.)  

    The point is American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice between ignoring the rest of the world -- except when we kill terrorists -- or occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unraveling.  Leadership means a wise application of military power, and rallying the world behind causes that are right.  It means seeing our foreign assistance as a part of our national security, not something separate, not charity. 

    When we lead nearly 200 nations to the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change, yes, that helps vulnerable countries, but it also protects our kids.  When we help Ukraine defend its democracy, or Colombia resolve a decades-long war, that strengthens the international order we depend on. When we help African countries feed their people and care for the sick -- (applause) -- it's the right thing to do, and it prevents the next pandemic from reaching our shores.  Right now, we’re on track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS.  That's within our grasp.  (Applause.)  And we have the chance to accomplish the same thing with malaria -- something I’ll be pushing this Congress to fund this year.  (Applause.) 

    That's American strength.  That's American leadership.  And that kind of leadership depends on the power of our example.  That’s why I will keep working to shut down the prison at Guantanamo.  (Applause.)  It is expensive, it is unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies.  (Applause.)  There’s a better way.  (Applause.)   

    And that’s why we need to reject any politics -- any politics -- that targets people because of race or religion.  (Applause.)  Let me just say this.  This is not a matter of political correctness.  This is a matter of understanding just what it is that makes us strong.  The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity, and our openness, and the way we respect every faith. 

    His Holiness, Pope Francis, told this body from the very spot that I'm standing on tonight that “to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.”  When politicians insult Muslims, whether abroad or our fellow citizens, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid is called names, that doesn’t make us safer.  That’s not telling it like it is.  It’s just wrong.  (Applause.)  It diminishes us in the eyes of the world.  It makes it harder to achieve our goals.  It betrays who we are as a country.  (Applause.) 

    “We the People.”  Our Constitution begins with those three simple words, words we’ve come to recognize mean all the people, not just some; words that insist we rise and fall together, and that's how we might perfect our Union.  And that brings me to the fourth, and maybe the most important thing that I want to say tonight.

    The future we want -- all of us want -- opportunity and security for our families, a rising standard of living, a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids -- all that is within our reach.  But it will only happen if we work together.  It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates.  It will only happen if we fix our politics.

    A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything.  This is a big country -- different regions, different attitudes, different interests.  That’s one of our strengths, too.  Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, fiercely, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.

    But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens.  It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice.  It doesn’t work if we think that our political opponents are unpatriotic or trying to weaken America.  Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise, or when even basic facts are contested, or when we listen only to those who agree with us.  Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get all the attention.  And most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some special interest.

    Too many Americans feel that way right now.  It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency -- that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better.  I have no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.

    But, my fellow Americans, this cannot be my task -- or any President’s -- alone.  There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber, good people who would like to see more cooperation, would like to see a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the imperatives of getting elected, by the noise coming out of your base.  I know; you’ve told me.  It's the worst-kept secret in Washington.  And a lot of you aren't enjoying being trapped in that kind of rancor. 

    But that means if we want a better politics -- and I'm addressing the American people now -- if we want a better politics, it’s not enough just to change a congressman or change a senator or even change a President.  We have to change the system to reflect our better selves.  I think we've got to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around.  (Applause.)  Let a bipartisan group do it.  (Applause.) 

    We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families or hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections.  (Applause.)  And if our existing approach to campaign finance reform can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution -- because it's a problem.  And most of you don't like raising money.  I know; I've done it.  (Applause.)  We’ve got to make it easier to vote, not harder.  (Applause.)  We need to modernize it for the way we live now.  (Applause.)  This is America:  We want to make it easier for people to participate.  And over the course of this year, I intend to travel the country to push for reforms that do just that.

    But I can’t do these things on my own.  (Applause.)  Changes in our political process -- in not just who gets elected, but how they get elected -- that will only happen when the American people demand it.  It depends on you.  That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people. 

    What I’m suggesting is hard.  It’s a lot easier to be cynical; to accept that change is not possible, and politics is hopeless, and the problem is all the folks who are elected don't care, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter.  But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future.  Those with money and power will gain greater control over the decisions that could send a young soldier to war, or allow another economic disaster, or roll back the equal rights and voting rights that generations of Americans have fought, even died, to secure.  And then, as frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into our respective tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background.

    We can’t afford to go down that path.  It won’t deliver the economy we want.  It will not produce the security we want.  But most of all, it contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world. 

    So, my fellow Americans, whatever you may believe, whether you prefer one party or no party, whether you supported my agenda or fought as hard as you could against it -- our collective futures depends on your willingness to uphold your duties as a citizen.  To vote.  To speak out.  To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us. (Applause.)  We need every American to stay active in our public life -- and not just during election time -- so that our public life reflects the goodness and the decency that I see in the American people every single day. 

    It is not easy.  Our brand of democracy is hard.  But I can promise that a little over a year from now, when I no longer hold this office, I will be right there with you as a citizen, inspired by those voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that helped America travel so far.  Voices that help us see ourselves not, first and foremost, as black or white, or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born, not as Democrat or Republican, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed.  Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word -- voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love. 

    And they’re out there, those voices.  They don’t get a lot of attention; they don't seek a lot of fanfare; but they’re busy doing the work this country needs doing.  I see them everywhere I travel in this incredible country of ours.  I see you, the American people.  And in your daily acts of citizenship, I see our future unfolding.

    I see it in the worker on the assembly line who clocked extra shifts to keep his company open, and the boss who pays him higher wages instead of laying him off. 

    I see it in the Dreamer who stays up late at night to finish her science project, and the teacher who comes in early, and maybe with some extra supplies that she bought because she knows that that young girl might someday cure a disease.

    I see it in the American who served his time, and bad mistakes as a child but now is dreaming of starting over -- and I see it in the business owner who gives him that second chance.  The protester determined to prove that justice matters -- and the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave, quiet work of keeping us safe.  (Applause.) 

    I see it in the soldier who gives almost everything to save his brothers, the nurse who tends to him till he can run a marathon, the community that lines up to cheer him on.

    It’s the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is, and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he’s been taught.  (Applause.) 

    I see it in the elderly woman who will wait in line to cast her vote as long as she has to; the new citizen who casts his vote for the first time; the volunteers at the polls who believe every vote should count -- because each of them in different ways know how much that precious right is worth.

    That's the America I know.  That’s the country we love.   Clear-eyed.  Big-hearted.  Undaunted by challenge.  Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.  (Applause.)  That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future.  I believe in change because I believe in you, the American people.  

    And that’s why I stand here confident as I have ever been that the State of our Union is strong.  (Applause.) 

    Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America. 

  • Maine House lawmakers unanimously backs land preservation bonds despite Gov. LePage

    By Ramona du Houx

    The Maine House of Representatives on January 12, 2016, unanimously gave its initial approval to a measure reauthorizing $6.5 million in voter-approved Land for Maine’s Future bonds as part of a bipartisan effort to revive the expired bonds. Some of these voter-approved bonds date back to the Baldacci administration. The vote was 147-0.

    “The fight to fully fund Land for Maine’s Future proved to be a truly bipartisan effort. Legislators on both sides of the aisle who understand the critical importance of preserving Maine’s natural resources and securing our economic future joined together to ensure that our state’s most vital land conservation program will continue to provide access for all Mainers,” said Rep. Martin Grohman, D-Biddeford, an avid hunter and supporter of Land for Maine’s Future.

    An amendment from Grohman stripped the original text of LD 1454 and replaced it with a 5-year reauthorization of bonds approved by voters in 2010. The bonds expired in November, on the first regular day of the deer hunting season, when Gov. Paul LePage did not release them.

    “Today was a win for voters, outdoorsmen and women, outdoor recreation businesses and other Mainers who recognize the importance of Land for Maine’s Future to our economy – particularly for rural Maine. It will be great to see these voter-approved bonds released and preserving land for recreation and waterfront, forestry and farming jobs,” said House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, a Maine guide and a leading proponent in the effort to free the bonds.

    “We are delighted that legislators voted unanimously today to reinstate the 2010 Land for Maine's Future bond that expired in November,” said Beth Ahearn, legislative director for Maine Conservation Voters.  “Already promised LMF funding can now be invested in more than 30 projects across Maine to benefit our economy and provide recreational opportunities to all.”

     The Legislature opened the second session by coming together on this issue. The House on the first day of session passed an order to recall LD 1454 from the governor’s desk, and the Senate followed suit. The cooperation prevented a veto of the bill and provided the opportunity to amend it.

    LD 1454 faces further votes in the House and Senate.

     

  • State Sen. Breen hails movement to release voter-approved conservation bonds

    Photo: Western Mts. of Maine by Ramona du Houx

    Sen. Cathy Breen of Falmouth hailed the House of Representatives’ approval of a bill to reauthorize $6.5 million of voter-approved conservation bonds that expired last year when the governor refused to issue them.

    On Wednesday, the House recalled LD 1454 from the governor’s desk and amended it to reauthorize the bonds, which were approved by voters to support projects vetted and approved by Land for Maine’s Future.

    The bill now heads to the Senate. The governor has indicated that if the bonds are revived, he will issue them.

    “I eagerly await my chance to vote ‘yes’ on this bill, and hope all my fellow Senators will do the same,” said Breen, the ranking Senate Democrat on the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. “These bonds were delayed for far too long, which left deserving, vetted conservation projects around our state in limbo for far too long. It will be good to finally get them back on track.”

    Sen. Breen has been an advocate for the release of the voter-approved conservation bonds, and a supporter of the conservation projects in and out of her district. Such projects include protection for wildlife refuge, outdoor recreation, working waterfronts and family farms.

    “We are pleased with the strong bipartisan support for reviving the 2010 LMF bond,” said Tom Abello, senior policy adviser with The Nature Conservancy in Maine. “Sen. Breen’s leadership in the effort to encourage the Governor to release the voter-approved LMF bonds was critical to this positive outcome. With today’s vote, LMF funding will soon be invested in more than 30 projects across Maine, which will bolster recreational opportunities and benefit our natural resource based economy.

  • Leaders of nearly 50 Maine businesses urge Collins, King to defend EPA Clean Power Plan

     

    RGGI, America’s first cap-n-trade agreement, has earned the state over $74 million

     By Ramona du Houx

    On December 16, 2015, clean energy business leaders gathered in Portland at a solar panel company, ReVision Energy, to release a letter that urges Maine Senators Susan Collins and Angus King to continue their support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) finalized Clean Power Plan. If passed the plan will be the biggest national action yet to cut carbon pollution from power plants — power plants are the largest source of this climate-changing pollution in the nation. 

    The plan, in many ways, is modeled after the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), America’s first cap-n-trade agreement, which has earned the Maine over $74 million that has been invested in clean energy and weatherization initiatives.

    “Maine people and businesses expect their Congressional leaders to stand up for Maine’s interests, and not be beholden the ideologies and rhetoric from out-of-state corporate polluters,” said Margaret Hoyt of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “We’re pleased to see that leadership from Collins and King.”

    The letter emphasizes the importance of both Senators’ to continue their support as corporate polluters with vested interests in coal and oil, along with their political allies from other regions, repeatedly try to block the plan in Congress.

    “Nine years ago, Evergreen Home Performance looked at Maine’s combination of old houses, high oil dependence and natural resources and saw a business opportunity,” said Evergreen Home Performance founder Richard Burbank. “Since then, we’ve transformed hundreds of Maine houses from energy hogs to comfortable, efficient, worry-free homes, giving homeowners a nice buffer against volatile fuel prices, and employed highly trained workers.”

     Maine is expected to meet its Clean Power Plan requirements by continuing participation in the RGGI which limits pollution and generates funds through quarterly auctions of carbon credits.

    When Portland City Councilor Jon Hinck was a member of the Maine state legislature he worked tirelessly on clean energy initiatives. He helped with the law that made Maine part of RGGI. The legislation had a unanimous vote for implementation during the Baldacci administration. “The RGGI gives Northeast States a start in the worldwide effort to increase efficiency and meet power demand without fueling climate change,” said Hinck.

    The transition to renewable energy sources creates jobs and opportunities and RGGI helps.

     Farmington’s new Medical Arts Center at Franklin Community Health Network’s is saving energy while delivering critical medical care, in a large part, because of $59,532 in incentives from RGGI funds awarded by the state’s Efficiency Maine — the agency that channels RGGI earnings to clean energy projects.

    RGGI estimates a return of more than $2.9 billion in lifetime energy bill savings to more than 3.7 million participating households, and 17,800 businesses. The RGGI states have experienced over a 40 percent reduction in power sector carbon pollution since 2005, while the regional economy has grown eight percent.

    “We do about 100 home energy savings projects every year, and we are always happy to make homeowners more comfortable in their homes,” said Josh Wojcik, founder of the family-owned Upright Frameworks. “Thanks to RGGI, incentives are available to homeowners for this work. It’s great that RGGI sets Maine on the right course to meet the Clean Power Plan, too.”

    Through RGGI, Maine’s overall economy has grown and energy costs have been reduced.

    At the latest RGGI auction, on December 2, carbon credits brought in $4.2 million, primarily for Efficiency Maine to invest in energy improvements for Maine homes and businesses. Efficiency Maine’s annual report, released November 30, shows that RGGI provided almost all of the funds to help homes and large businesses and industry reduce oil and other heating fuel costs. According to that report, in the year ending June 30, 2015, the Home Energy Savings Program yielded $43 million in lifetime home energy savings for nearly 10,000 homes, supporting hundreds of jobs in the clean energy sector at the same time.

    However, Congressman Bruce Poliquin voted in favor of the Clean Power Plan repeal. His statements indicated he doesn’t understand or appreciate the fact that independent economists have shown that RGGI has created hundreds of jobs in Maine including a $215 million net benefit to Maine’s economy, and a boon to our environment.

    “Power plants should not be given unlimited license to treat our sky like an open sewer,” said Phil Coupe, co-founder of ReVision Energy. “The Clean Power Plan sets basic parameters to limit carbon pollution in the same way that there are limits on other pollutants like arsenic and mercury.”

    Climate change poses a serious threat to Maine’s economy, environment, and quality of life. Air pollution carried downwind from dirty power plants harms Mainers’ health and increases cases of asthma, cancer and heart disease. Warmer temperatures increase the number of vector-borne diseases in Maine, specifically causing Lyme disease, carried by deer ticks, to skyrocket.

    Climate change also threatens Maine’s nature-based industries like farming, winter guiding, fishing, and skiing, by increasing the severity and frequency of storms and making weather patterns less predictable. In addition, warmer and more acidic oceans threaten the long-term viability of lobsters and other marine fisheries, jeopardizing the culture and economy of Maine’s coastal communities.

    “Maine business leaders are already seeing how climate change threatens Maine’s economy, environment, and way of life, and they are already building a cleaner, more efficient economy,” said Hoyt. “Now, the Clean Power Plan will guarantee the rest of the nation follows New England’s lead with power plant carbon limits as strong as ours. Maine’s Clean Energy businesses support these common-sense proposals because they create enormous economic opportunities as we transition to cleaner, more efficient energy solutions.”

     So far, the letter has been signed by 46 Maine clean energy businesses, including Reed & Reed president and CEO Jack Parker, Evergreen Home Performance co-owners Elise Brown and Richard Burbank, Solaris owner Suzan Elichaa, ReVision Energy co-founder Phil Coupe, Penobscot Home Performance founder Matt Damon, Upright Framework founder Josh Wojcik, Vice President for State Policy at SunEdision, and Goggin Energy founder and owner Ann Goggin.

    In the run up to the global climate talks in Paris, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) pushed through a bill that would repeal the plan, in part to weaken the U.S. position in any climate deal. Collins and King voted against the repeal bill, helping ensure it lacks the votes necessary to override President Obama’s veto.

    Since the Paris worldwide agreement of 195 nations to limit carbon emissions happened on December12, 2015, Congress approved an extension for a research and development tax break and extends the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for clean energy projects by five years.

    "Getting a five-year PTC extension in this bill was important for clean energy companies in Maine and around the country," said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.  "Before this, companies didn't know from one year to the next whether this tax break was going to be on the books.  That makes it very hard to plan the clean energy projects that have created thousands of jobs already in our state." 

    However, over the coming months, there are likely to be additional attempts by McConnell and his allies to repeal or block the Clean Power Plan. They rejected the Paris treaty, agreeing with 3 percent of so-called scientists that global warming isn't happening.

    The Clean Power Plan is an essential part of the commitment the U.S. made in Paris.

  • Maine's first Tesla Motor charging station opens in Augusta

    Tesla Motors has opened a supercharging station for its line of upscale all-electric vehicles at the Marketplace at Augusta mall. The station will be the most northern of Tesla's network of charging stations placed along the Interstate 95 corridor.

    Spokeswoman Sonja Knoch said the Augusta site will allow Tesla Model S owners to "have free seamless travel into upstate Maine, New England, eastern Canada, and routes leading cross country."

    Maine has just 32 Tesla owners. One Adam Lee of Lee Auto Malls. A Tesla S sells for between $70,000 and $120,000.

    Officials say 30 minutes of charging at a station allows up to 170 miles of range in Model S vehicles. Tesla has over 500 supercharger stations worldwide.

    Tesla's founder is also in the process of opening the world largest battery manufactuing plant in California. These specialized batteries will store electricity generated from alternative energy sources, mainly solar.

  • $200 Million loan funds available from USDA for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects

    Exeter Agri-Energy utilized a USDA Rural Development REAP Guaranteed Loan along with $500,000 in REAP Grant funds to install an anaerobic digester at Stonyvale Farm, Maine.

    By Ramona du Houx

     USDA Rural Development has approximately $200 million available through the REAP guaranteed loan program for fiscal year 2016 to finance renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in Maine’s rural communities.  The agency is now accepting applications from rural small businesses and agricultural producers to compete for $200 million in guaranteed loan funds.

      "This funding opportunity represents substantial potential for rural Maine businesses and agricultural producers to make long-term investments in renewable energy systems and energy-efficiency improvements through a local lender using USDA Rural Development’s REAP guaranteed loan program. This collaboration can help our businesses significantly reduce operating costs, decrease Maine’s independence on foreign oil, and ultimately demonstrate their positive environmental values to their customers and community," said USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel.

    Loan purposes include financing renewable energy systems such as biomass fueled anaerobic digesters and biodiesel production, solar, wind, geothermal, etc., and making energy efficiency improvements such as efficient lighting conversions, motor upgrades, building envelope improvements, HVAC upgrades and more.

    Exeter Agri-Energy utilized a USDA Rural Development REAP Guaranteed Loan along with $500,000 in REAP Grant funds to install an anaerobic digester at Stonyvale Farm, a third generation Maine dairy farm. The energy offset by the system through savings on electricity, heat, and cattle bedding was estimated to be $250,000 annually.

    Stonyvale Farm collects manure from 1,000 milking cows, and processors deliver organic waste to augment and optimize a "special" recipe that serves as the fuel. The careful introduction of organic waste into the digesters, in just the right amount and at just the right time, is part of the unique “edge” that EAE has developed at Stonyvale Farm.

     The system heats the manure/organic mixture to just over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and agitates it intermittently over a 15-25 day retention period. At this point the concoction produces an energy-packed supply of biogas, a potent combination of methane and carbon dioxide. A 1,500 horsepower engine burns the biogas, powering a generator that produces enough heat every day to replace 700 gallons of heating oil on average, and 22,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. On an annual basis, that’s enough energy to heat 300 New England homes and enough to power as many as 800 households.

     Funds are being made available through Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Agricultural producers and rural small businesses benefit from available credit, favorable rates and terms, and energy and cost savings.

    Guaranteed loans are available for up to 75 percent of the total eligible project cost, and loan amounts can range from $5,000 to $25 million. The REAP loan guarantee requires that 25 percent of project costs come from other funding sources such as business equity or other borrowed funds, which could include a USDA Rural Development Business & Industry Guaranteed Loan. REAP loan guarantees range from 85 percent for loans of $600,000 and less to 60 percent for loans of more than $10 million. 

    For more information on how to apply, interested rural Maine businesses, agricultural producers, and lenders may contact Brian Wilson at 990-9168 or brian.wilson@me.usda.gov or visit http://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/rural-energy-america-program-renewable-energy-systems-energy-efficiency/me.

     

  • Paris climate change agreement: "A turning point for the world"

    The full statement from President Barack Obama on the Paris climate change deal agreed to by close to 200 nations. 

    5:30 P.M. EST, December 12, 2015

    THE PRESIDENT:  In my first inaugural address, I committed this country to the tireless task of combating climate change and protecting this planet for future generations. 

    Two weeks ago, in Paris, I said before the world that we needed a strong global agreement to accomplish this goal -- an enduring agreement that reduces global carbon pollution and sets the world on a course to a low-carbon future. 

    A few hours ago, we succeeded.  We came together around the strong agreement the world needed.  We met the moment.

    I want to commend President Hollande and Secretary General Ban for their leadership and for hosting such a successful summit, and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius for presiding with patience and resolve.  And I want to give a special thanks to Secretary John Kerry, my Senior Advisor Brian Deese, our chief negotiator Todd Stern, and everyone on their teams for their outstanding work and for making America proud.

    I also want to thank the people of nearly 200 nations -- large and small, developed and developing -- for working together to confront a threat to the people of all nations.  Together, we’ve shown what’s possible when the world stands as one.

    Today, the American people can be proud -- because this historic agreement is a tribute to American leadership.  Over the past seven years, we’ve transformed the United States into the global leader in fighting climate change.  In 2009, we helped salvage a chaotic Copenhagen Summit and established the principle that all countries had a role to play in combating climate change.  We then led by example, with historic investments in growing industries like wind and solar, creating a new and steady stream of middle-class jobs.  We’ve set the first-ever nationwide standards to limit the amount of carbon pollution power plants can dump into the air our children breathe.  From Alaska to the Gulf Coast to the Great Plains, we’ve partnered with local leaders who are working to help their communities protect themselves from some of the most immediate impacts of a changing climate.   

    Now, skeptics said these actions would kill jobs.  Instead, we’ve seen the longest streak of private-sector job creation in our history.  We’ve driven our economic output to all-time highs while driving our carbon pollution down to its lowest level in nearly two decades.  And then, with our historic joint announcement with China last year, we showed it was possible to bridge the old divides between developed and developing nations that had stymied global progress for so long.  That accomplishment encouraged dozens and dozens of other nations to set their own ambitious climate targets.  And that was the foundation for success in Paris.  Because no nation, not even one as powerful as ours, can solve this challenge alone.  And no country, no matter how small, can sit on the sidelines.  All of us had to solve it together. 

    Now, no agreement is perfect, including this one.  Negotiations that involve nearly 200 nations are always challenging.  Even if all the initial targets set in Paris are met, we’ll only be part of the way there when it comes to reducing carbon from the atmosphere.  So we cannot be complacent because of today’s agreement.  The problem is not solved because of this accord.  But make no mistake, the Paris agreement establishes the enduring framework the world needs to solve the climate crisis.  It creates the mechanism, the architecture, for us to continually tackle this problem in an effective way. 

    This agreement is ambitious, with every nation setting and committing to their own specific targets, even as we take into account differences among nations.  We’ll have a strong system of transparency, including periodic reviews and independent assessments, to help hold every country accountable for meeting its commitments.  As technology advances, this agreement allows progress to pave the way for even more ambitious targets over time.  And we have secured a broader commitment to support the most vulnerable countries as they pursue cleaner economic growth.

     In short, this agreement will mean less of the carbon pollution that threatens our planet, and more of the jobs and economic growth driven by low-carbon investment.  Full implementation of this agreement will help delay or avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change, and will pave the way for even more progress, in successive stages, over the coming years.

    Moreover, this agreement sends a powerful signal that the world is firmly committed to a low-carbon future.  And that has the potential to unleash investment and innovation in clean energy at a scale we have never seen before.  The targets we’ve set are bold.  And by empowering businesses, scientists, engineers, workers, and the private sector -- investors -- to work together, this agreement represents the best chance we’ve had to save the one planet that we’ve got.  

    So I believe this moment can be a turning point for the world. 

    We’ve shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on this challenge.  It won’t be easy.  Progress won’t always come quick.  We cannot be complacent.  While our generation will see some of the benefits of building a clean energy economy -- jobs created and money saved -- we may not live to see the full realization of our achievement.  But that’s okay.  What matters is that today we can be more confident that this planet is going to be in better shape for the next generation.  And that’s what I care about. 

    I imagine taking my grandkids, if I’m lucky enough to have some, to the park someday, and holding their hands, and hearing their laughter, and watching a quiet sunset, all the while knowing that our work today prevented an alternate future that could have been grim; that our work, here and now, gave future generations cleaner air, and cleaner water, and a more sustainable planet.  And what could be more important than that? 

    Today, thanks to strong, principled, American leadership, that’s the world that we’ll leave to our children -- a world that is safer and more secure, more prosperous, and more free.  And that is our most important mission in our short time here on this Earth. 

     

  • The World reaches historic deal to curb climate change

    Nations agree to curb climate change with historic Paris draft agreement

    By Ramona du Houx

    There was relief and celebration in Paris tonight, as officials from rich, moderate and poor countires swept aside monumental differences and agreed to an unprecedented global deal to tackle climate change.

    Negotiations went through the night on Friday to come up with an agreement in Paris, France, to curb climate change amoungst over 191 nations. On December 12, 2015 the treaty was reached.  

    Phone calls between the US President Barack Obama, and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, and appeals from the French Priminister Hollande and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, all helped to push countries towards agreeing to the final draft.

    In the pact would commit countries to keeping the rise in global temperatures by the year 2100 compared with pre-industrial times "well below" 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and "endeavor to limit" them even more, to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

    Critically, countries would also be committed to limiting the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100.

    Read the draft agreement HERE.

    Photo: Alex Cornell du Houx, a former state Rep. from Maine, is in Paris as a leader of lawmakers from everystate that are demanding action on climate change. The coalition he represents have a sign up letter for current lawmakers that bypasses Congress for clean energy action. See more here.

  • Citizens, workers, businesses, and others urge adoption of strong solar policy for Maine

    Maine is falling behind on solar power and jobs 

    By Ramona du Houx

    A diverse group of over 70 people and organizations gathered on December 10th at the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to urge policymakers to develop and adopt a comprehensive solar policy that can move Maine out of last place in the region for solar power and solar jobs. Since September, the PUC has been holding a series of stakeholder meetings to develop and evaluate solar policy concepts and it plans to issue a report to lawmakers in the coming legislative session.

    “Solar power is creating huge opportunities for job creation across the region and across the country,” said Nick Paquet, an electrician with the IBEW union. “Every megawatt of solar power means 20 electricians put to work. Maine has made good strides toward renewable energy and renewable energy jobs, but we’re woefully behind on solar. That should change if we are serious about providing more good quality jobs for Mainers.”

    Maine’s lack of a comprehensive solar policy is hurting our economy and environment and leaves the state missing out on the full benefits of solar to lower energy costs. Recent analysis has shown that solar power in Maine can reduce electricity costs for everyone because it operates during peak hours and is typically located close to where power is consumed.

    In 2005, Governor John Baldacci established Maine's first solar rebate program. However, funds have since run out for the inititive and Governor Paul LePage has not had the wisdom to continue the program. While the Baldacci adminstration led to bipartisan agreements, like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Inititive (RGGI) and others,  progressing clean energy technologies in Maine, the LePage administration is in climate change denial. (photo of Governor Baldacci at the kick-start of his rebate program. photo by Ramona du Houx)

    “Like most people, I had gotten used to just paying my electric bill every month and didn’t know that I had any choice over price or how that electricity is generated,” said Portland resident Elissa Armstrong. “Recently, my husband and I have invested in solar panels on our house and also in a community solar project. It is a great relief to keep our energy dollars here in Maine, where the sun shines. Now that solar has come down in price, there is a tremendous opportunity for nearly all Mainers to make an upfront investment to get off the expensive dependence on power from away.”

    Solar technology and markets have exploded over the last few years as prices have fallen dramatically—nearly 75 percent in the last five years. In the last three years alone, the U.S. has installed roughly 15,000 MW of solar capacity – as much as fifteen nuclear power plants. In 2014, there were 186,000 new residential solar systems installed. (GTM Market Insights, 2014)

    “Because Maine is one of the few states that lacks pro-solar policies, Maine families and businesses are missing out on the enormous economic and environmental benefits of advanced solar energy technology,” said Glen Brand, Sierra Club Maine Chapter Director. “It’s time for our state to move forward with a solar policy that builds upon what’s working to reduce pollution, create good jobs, and lower and stabilize energy costs, while helping Mainers to become more energy secure and independent.”

    However, at the start of 2015, Maine had the lowest amount of solar installed per capita in the region, and the lowest number of solar jobs per capita. In the first half of this year, Maine’s newly installed solar placed it among the bottom 15 of the fifty states, while every other state in the Northeast was in the top twenty-six. (GTM Market Insights, 2015-Q2)

    The Maine Legislature has failed to pass any substantive solar policy in the past three sessions, in large part due to opposition from the governor or utilities. Last year the Legislature had to override the governor’s veto to develop an analysis of the value of solar for Maine ratepayers. That analysis by the PUC surprised many by showing that solar power actually lowers prices for all ratepayers by bringing down the cost of transmission lines and reducing the use of the most expensive power plants during the summer.

    Earlier this year the Legislature overrode the governor’s veto of a Resolve that directed the PUC to conduct a stakeholder process and seek consensus on a significant new solar policy—a process that was supported by solar advocates and utilities alike.

    “Although there are many issues are not yet resolved, these PUC meetings have been extremely constructive,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “As we look to the upcoming session, lawmakers will need to show leadership to put an effective solar policy into law that will get Maine out of last place on solar. It is clear that three is overwhelming support for solar, here in Maine.”

    Despite the lack of a clear solar policy, Mainers are increasingly investing in solar power for their homes, businesses, and communities. Most are taking advantage of Maine’s net-metering rules. Net-metering allows customers to get bill credits for solar production that can be used to offset the cost of power they consume from the grid. Although it does not work as well for larger solar installations, net-metering makes it easier for residential customers to install solar. Therefore solar supporters said that net-metering should stay in place as new alternatives are explored and evaluated.

    Opportunities for Solar farms to power towns and communities-

    Photo: The Freeport community solar farm being built by ReVison Energy.

    “The electricity bill for the City of Rockland costs taxpayers over $400,000/year in taxes and fees,” said Rockland City Councilor Larry Pritchett. “Across Maine, towns and cities own 1,800 acres of capped landfills that could be excellent sites for developing solar farms to generate power for cities and schools, or for community solar farms to provide power to local residents and businesses. Many of these could be excellent sites for developing solar farms to generate power for city. Despite many solar landfills in other states, Maine’s outdated rate structures, and lack of solar policy, make it almost impossible for towns to recoup the cost of solar investment and achieve the tremendous benefits for our citizens that solar can offer.”

    The diverse group of solar supporters did said they are looking for a solar policy that:

    • Increases the amount of solar installed in Maine, increasing renewable energy generation and stability for more solar jobs. (The PUC has determined that the status quo is likely to yield 100-150 MW of solar by 2021.)          
    • Treats solar homeowners and businesses fairly—protecting their ability to generate their own power and recognizing the value of the solar they provide to the grid—while providing a clear benefit for other ratepayers.
    • Works well for solar customers of all sorts and sizes, from homeowners to large businesses, and from community solar to grid-scale solar farms.

    “Maine congregations are starting to look more at solar power, for their church buildings and with their members,” said Reverend Carrie Johnson, the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Augusta. “Solar is an important part of our response to the threat of climate change, which people of faith are deeply concerned about. It is also a way for individuals and communities—including congregations—to take direct action to reduce our own dependence on fossil fuels. With state policy as a partner, there is tremendous opportunity for us to work together for a solar future for Maine.”

  • Nations agree to curb climate change with historic Paris draft agreement

    By Ramona du Houx

    Negotiations went through the night to come up with an agreement in Paris, France, to curb climate change amoungst over 191 nations. On December 12, 2015 the draft treaty was reached.  Phone calls between the US President Barack Obama, and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, and appeals from the French Priminister Hollande and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, all helped to push countries towards agreeing to the final draft.

    In the pact would commit countries to keeping the rise in global temperatures by the year 2100 compared with pre-industrial times "well below" 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and "endeavor to limit" them even more, to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

    Critically, countries would also be committed to limiting the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100.

    Read the draft agreement HERE.

    The full plenary session still requires an unanimous agreement from all contries. This is set to take place on Saturday afternoon and evening. Objections at this stage could still disrupt a final deal.

    Ban Ki-moon urged countries to agree the deal, “We have come to a final moment of a journey that has been going on for decades. The end now is in sight. Let us now finish the job. We must protect the planet that sustains us. Billions of people are relying on your wisdom."

    Photo: Alex Cornell du Houx, a former state Rep. from Maine, is in Paris as a leader of lawmakers from everystate that are demanding action on climate change. The coalition he represents have a sign up letter for current lawmakers that bypasses Congress for clean energy action. See more here.

  • Over 400 of Portland’s middle school students stand with Paris Climate Change Conference for action now

    Students from King Middle School at Portland City Hall on December 4, 2015, making a stand to encourage people to take action personally against climate change. Photo by Portland Citycouncilor Jon Hinck.

    By Ramona du Houx

    Cars honked and people waved support for over 400 students from King Middle School, city officials, members of 350.org, and concerned citizens when they marched to Portland City Hall on December 4, 2015. There they held a rally to promote climate change awareness and urge people to make changes to reduce waste, pollution and carbon emissions.

    “Climate Change is not a debate—it’s happening now,” said an impassioned student driving the reality home that this generation will experience the effects of the world’s climate changing in devastating ways if we don’t take action now.

    The students have been studying climate change issues, and the march/rally was part of their assignment.

    “The kids have it right on climate. The rest of us should follow their lead and get on the job of making our energy system clean and renewable,” said City Councilor Jon Hinck.

    Speakers called for immediate action and told the audience they can start recycling, composting, walking or biking instead of driving, and switching out traditional light bulbs to low-energy alternatives. The students point: everyone can make a difference if we all act.

     “We are not here to celebrate, but to motivate,” said eighth-grader Siri Pierce at City Hall. “We know this will be a more serious problem in the future, so why not start fighting now?”

    The march coincided with the United Nations climate talks in Paris, which hopefully will culminate with a legal global treaty amongst the 191 countries taking part in the talks.

    The last time a global climate treaty was signed was in 1997 with the Kyoto Protocol. But that agreement only required wealthy countries to reduce carbon emissions.  This time developing and emerging nations are poised to sign on, making this agreement truly global.

    Many nations have come to understand climate change technologies can help grow economies. Alternative energy is among the industries in Maine that show the most potential for job growth, according to a state report commissioned by the Maine Technology Institute in 2013 to identify fast-growing, technology-intensive industries that could yield significant economic growth.

    Businesses that work in alternative energy are a part of the state’s fastest-growing sectors, according to the report. The sector experienced job gains in Maine of 11.9 percent, from 2007 to 2012, and is predicted to grow by 4.7 percent through 2022, beating a forecasted U.S. growth rate of 2.3 percent.

    “I am very motivated — and you are my motivation,” Mayor Michael Brennan told the students as he gave them a key to the city.

     Portland is currently adding solar panels to city buildings. The effort is part of the city’s climate action plans that are being currently implemented across all aspects of its operations from transportation and land use planning, to vehicle policies and fuel usage.

     

     

  • State lawmakers bypass Congress to support 50 percent clean energy by 2030 at Paris Climate Conference

    Kibby wind farm’s community ribbon cutting in Maine’s Western Mts – the farm helps cut carbon pollution while supplying clean energy. Maine, as a part of RGGI, and has helped to lead the battle against carbon pollution. Photo by Ramona du Houx

     By Ramona du Houx

    Over 350 state and local elected officials, representing every state, launched a sign on letter calling for 50 percent clean energy by 2030, and 100 percent clean energy by 2050, at the Paris Climate Conference. More elected officals are expected to sign on the letter in the coming days.

    “California’s example shows that climate action can be an engine for broadly shared economic prosperity,” ​said California Senator President Pro Tempore Kevin De León, as he announced the initiative. ​“By promoting the development of clean energy resources, we are simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality, and creating jobs that can lift families out of poverty. If Congress won’t act, it’s incumbent on state and local leaders to do the job for them.”

    Former Maine State Representative Alex Cornell du Houx, Des Moines, Iowa Mayor Frank Cownie, and Falcon Heights Minnesota Council member Beth Mercer-Taylor speak at an international press conference promoting 50 percent clean energy by 2030 and 100 percent clean energy by 2050 at the Paris Climate Conference.

    California, the world’s 7​th largest economy, recently passed legislation to achieve 50 percent clean energy by 2030.

    A number of current and former elected officials organized the initiative including former Maine State Representative Alex Cornell du Houx, former Councilor and Deputy Town Supervisor Town of Caroline, New York, Dominic Frongillo, and California East Bay Municipal Utility District Director Andy Katz.

    “We organized this initiative to highlight the important work state and local governments are doing to promote clean energy and reduce carbon pollution, despite many members of Congress who lack the leadership to protect our families and communities,” ​said Cornell du Houx.​

    The announcement focused on the success state and local governments have been achieving in clean energy innovation and implementation.

    "We want the rest of the world to know that the climate-denying, anti-science voices in Congress do not represent America,” s​aid Nick Rathod​, Executive Director of the State Innovation Exchange. Innovations at the state level often drive our national policy forward and that is exactly what is happening in the fight against climate change. States are leading the way."

    Maine, as a member of the New England Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), has made great strides combating climate change, and RGGI has earned the state over $70million that has been invested in clean energy initiatives.

    Farmington’s new Medical Arts Center at Franklin Community Health Network’s is saving energy while delivering critical medical care, in a large part, because of $59,532 in incentives from RGGI funds awarded by the state’s Efficiency Maine- established during the Baldacci administration. 

    RGGI estimates a return of more than​ $2.9 billion​ in lifetime energy bill savings to more than 3.7 million participating households, and 17,800 businesses. California's Cap-and-Trade Program, which started in 2012, generated $969 million in revenue ​for the state through the end of 2014. It is expected to generate $2 billion a year or more in the future.

    The RGGI states have experienced over a 40 percent reduction in power sector carbon pollution since 2005, while the regional economy has grown eight percent. “This proves that we can reduce pollution that’s putting our communities’ health at risk while growing jobs and prosperity. From East Coast to West Coast — states and local communities are leading the way,” said Katz.

    This year, the United States has hit many clean energy milestones. America has added more clean power than ​natural ​gas, with clean energy generation up​ 11 percent​ while natural gas generation declined. During this time, jobs​ in the solar power industry grew 20 times faster than the rest of the economy.

    The transition to renewables creates jobs and opportunities.

    “Our region used to be coal country, and now is powered by 40 percent wind. That's the future that cities and states are creating,” s​aid Des Moines, IA Mayor Frank Cownie. “Where there used to be 23 coal mines 100 years ago in and around the city, now we are building a green space corridor and new industries. It's time for cities, states, the United States and the world to aggressively commit to creating a better, clean energy future."

    California East Bay Municipal Utility District Director Andy Katz, California Senator President Pro Tempore Kevin De León, West Palm Beach, FL Mayor Jeri Muoio, and Des Moines, IA Mayor Frank Cownie speak at an international press conference promoting 50 percent clean energy by 2030 and 100 percent clean energy by 2050 at the Paris Climate Conference. 

    When Congress has been gridlocked over how to combat climate change local communities have taken on the challenge.

    “Cities and states are on the front lines of climate change. As sea levels rise, our city is in danger,” ​said West Palm Beach, FL Mayor Jeri Muoio​. “To protect our future, and lead by example, we have made a commitment to power all our city vehicles without fossil fuels.”

    People in every state are beginning to understand that too many members of Congress are trying to obstruct the President’s clean energy initiatives. 

    “The political will to act on climate change exists in every state, and community. But it has been drowned out with millions of dollars dirty energy companies spend sowing doubt and denial. Right now, Exxon-Mobil is under investigation for misleading shareholders, and the American people,” ​said Frongillo​. “We need elected officials to lead a fair and swift transition to 100 percent clean energy.”

    Climate change has been at the root of many conflicts around the world. Sometimes, civil unrest breaks out, which too often has led to war.

    “A recent ​Pew study ​found ISIL , or Daesh, and climate change are seen as the top two global threats — and the two are interlinked. As a former Marine and now naval officer, I have seen this link firsthand. Instability caused by extreme weather helps terrorists like Daesh recruit fighters — Syria’s unusually​ severe drought​ helped trigger that conflict, ”said Cornell du Houx.​ ​“We need to protect our nation, and the world, from the real threats caused by climate change.”

    The initiative also supports the implementation of President Obama's Clean Power Plan, as it will bring the U.S. within seven percent of the stated goal.

    “We appreciate the administration’s leadership and commitment to working with state and local government,” said Cornell du Houx.​ “The launch of this letter is only the beginning. We will be working with state and local elected officials across America to ensure a healthier and safer future for our children. As leaders responsible for America’s present and future prosperity, we must take action now.”

    So far, in Maine, these elected officials have signed on to the letter. More are expected to sign, soon:

     David Miramant, State Senator, ME

    Ryan Tipping-Spitz, State Representative, ME

    Roberta Beavers, State Representative, ME

     Margaret Rotundo, State Representative, ME

     Michael Devin, State Representative, ME

     Brian Hubbell, State Representative, ME

    Deane Rykerson, State Representative, ME

    Pinny Beebe-Center, State Representative, ME

    James Davitt, State Representative, ME

     Richard Farnsworth, State Representative, ME

     Joyce McCreight, State Representative, ME

     Chuck Kruger, State Representative, ME

     Christine Burstein, State Representative, ME 

    Anne-Marie Mastraccio, State Representative, ME

     Linda Sanborn, State Representative, ME

     Denise Tepler, State Representative, ME

     The letter:

    Dear President Obama:

    We, the undersigned local and state elected officials, strongly support the goal to achieve more than 50 percent clean energy by 2030, putting us on the path to 100 percent clean energy sources by 2050.

    This is a necessary and achievable goal. With the implementation of the Clean Power Plan, the EPA estimates that the United States will increase our current generation of clean energy by 30 percent. This means we are already on track to generate 43 percent clean energy by 2030 by effectively implementing the Obama Administration’s policies. We appreciate the administration’s leadership supporting clean energy—and with additional leadership at the federal, state, and local levels, our country will successfully reach the 50 percent by 2030 goal.

    Clean energy is an American success story. It is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the United States and already provides 360,000 jobs. The solar industry alone employs 143,000 people—more individuals than work in coal mines—and grew 20 percent in 2014. Last year a new solar project was installed every 2.5 minutes.

    Transitioning to clean energy isn’t just the smart choice for growing our economy—it keeps our families healthy. According to the American Lung Association, almost half of Americans live in places where pollution levels are too often dangerous to breathe. By transitioning to clean energy, we can clear the air and reduce the health risks of pollution.

    The time to act is now. Fourteen of the 15 warmest years on record have all occurred since 2000, and 2014 was the warmest ever recorded. Our communities are already feeling the growing costs of increased number of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, droughts, and flooding. According to NOAA, the frequency of billion-dollar storm-related disasters has increased five percent each year since 1980.

    In Paris, the United States and our global partners will offer concrete targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the most devastating impacts of climate change. However, true success in Paris—and in the days, weeks and months that follow—will come down to America’s willingness to build on the momentum from the UN talks and continue to lead the world by implementing clean energy solutions.

    States, cities and businesses are already paving the way with clean energy solutions that are substantially and cost-effectively transitioning our country away from dirty fossil fuels and towards clean sources like wind and solar. As leaders responsible for America’s present and future prosperity, we must protect our communities from the dangers of climate change.

    To ensure our economic prosperity, to protect our health and children, and to ensure our security and safety, we need to act now to transition our country to more than 50 percent clean energy by 2030.

    Very Respectfully,

     350 state and local elected officials

  • Paris Climate Change summit opens with Pres. Obama's call for action

    President Barack Obama will be in Paris at the Climate Change summit to help guide nations on this issue. He said that last year carbon emissions world wide did not grow, or diminish, while third world countries economies grew. This signaled that the world understands fighting climate change with new technologies also grows economies.

    Pres. Obama said, "old"arguments for inaction on (climate change) had been broken... I come here personally as the leader of world’s biggest economy and second biggest emitter to say that America not only acknowledges its role in climate change but embraces doing something about it," said Pres. Obama during the opening session of a United Nations conference attended by 196 nations, he said the "old" arguments for inaction on (climate change) had been broken.

    Some 151 world leaders converged on the exhibition halls at Le Bourget Airport just outside the French capital to attend the summit.

    For the first time in history, we have a chance to put in place a global climate agreement that will spur countries to take ambitious action that will reduce carbon pollution, support clean energy, and ensure we deliver a planet that is worthy of future generations.

  • Eagle recovers and is released in time for Thanksgiving

    Female Bald Eagle who lost the tip of her beak after being hit by a car on October 5, was released from Avian Haven on November 24th on her home turf at Phillips Lake in Dedham.

    She was getting restless and the workers at the haven knew it was time for her to return to her home, where hopefully her mate awaits. As you can see, her beak still lacks the typical full curved tip. The workers at haven said she has proven that she can tear up the toughest meat so, she was released in time for Thanksgiving.

    Avian Haven is a non-profit and does amazing work caring for wild birds. Consider a donation.

    Photos by Terry Heitz

  • Endangered Sturgeon return to Penobscot River post dam removal

    Endangered shortnose sturgeon released into the Penobscot River. Photo submitted by G. Zydlewski

    by Ramona du Houx

    Endangered shortnose sturgeon have rediscovered habitat in the Penobscot River that had been inaccessible to the species for more than 100 years prior to the removal of the Veazie Dam in 2013. The Dam's removal was the result of the dedication of many environmental organizations, including the Natural Resource Defense Council, state and local officials, native tribes and concerned citizens, over fifteen years.

    University of Maine researchers confirmed evidence that three female shortnose sturgeon were in the area between Veazie and Orono, Maine in mid-October.

    Researchers had previously implanted these sturgeon with small sound-emitting devices known as acoustic tags to see if they would use the newly accessible parts of the river. Among the most primitive fish to inhabit the Penobscot, sturgeon are often called “living fossils" because they remain very similar to their earliest fossil forms. The fish can live more than 50 years and their bony-plated bodies contribute to making them unique.

    Historically, shortnose sturgeon and Atlantic sturgeon had spawning populations in the Penobscot River as far upstream as the site of the current Milford dam, and provided an important food and trade source to native peoples and early European settlers. Overharvest and loss of suitable habitat due to dams and pollution led to declines in shortnose sturgeon populations and a listing as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1967.

    Graduate student C. Johnston and Associate Professor J. Zydlewski implant a small tagging device into a shortnose sturgeon

    In 2012, Gulf of Maine populations of Atlantic sturgeon were listed as threatened under the ESA. Today, a network of sound receivers, which sit on the river bottom along the lower river from Penobscot Bay up to the Milford Dam, detect movement and location of tagged fish.

    According to Gayle Zydlewski, an associate professor in the University of Maine School of Marine Sciences, the three individual fish observed were females. These fish have since been tracked joining other individuals in an area identified as wintering habitat near Brewer, Maine. Wintering habitat in other rivers is known to be staging habitat for spawning the following spring.

    “We know that shortnose sturgeon use the Penobscot River throughout the year, and habitat models indicate suitable habitat for spawning in the area of recent detection upriver of Veazie, although actual spawning has not yet been observed,” said Zydlewski.

    Since 2006, Zydlewski has been working with Michael Kinnison, a professor in UMaine’s School of Biology and Ecology, and multiple graduate students, including Catherine Johnston, to better understand the sturgeon populations of the Penobscot River and Gulf of Maine. Johnston, who has been tagging and tracking sturgeon in the Penobscot for two years to study the implications of newly available habitat to shortnose sturgeon, discovered the detections of sturgeon upstream of the Veazie dam remnants. Each new bit of information adds to the current understanding of behavior and habitat preferences of these incredible fish.

    “We’re very excited to see sturgeon moving upstream of where the Veazie Dam once stood, and into their former habitats,“ said Kim Damon-Randall, assistant regional administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries’ Protected Resources Division. “We need to do more research to see how they're using it, but it's a tremendous step in the right direction.”

    Habitat access is essential for the recovery of these species. The removal of the Veazie Dam is only a portion of the Penobscot River Restoration Project, which, when combined with the removal of Great Works Dam in 2012, restores 100 percent of historic sturgeon habitat in the Penobscot. In addition to dam removals, construction of a nature-like fish bypass at the Howland Dam in 2015 significantly improves habitat access for the remaining nine species of sea-run fish native to the Penobscot, including Atlantic salmon and river herring.

    “Scientific research and monitoring of this monumental restoration effort has been ongoing for the past decade,” said Molly Payne Wynne, Monitoring Coordinator for the Penobscot River Restoration Trust. “The collaborative body of research on this project is among the most comprehensive when compared to other river restoration projects across the country.”

     NOAA Fisheries is an active partner and provides funding for this long-term monitoring collaboration that includes The Penobscot River Restoration Trust, The Nature Conservancy and others. These efforts are beginning to shed light on the response of the river to the restoration project. Restoration of the full assemblage of sea-run fish to the Penobscot River will revive not only native fisheries but social, cultural and economic traditions of Maine’s largest river.

  • President Obama's solar energy job program will provide jobs to 50,000 veterans

    by Ramona du Houx

    A six-year Obama program has been launched this fall to train veterans in the growing solar panel installation industry, addressing climate change and jobs for veterans. The program has started on American military bases, and will provide training for at least 50,000 veterans.

    The initiative will not only train our veterans in an industry that is taking off and is on track to be the largest producer of energy in the world by 2050, but solar installations at military bases will save billions of dollars in energy costs for the Defense Department.

    In addition to the veterans program, the Department of Agriculture will fund $70 million in solar and renewable energy projects in rural and farm areas.

    The Department of Energy is also proposing new efficiency standards for commercial air conditioners, which will result in substantial cuts in emissions and provide businesses sizable savings on energy costs.

    In October 2015, the Energy Department announced a program that will spend $53 million for research and development of projects that will drive down the cost of solar energy.

     Governor John Baldacci turns on the switch that started his solar panel tax rebate program in 2006. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    ReVision Energy of Maine has installed some of the largest solar arrays in Maine. The company proclaims that the state is well suited for more solar energy panels as Maine gets the same amount of sun, yearly, as Florida.

    In Maine, Governor John Baldacci started a solar panel tax rebate, which was a huge success, only to be stopped by Governor LePage.

    While Republicans in Congress have obstructed the President’s plans for aggressive alternative energy subsidies Obama has been able to achieve milestones with executive actions, like this solar program.

    Solar energy taking off around the world-

    In Germany every home and business is mandated, with government subsidies, to have a solar panel.

    Between the tropics and probably as far as the 33rd parallel, the sun could soon be a major source of energy for households and businesses.

    Countries such as Mexico and Indonesia, long dependent on cheap home-produced oil and coal, are realising that a solar panel on every roof can reduce poverty by lowering energy costs as well as minimising the destabilising weather effects from higher CO2 emissions.

    As the International Energy Agency (IEA) says in its World Energy Outlook 2015, the tumbling cost of installing photovoltaics, as much as a commitment to limiting climate change, is persuading these countries to switch to renewables. It predicts a cumulative $7.4trn global investment in renewable energy by 2040.

    Indonesia has forged ahead by limiting investment subsidies that have underpinned coal, oil and gas production for decades. China is also beginning to make the switch to renewables while moving away from dirty, energy-intensive industries.

    The result, says the IEA, could limit the demand for oil and keep the price relatively low for the rest of the decade.

     

  • Maine House Speaker Eves praises housing bond victory, urges LePage to act quickly

     Speaker of the House Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, on Tuesday night praised the passage of bond Question 2 on the statewide ballot. The bond passed with 68 percent of the vote.

    Eves led the bipartisan effort in the State Legislature to pass the $15 million bond proposal to invest in affordable and efficient housing for Maine seniors.

    “The passage of the housing bond is a huge victory for Maine seniors and the economy. It’s a win win for communities across the state,” said Eves, who sponsored the bond proposal. “The investment will help a dire need for affordable housing for Maine seniors, while also helping to create construction jobs in communities in rural and urban areas of our state. Maine voters sent a strong message tonight in support of seniors. I urge the governor to release the bond quickly and honor the will of the voters.”

    Maine has a shortage of nearly 9,000 affordable rental homes for low income older adults, and that this shortfall will grow to more than 15,000 by 2022 unless action is taken to address the problem, according to a report by independent national research firm Abt Associates.

     “With the passage of the Housing Bond, Maine can start to scale that number back through improved affordable housing measures in some of our most vulnerable communities,”said Lori Parham, AARP Maine State Director. 

    The Senior Housing Bond will enable more Mainers to age in their own homes by revitalizing communities and providing new homes for older Mainers; dedicating funds to home repair and weatherization of some existing homes; and by creating jobs in the construction industry.

    AARP Maine heard from thousands of their 230,000 members in the state regarding this issue in the weeks leading up to the election.  On October 20th, more than 4,000 AARP members participated in a live tele-town hall with Senate President Mike Thibodeau (R-Winterport) and House Speaker Mark Eves (D-North Berwick).  Participants were invited to ask questions during the town hall meeting and many callers expressed their support for the state’s investment in affordable housing.

  • Maine must address acidification to save our fisheries, our way of life

    Portland, Maine docks, photo by Ramona du Houx

     Editorial by Maine State Senator Chris Johnson, from Somerville.

    Last year, Maine became the first state on the East Coast to tackle the growing threat to our way of life posed by an increasingly acidic ocean. Today, we stand at a crossroads.

    Ocean acidification is a very real and serious threat to the Gulf of Maine. The ocean today is more than 30 percent more acidic than it was at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. The causes of this increasing acidity are myriad, but most of them are linked in one way or another to global climate change.

    Lobster fishing is at risk with ocean temperatures on the rise and acidification. Photo of Belfast lobster fisherman by Ramona du Houx

    According to a story in this week’s Portland Press Herald, scientists estimate that by 2100, the oceans will be more acidic than they’ve been in the past 300 million years. The Gulf of Maine is particularly vulnerable to acidification, which threatens many of our important fisheries. Acidity harms shellfishes ability to grow shell during their juvenile stage, drastically decreasing their likelihood of survival.

    Several communities in my district rely in part on these fisheries. Seafood eaters in our state will likely have ordered  “Pemaquid Oysters” or clams or other shellfish from our region at restaurants. These marine creatures provide jobs and spur economic activity in our region.

    But this isn’t just a local concern. Maine’s fisheries in 2014 had a value of more than $585 million, nearly all of which came from shellfish such as lobster, clams, scallops and oysters. Simply put, threats to these sea creatures are threats to our state’s economy.

    Last year, I co-chaired a commission to study the effects of ocean acidification on Maine’s coast and fisheries. The group included policymakers, fishermen, aquaculturists and scientists.

    The commission’s work culminated last December in a report recommending several steps Maine could take to address the threat of acidification in our state. Perhaps the most important of these steps was also the simplest: The state must take acidification seriously and embark on a sustained, coordinated effort to mitigate its effects on the Gulf of Maine.

    A bill by Rep. Mick Devin currently awaits the Legislature when it returns in January. That bill would establish a long-term Ocean Acidification Council to address this growing threat.

    The coming session is reserved for emergency legislation. There can be no question that the threat posed by acidification to our fisheries, our economy and our way of life is an emergency the state must address.

    Some may raise concerns about the minimal costs associated with an ongoing effort to protect our fisheries. But the cost of doing nothing is far greater to our friends and neighbors who turn to the ocean to earn a living and support their families.

    We simply cannot wait for an ecological collapse of one of our important fisheries before we act.

    Climate change is real. Ocean acidification is real. They threaten to devastate our marine resource economy — and many coastal communities’ way of life. I urge you to contact your lawmakers, and ask them to support the critical work ahead. There’s too much at stake to stop working now.

     

  • If waitresses earned a decent minimum wage, our dignity might get a raise

    Editorial by Annie Quandt, a server working in the Old Port and a resident of Westport Island. First appeared in the PPH

    While I’ve never had someone completely stiff me because it took them a while to get their food – the customers’ rationale in the New Jersey incident, as they noted on the receipt – I frequently find myself putting up with almost anything from customers in order to get the tips that make up half of my income.

    In Maine, 82 percent of all tipped restaurant workers are women, and any woman who has worked for tips will tell you that sexual harassment and rude comments are, sadly, just another part of the job.

    When your customers pay your wages instead of your employer, you don’t have the luxury of speaking up when you feel uncomfortable or disrespected; if rent is due that week or you have a family to feed, you just have to put up with it.

    I’ve been working at a restaurant on Commercial Street in Portland for just about a year now, and I just picked up a second serving job on Commercial Street to make ends meet. Recently, two men came in, clearly intoxicated, and sat at their table for an hour and a half trying to look up the waitresses’ skirts.

    All of the women working that night could feel these men leering and were uncomfortable and anxious the whole shift. When we complained to management, they told us to cut off their alcohol consumption – but nothing else was done.

    These types of incidents are commonplace in the restaurant industry. I have been asked out on dates, with the customer’s pen hovering over the tip line as he waited for my answer. I have been asked for my number more times than I can count. I have had customers comment on my outfit or my body while I’m working. I’ve wanted to say something, but the customer is always right … right?

    When women servers can’t defend themselves from rude behavior from customers, the entire restaurant culture begins to accept it as the norm. Even management plays a role in harassment in this industry.

    If you’re not “date ready” when you show up for your shift, in some restaurants, you’ll be told to change or unbutton your top or to put on more makeup to make yourself appealing. In my case, the managers have made it clear that the curvier girls are not allowed to wear certain clothing items, while the more slender servers can wear whatever they want to work.

    Comments like this about body types and personal style not only make us all feel watched and uncomfortable but also sometimes make it more difficult for us to do our jobs. When I’m sweeping and cleaning and doing side work in 95-degree heat, the freedom to wear a skirt versus jeans is almost a necessity.

    Complaints about sexual harassment from co-workers are rarely taken seriously in restaurants. It is always tough to report unwanted attention or harassment from co-workers or customers, but it is especially difficult if the harassment comes from management.

    Where do you turn when the person who holds power over you at your job is the one harassing you? What happens if you do make a formal complaint? The restaurant industry is a tight-knit community, and if any employer thinks you might be a hassle, they won’t hire you.

    Servers wield so little power in their positions and in their wages, and I am inclined to think that the two are inextricably linked.

    According to a Restaurant Opportunities Centers United survey, servers working in states like Maine – where there is a sub-minimum wage for tipped workers – are three times more likely to experience harassment on the job than servers who work in states where everyone makes the same minimum wage.

    This is evidence of a systemic problem – combined with the fact that, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 7 percent of American women work in restaurants but 37 percent of all EEOC sexual harassment complaints come out of this industry. We’re allowing an entire industry full of hardworking women to go to work with the presumption that they will be harassed.

    I support the 2016 “wages with dignity” referendum, which would raise the minimum to $12 by 2020 and eliminate the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers by 2024. Earning the same minimum wage as other workers would mean tipped workers wouldn’t feel like they have to ingratiate themselves with their customers regardless of their behavior.

    It would mean that management and our co-workers would have to respect us as equals (because when you are paid less, you must obviously be worth less). And it would mean a stable wage for the long winters and tough weekday shifts when servers are more willing to sacrifice dignity at work in order to make ends meet.

    I deserve dignity on the job, and one fair minimum wage would help me get it.

  • LePage releases a fraction of Land for Maine’s Future funds but still holds $11.5 million hostage

    Article and photos by Ramona du Houx

    Governor Paul LePage has reluctantly agreed to release $2.2 million for Land for Maine’s Future projects, but is still refusing to sell new voter approved bonds for the land conservation program.

    LePage’s decision to free up the money will allow several projects that have been stalled for to move forward. 

    For months, LePage has been holding $11.5 million for the program hostage as he pushes lawmakers to divert revenues from timber harvesting on state-owned lands into a new program, apparently, to help low-income Mainers heat their homes.

    “This is a first step, but we're right back where we were a month ago when we first learned the governor was trying to freeze LMF work entirely,” said Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond. “The governor is still holding $11.5 million of voter-approved bonds hostage in his outrageous attempt to extort concessions from the Legislature.”

    The millions of dollars of bond funding is slated to support conservation projects in dozens of communities around the state. These projects protect recreational wildlife areas, working waterfronts and family farms. 

    LePage also had frozen $2.2 million left over from bond sales approved during the Baldacci administration, considered an outrageous deed of not acting in accordance to the wishes of the voters of Maine. 

    It is these $2.2 million worth of bonds that will go toward projects that already have been endorsed by the board and have been waiting for the release of the funds— for years. All projects must match the Land for Maine’s Future dollars with money from other sources, and the taxpayer money carries an additional requirement that the land must remain open to the public for recreation.

    The Crooked River Forest project in Otisfield/Harrison and the Eagle Bluff project in Clifton will receive roughly $400,000 of the $1.6 million. A third project, which would protect a commercial fishing wharf in St. George, will receive $250,000. Another $199,600 is available for farmland preservation.

    The remaining funds will not cover all eligible projects already lined up.

     In addition lawmakers will have to reauthorize some bonds that expire because of LePage’s delaying tactics next month. When the Legislature returns in January, lawmakers will consider a bill to reauthorize $6.5 million in unsold bonds that will expire in November. 

    LePage has shown few signs that he will reverse course on selling new bonds without lawmakers agreeing to his hostage terms to funnel timber revenues into a home heating assistance program. Attorney General Janet Mills said courts would be skeptical of his plan because of the tight restrictions on how logging money can be spent.

    According to the polling firms – one Republican and the other Democratic — 74 percent of respondents said LePage should release voter-approved bond funds.

     

     

  • Support a new national park and national recreation area east of Baxter State Park

    The Natural Resources Council of Maine is collecting signatures in support of the National Park. We've set a new goal of collecting a signature from someone in every Maine town and city. Add your name and town to the petition at http://nrcm.kintera.org/parkpetition. And, if you don't live in Maine by all means please sign the petition for your state and town. After all, a gift to America should be for everyone!

    The Time for a New National Park & National Recreation Area in Maine is NOW! 

    Elliotsville Plantation, Inc. wants to donate up to 150,000 acres of land it owns east of Baxter State Park to create a new National Park and National Recreation Area. To successfully designate a new National Park takes the support of Maine’s Senators and Representatives and an Act of Congress. 

    Senators Collins and King and Representatives Pingree and Poliquin need to hear that Maine people support this proposal. We have reached a critical time in this campaign. NOW is the time to make your voice heard! Let Congress know by signing the petition below. 

    This National Park is a tremendous opportunity for Maine. It will conserve a spectacular piece of Maine's North Woods for wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation, and will bring much-needed economic stimulus to the Katahdin region and beyond. 

    NRCM is working to create a National Park and National Recreation Area east of Baxter State Park, and we may share this information with the organizing team solely for the purpose of achieving this goal.

  • October 21: A New National Park for Maine presentation by NRCM in Belfast

    National Resources Council of Maine's Ryan Parker will give a presentation at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Belfast, 37 Miller Street, on  October 21st at 6:30 p.m. about Elliotsville Plantation, Inc.’s (EPI) proposal to create a National Park and National Recreation Area east of Baxter State Park.

    EPI has proposed to donate up to 150,000 acres to the federal government to create Maine’s second National Park. Ryan will use photos and film to give attendees a glimpse of the land and its special features, and will describe the journey toward making the dream of a National Park and National Recreation Area reality.

    This event is free and open to the public and begins at 6:30 p.m. Light refreshments will be served. FMI: please contact Ryan at rparker@nrcm.org or (207) 430-0144

  • The proposal for a new National Park in Maine receives strong support in poll

    A proposal to create a new national park and national recreation area in Maine continues to be overwhelmingly popular among Maine voters. Up to 150,000 acres would be donated to the federal government to create Maine’s second National Park.

    “The park and recreation area would create between 450-1,000 jobs, permanently protect access for outdoor recreation such as snowmobiling and hunting, and include a $40 million endowment to offset costs,” said Lucas St. Clair, the president of Elliotsville Plantation Inc., the foundation that has proposed creating the park and recreation area. “The latest poll shows again that there is strong support for the national park and recreation area and the economic benefits they would provide to the state and the region.”

    In a poll released last week by Critical Insights, 60 percent of Maine voters said they support creating a new national park and national recreation area while only 20 percent of respondents said they opposed the idea.

    This is the third consecutive public poll showing strong support for a new national park. In June, a poll of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, where the national park and recreation area would be located, found that 67 percent of voters across the district approve of the proposal, while just 25 percent oppose.

    And a poll question released by the Natural Resources Council of Maine in April showed similarly strong support, with 59 percent of respondents supporting the proposal and only 20 percent opposed.

    The most recent Critical Insight poll was conducted Sept. 24-30 and included 300 landline and cell phone surveys and 300 online respondents. With a total sample of 600, results presented here have an associated sampling error of +/- 4 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

    The June poll of 500 likely voters was conducted by Moore Information and pollster Hans Kaiser. Kaiser has extensive experience polling in Maine and his clients include U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

    The poll, which included both landline and cell phone interviews, was conducted May 13-14. It has a margin of error of 4 percent with a 95 percent confidence level.

    “The park and recreation area gets wide majority support among a wide cross section of respondents, including Republicans (57 percent support), Democrats (77 percent support) and Independents (68 percent support),” Kaiser wrote in a memo about the poll. “Men and women, voters of all ages, conservatives, moderates and liberals are all supportive of the proposal with large majorities in each group favoring it.”

  • Penobscot Nation's fight for namesake river

    The Penobscot Nation is an Indian tribe that has occupied and cared for the Penobscot River since time immemorial. Our principal community and the seat of our government, Panawanskek, is situated in the river about 10 miles north of Bangor and is known also as Indian Island. The name of our tribe, Pa’nawampske’wiak, translated as “people of where the river broadens out,” references the rich fishing grounds near Indian Island that sustained us for thousands of years.

    Our creation stories illustrate the special relationship we have always shared with the river. It is the foundation of our clan system.

    For decades, dams and water pollution have threatened the fish, eel, muskrat, duck, turtle and other river-borne food sources upon which Penobscot people historically relied. Valuable medicinal plants, such as flagroot, which grows on the bottom of the river, are similarly vulnerable.

    But there is good news. The Penobscot Nation has joined forces with federal agencies, the state of Maine and nonprofit organizations to restore the health of the river and the resources that sustain Penobscot people. After more than 200 years of suffering from harms that beset the majority of Indian tribes in this country — poverty, discrimination and the loss of language and traditions that define our unique culture — Penobscots are again able to stand up for themselves and the river that shares their name.

    Inflammatory accusations of “secret pacts,” detailed by Matt Manahan in his Aug. 6 OpEd in the Bangor Daily News, serve only to undermine the peaceful coexistence between the tribe and the residents of Maine and awaken the “us versus them” mentality long discarded by the majority of Mainers who are proud to know the Penobscot Nation once again has a voice on the river.

    It’s worth looking at history before blindly accepting attempts to conjure old fears of “Indian motives,” with respect to the current court case.

    In 1972, the United States filed United States v. Maine to compensate the tribe for the loss of lands and natural resources taken by the state under illegal treaties. “By virtue of [these] wrongful actions,” the complaint said, Maine “has interfered with the hunting, fishing, and trapping rights of the [Penobscot] Nation, which rights are of great religious significance to the Nation causing great spiritual and economic damage to the Nation and its members.”

    In 1980, Congress settled these claims and in so doing made a solemn promise to the Penobscot Nation that its “subsistence hunting and fishing rights” were secure. “Prior to the settlement,” Congress said, “Maine claimed the right to alter or terminate these rights at any time.” Henceforth, the Penobscot Nation would have “the permanent right to control” those activities. “The power of the State of Maine to alter such rights without the consent of the [Tribe] is ended.”

    Will the results be catastrophic if this promise is vindicated? Of course not.

    In fact, in the first 20 years after the land claims settlement, there was a broad consensus among the parties — the United States, Maine and the Penobscot Nation — that the tribe’s sustenance fishing right exists in the Penobscot River. It was only when the tribe, supported by federal agencies such as the EPA, asserted its right to a healthy river to maintain its sustenance fishery that it received a heavy-handed response from some who claim the tribe cannot be trusted.

    Several corporations with waste discharge pipes that empty into the Penobscot River have been persuaded that their and the tribe’s interests in the river are mutually exclusive. And their lawyers advocate a very radical position, one that would sever the tribe from the river forever. They claim the tribe has no sustenance fishing right in the river, that its reservation is strictly confined to islands, where there are no fish.

    It’s unfortunate that, in recent years, these lawyers have apparently persuaded the Maine attorney general’s office to abandon its own views about the Penobscot Nation’s reservation fishery in the river.

    On Aug. 9, 2012, Maine Attorney General William Schneider wrote to Penobscot Chief Kirk Francis to announce a newly minted opinion that the Penobscot Nation’s reservation does not include the river. This view, if accepted, would result in the termination of the tribe’s sustenance fishing right, contrary to the promise made by Congress to the Penobscot Nation when it settled United States v. Maine.

    Why wouldn’t the Penobscot people go back to court to have that promise affirmed? Why wouldn’t the federal government, which brought the original lawsuit and supported the original settlement, support the Penobscot Nation in its effort?

    We are in court today to ensure that the promises made to the Penobscot Nation by Congress are upheld. These promises recognize our ancient ties to the river and confirm our sustenance fishing right.

    Mark Chavaree is a member of the Penobscot Nation and serves as the tribe’s General Counsel. He grew up on Indian Island and resides there with his family.

  • New poll finds Maine electorate overwhelmingly supports release of Land for Maine’s Future funds

    91 percent Democrats, 76 percent Independents, 54 percent Republicans from every region of the state support Legislation to Release Voter-Approved Bonds Even When They Hear Other Arguments

    By Ramona du Houx

    Governor Paul LePage has held funds to protect and preserve land in Maine for all Mainers hostage. The program he is strangling is called Land for Maine's Future, LMF. The program expanded areas in Baxter Park, and across the state under the Baldacci administration. But nothing has been done to preserve lands with the LePage administration. In fact, the opposite has happened with more land being opened to loggers. LePage has also tried to stop the board of LMF from functioning. The people of Maine love their state, and the evidence is in with a new poll which shows strong support for LMF.

    “This poll is the latest indication that Maine people, across the state and from all walks of life, are benefitting from and valuing the economic importance of Land for Maine’s Future investments,” shared Maine Coast Heritage Trust President Tim Glidden. “It is time policymakers empower this popular land conservation program, so that it can once again fulfill the wishes of Maine voters.”  

    Headed into the next legislative session, new data from the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies and Democratic firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates finds that Maine Democrats, Independents and Republicans from every part of the state overwhelmingly support the release of all voter-approved Land for Maine’s Future funds even when they hear a simulation of the debate that has been occurring on the issue. 

    “We have heard months of debate and suggestions that LMF only benefits the wealthy or that voter-approved bond funds can be used as political leverage,” said Tom Abello, Senior Policy Advisor at The Nature Conservancy in Maine.  “What this poll tells us is that voters know better and are not buying any of it.  We hope Legislators are listening.” 

    It's important to note out door sports enthusiasts support LMF.

    “Understanding how valuable LMF investments are to trengthening our economy, especially in rural areas, I am not at all surprised by these numbers”  said Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine Executive Director David Trahan. “Sportsmen and women and outdoor groups know that LMF benefits all Mainers, not the rich.  We again ask the Governor and legislators to listen and release LMF funds now.”  

    Highlights:

    • 74 percent  - Overall support for releasing LMF funds: Given a brief, neutral explanation of the two perspectives on LMF funding (see attached memo), 74 percent of Maine people say the Governor should release voter-approved bond funds. 
    • Only 16 percent side with the idea that the Governor should not release LMF funds.  Those supporting the release of LMF funds include:

    -          91 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of independents and 54 percent of Republicans.

    -          More than 70 percent of Mainers in every region of the state: coastal Maine (75 percent), Northeast (76 percent), South (76 percent) and Central (72 percent)

    By a margin of 79 percent to 16 percent Maine voters reject withholding LMF bonds until the Legislature approves an unrelated law to use revenue from timber harvests on state lands to fund a separate government program to help low-income Maine residents upgrade their heating systems.  Seventy-nine percent chose, instead, to support the view that “once the people of Maine have spoken at the ballot box, no one individual – even the Governor – ought to have the right to veto that decision.”

    By a margin of 73 percent to 12 percent of Maine voters believe that LMF funds benefit all Mainers and visitors versus only benefiting “wealthy landowners.” 

    “We are not surprised to see such strong support for LMF regardless of political affiliation or region in Maine,” said Wolfe Tone of The Trust for Public Land.  “Voters have overwhelmingly approved these bonds at the ballot box six times.  With more than 30 projects in limbo across the state, Mainers understand how withholding LMF funds is hurting their own local economy. It is time to release LMF funding and allow these investments to move forward.”

  • Maine’s wind investment— great investment even if wind doesn’t always blow

    Kibby Wind Farm in Maine's Western Mts. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    By Jeremy Payne—executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association.

    In just eight years, Maine’s burgeoning wind energy industry will have grown from an idea to more than 700 megawatts by the end of 2015. These wind farms will be equal to about 10 percent of the state’s energy generation.

    This is a major success story for our economy, environment and energy security. For example, a study earlier this year by former state economist and professor Charlie Colgan found that wind development will create 4,200 jobs in 2015 alone and lead to employee earnings of more than $250 million. Also, the environmental benefits continue to accrue to Maine. A study completed by Sustainable Energy Advantage found that by 2020 our wind energy will reduce harmful carbon pollution by 2.5 million tons, which is equal to the pollution of 400,000 passenger vehicles.

    While wind energy continues to make good on its promises, there are others who attempt to mislead the general public with their own creative storytelling. A recent opinion piece ran in which the writer expressed his misguided belief that because of one hot day last month when it was not as sunny or windy as he would have liked he believes we have invested poorly in our clean energy future with wind and solar farms. In essence, the claims seem based on that single day’s energy output, and we are supposed to then project out for the other 364 days of the year and conclude wind and solar are not viable?

    Imagine if we applied that same logic to other parts our lives. If it doesn’t rain tomorrow, should we throw away our umbrellas? If there are no fires in town, should we close down the fire station? More directly, if natural gas supplies are insufficient to meet our demand — as they were during the 2014 polar vortex — should we remove the pipeline infrastructure?

    Certainly the answer to all those questions is “of course not!” And that also applies to the question of whether we made a mistake by investing in Maine-made, emission-free energy. One can quickly see how foolish it is to extrapolate one day’s data to reach a desired conclusion about the viability of a particular technology or industry.

    The truth is we have invested wisely and carefully in our energy future by harvesting our natural resources: the wind, the water, the wood and the sun. Just recently, we learned that the Oakfield wind farm soon will become fully operational and will become the largest wind farm in New England — Kibby Mountain at 132 megawatts had been its largest. This project will deliver nearly $27 million in economic benefits to the community over its 20-year lifespan. These dollars will be spent on community-approved projects — new fire trucks, road reconstruction and a donation to a veterans memorial, for example.

    In addition to the economic and environmental advantages of investing in wind energy, we also know that the cost of wind is at an all-time low. In fact, two recent term sheets initially approved by the Maine Public Utilities Commission included costs below the standard offer, or default service, rate paid by ratepayers. The savings were projected to total $32 million to $73 million over the proposed 20-year contracts. Wind is able to offer these competitive prices because it has no fuel costs. Wind offers the equivalent of a 30-year fixed mortgage. Our “monthly payment” will always be the same because there are no fuel price swings. On the other hand, relying heavily on fossil fuels is like signing an adjustable rate mortgage. The prices can and do change without warning.

    But it is also important to acknowledge that no one resource — not wind, not solar and not natural gas — is the answer to Maine’s energy challenges. Instead, there is enough room at the table for all resources to help us achieve our goals of a growing economy, a clean and breathable environment and a more secure energy future.

    Overall, Maine’s energy future is very complex, and there are no easy answers; however, when we do consider heeding the advice of others, I would suggest we make sure those who are offering it are knowledgeable and credible.

     This editorial first appeared in the Bangor Daily News.

     

  • Keep looking up for migrating birds that stay longer in Maine

    Migration is a system of organized chaos. Sure, songbirds fly south for the winter. But they might fly north, west or east, or just fly around randomly before heading south. Eventually, most of them will end up on their normal wintering grounds, but getting there is half the fun.

    I grew up thinking that birds flew south in prearranged fashion, following the arrows drawn on maps that depicted the Atlantic Flyway, the Mississippi Flyway, the Central Flyway and the Pacific Flyway. That’s what my books told me. I suppose most birds do behave according to such models, but there are a bunch of rogues out there that make life interesting this time of year.

    In early September, our birds depart predictably, following favorable winds southbound. If our own birds wander elsewhere we wouldn’t know it — out of sight, out of mind. What we do know is that some birds departing from elsewhere end up here. By late September, anything can happen, and often does.

    Many species enter a period of post-breeding dispersal. They nest in predictable places, and when those chores are over, they wander. The best example in Bangor has been teasing birders for over a month. Great egrets nest in southern Maine. This year, a bunch of them wandered up here during post-breeding dispersal and took a liking to Essex Woods. They are so conspicuous, they can be seen from the highway by passing motorists. Eventually, they’ll fly south.

    Some birds deliberately wander. Ruby-throated hummingbirds are the only nesting hummingbirds east of the Mississippi, but some western hummingbirds wander east when they are done nesting. The rufous hummingbird, in particular, has a habit of drifting into Maine later in autumn. Although most of our hummingbirds are gone by mid-September, I always advise leaving feeders up until frost. You never know what might visit in October.

    Some birds get blown off course in bad weather, especially those that have a habit of wandering anyway. Cave swallows nest in the Caribbean, with small colonies in Florida and Texas. They are famous for wandering after breeding, and they aren’t particularly troubled when blown north. They sometimes show up along the Maine coast in October.

    Migration forces many species to fly long distances over water. They really don’t want to. It’s a big risk. But their wintering grounds are on the far side of the Caribbean and there is little choice. Songbirds from Atlantic Canada typically work their way down the coast of Nova Scotia, meandering back and forth until they get up the courage to cross the Gulf of Maine. They touch down on the first land they find, or even on boats if necessary.

    Maine islands are notorious migrant traps. King of these is Monhegan, 10 miles from the midcoast mainland. While many Maine inns are reaching the end of their peak seasons, the inns on Monhegan are typically full this time of year. Birders flock from everywhere to see what rarities have fallen out there.

    Although Monhegan is only a mile long, there are 17 miles of walking trails crisscrossing the island. However, many of the visiting birds merely forage around town where there are bushes, hedges and ornamental fruit trees. It can be possible to find 20 species of warbler in a morning. Generally, the birds are so tired and hungry that they ignore people. Close, easy views are the norm.

    However, it is the likelihood of rare birds that attracts so many birders to Monhegan in late September. Lark sparrows nest from the Great Lakes to the west coast, nowhere near Maine. A few turn up on Monhegan every autumn. Clay-colored sparrows are expanding their breeding range eastward into Maine, but only in miniscule numbers. The ones that turn up on Monhegan in autumn have likely gotten lost and wandered from the Midwest.

    Summer tanagers are a southern bird, with a nesting range north to New Jersey. Somehow, a few end up on Monhegan every autumn, and that is decidedly in the wrong direction for a bird that should be heading to the tropics.

    You’d have to go to the grasslands of central states to find a nesting dickcissel. I saw my first in Tennessee on June 26, 1999. Western kingbirds reside west of the Mississippi. Both species are infamous wanderers in the fall, and Monhegan vacuums up any bird that roams into the Atlantic.

    Don’t think of yourself as planning too late for Monhegan this year. Think of yourself as planning early for next year.

    Bob Duchesne serves as vice president of Maine Audubon’s Penobscot Valley Chapter. He developed the Maine Birding Trail, with information atmainebirdingtrail.com. He can be reached at duchesne@midmaine.com.

  • Efficiency Maine Trust seeks input on 3-year plan leaders call for it to be strong so it will create savings

     

    "Energy efficiency is the biggest win-win-win I can imagine for Maine’s economy, environment, and energy future,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine urging the Efficiency Maine Trust and Public Utilities Commission to come up with a strong energy plan. Courtesy photo

    By Ramona du Houx

    As The Efficiency Maine Trust held a public input session, a diverse group of experts called on Efficiency Maine and the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to develop and approve, respectively, a strong three-year plan that will maximize energy savings for homes, businesses, industry, and municipalities.

    By maximizing energy savings businesses have had more funds to invest in their enterprises like hiring people.

    “Everybody seems to talk about the fact that Maine homes are some of the oldest and leakiest in the country,” said Richard Burbank, President of Evergreen Home Performance. “But Efficiency Maine and the businesses like mine aren’t just talking about it, we’re addressing the problem. Efficiency Maine is rapidly accelerating the rate of home energy improvements and, as a result, companies like ours are growing and hiring workers. Much more remains to be done, but we’re charting the right course.”

    The September 24th day-long stakeholder meeting at the Augusta Civic Center followed a contentious legislative session that ended in lawmakers voting unanimously to reaffirm their commitment to Maine’s strong energy-efficiency law.

    “Energy efficiency is the most powerful strategy Maine can pursue to address our energy challenges,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “This has been reaffirmed by the Legislature, the impressive results of Efficiency Maine programs, and by business leaders and ordinary Mainers every day. Having a strong three-year plan is the foundation of Maine’s progress on energy efficiency.”


    According to Maine law, every three years Efficiency Maine must develop a plan that lays out the programs, initiatives, and budgets it will use to help homeowners, small businesses, industrial producers, and others save money through energy-efficiency improvements. These range from helping homeowners install insulation, to helping small businesses cut electricity bills with lighting retrofits, to helping hospitals and paper mills install sophisticated high-efficiency equipment.

    In FY 2015 alone, Efficiency Maine helped roughly 4,000 businesses (most of them small businesses), 10,000 homeowners, and more than 3,000 units in larger multifamily buildings. It launched a new program specifically designed to help small businesses by bringing ready-to-go lighting improvements right to their doorstep. Roughly 350 small businesses participated in this initiative, primarily focused in Aroostook County and Waterville-Winslow.

    “Small businesses are a foundation of the Maine economy and our members are deeply committed to saving energy with energy efficiency,” said Will Ikard, Director of the Maine Small Business Coalition. “We applaud Efficiency Maine for beginning to focus more intensely on initiatives for small businesses and urge them to step up those efforts significantly in the next three years.”

    Maine’s energy-efficiency efforts get a big boost from our participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI.)

    RGGI is a cooperative market-based effort to reduce climate-changing carbon pollution from power plants and spur investments in energy efficiency and clean energy. Allowance auctions have taken place quarterly since September 2008, generating  $70,402,611.85 million in total for Maine.

     RGGI carbon markets currently generate about $15 million/year that Maine uses to support energy-efficiency efforts, specifically those that reduce oil use. This includes the Home Energy Savings Program and programs for large manufacturers.

    RGGI is providing significant benefits to Maine by supporting cost-effective weatherization and efficiency improvements through Efficiency Maine, which was developed under the Baldacci administration. Former State Senator and current Portland City Councilor Jon Hinck helped herald the legislation through the legislative process.

    "Not only has RGGI helped clean up and diversify Maine's energy mix and make us more energy efficient, it demonstrates the potential to make even more positive gains when done right," said Former State Senator and current Portland City Councilor Jon Hinck in an interview.

    Richard Burbank, President of Evergreen Home Performance (at the left in the courtesy photo) said, “ Efficiency Maine is rapidly accelerating the rate of home energy improvements and, as a result, companies like ours are growing and hiring workers."

    RGGI took on additional significance when the U.S. EPA finalized its Clean Power Plan, the first national limits on carbon pollution from power plants. Under the Clean Power Plan, it is expected that Maine and the region will continue to operate RGGI (which is stricter than the Clean Power Plan), and continue to lower both energy costs and carbon pollution through energy efficiency.

    Over the first four years of its operation (2010-2014), Efficiency Maine initiatives yielded $1 billion in lifetime energy savings, primarily in electricity and heating oil reductions. Every dollar invested by Efficiency Maine—which is generally matched by spending on the part of the home or business—has yielded more than $5 in energy savings.

    “Energy efficiency is a fantastic investment for the state of Maine,” said Tom Tietenberg, Professor of Economics, Emeritus, at Colby College and a former board member of the Efficiency Maine Trust. “By helping homes and businesses overcome informational, technical, and financial barriers, Efficiency Maine is helping energy consumers of all types keep more of their dollars in their pockets. These savings, in turn, mean more spending within Maine and a boost to the economy."

    Maine policymakers have recognized the proven successes and excellent economic returns that energy efficiency provides. Maine law requires Efficiency Maine to develop a plan that seeks to capture all cost-effective energy-efficiency savings opportunities that it can achieve.

    In 2013, the Legislature passed an omnibus energy bill that clarified this standard, and capped ratepayer contributions at $60 million/year. In 2015, in reaction to a PUC decision to limit efficiency spending to less than $25 million, the Legislature voted unanimously, over Governor LePage’s veto, to reaffirm that efficiency spending could be up to $60 million, as long as the spending met the “cost-effectiveness” test.

    “We know three things very clearly,” said Voorhees. “First, energy efficiency is extremely cost-effective. Second, Maine’s efficiency efforts are a proven success. Third, there are huge opportunities to improve the energy efficiency of our buildings. If you put those together, the direction Maine must take is clear: we should do as much energy efficiency as we can. Energy efficiency is the biggest win-win-win I can imagine for Maine’s economy, environment, and energy future.”

  • RGGI earns Maine over $5,5 from the most recent auction - $70 million total from all the auctions

     

     Cumulative proceeds from all RGGI CO2 allowance auctions exceed $2.2 billion dollars for reinvestment in strategic programs, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, direct bill assistance, and GHG abatement programs.

    By Ramona du Houx

    The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the nation’s first market-based regulatory program to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, announced the results of RGGI’s 29th August, 2015 auction of carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances. Maine earned $5,597,684.96.

    RGGI is a cooperative market-based effort to reduce climate-changing carbon pollution from power plants and spur investments in energy efficiency and clean energy. Allowance auctions have taken place quarterly since September 2008, generating  $70,402,611.85 million in total for Maine.

    "Not only has RGGI helped clean up and diversify Maine's energy mix and make us more energy efficient, it demonstrates the potential to make even more positive gains when done right," said Former State Senator and current Portland City Councilor Jon Hinck.

    Maine joined RGGI in 2007, when the Legislature voted nearly unanimously to participate. Hinck was a major proponent of the program and helped the Baldacci administration sail through the lawmaking process. The program took effect in 2009 and is on schedule to reduce global warming pollution from power plants by half of 2005 levels by 2020. Carbon emissions in the nine participating RGGI states have dropped by about a third since 2009.

    “This latest auction is Maine’s smart, consumer-oriented approach to this climate program in action. Most of this RGGI revenue will go straight to energy-saving programs at Efficiency Maine to help businesses lower energy costs and homeowners save on heating bills,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director, of the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

    Together the participating states add up to the seventh largest source of global warming pollution in the world. More than 30 percent of this pollution comes from dirty power plants. RGGI helps to “cap” that as each power plant has to acquire enough permits to cover its emissions or face heavy fines. They can also “trade” or sell them among themselves.

    The Efficiency Maine Trust determines how the revenue generated from the sale of credits can be best used for energy efficiency programs and carbon savings.  By law, Maine invests RGGI revenue into energy efficiency programs and investments. From 2009 - 20011 Maine invested $27 million from its sale of carbon credits in energy efficiency projects, generating $80 million in reduced electric bills for residents and businesses. This activity added a total of $92 million to Maine’s economy, including more than 900 jobs, according to the NRDCM.

    Since 2013 Efficiency Maine has been allocating 35 percent of its revenues from RGGI to programs that will reduce home heating demand, lower costs and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

     “Out of the $2.5 million, nearly $1 million will go to the Home Energy Savings Program, enough to help another 1,000 homeowners invest in insulation, heat pumps and other energy-saving improvements. RGGI is also putting Maine in great competitive position to benefit from the President’s Clean Energy Plan to cut carbon from power plants, so it’s win-win-win,” added Voorhees.

    President Obama’s Clean Energy Plan would limit carbon pollution from all power plants, set improved energy efficiency standards for appliances and buildings, boost clean renewable energy, and help Americans, businesses, and communities deal with the effects of climate change.

    RGGI provides numerous economic benefits by stimulating economic investment and supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies— and their related businesses.

    Alternative energy jobs on the rise with good pay—

    RGGI has reduced pollution while measurably strengthening Maine’s economy by reducing energy costs and creating jobs. The cap-n-trade program also creates incentives for energy efficiency and clean, renewable power.

    Alternative energy is among the industries in Maine that show the most potential for job growth, according to a state report commissioned by the Maine Technology Institute in 2013 to identify fast-growing, technology-intensive industries that could yield significant economic growth.

    Businesses that work in alternative energy are a part of the state’s fastest-growing sectors according to the report. The sector posted job gains in Maine of 11.9 percent from 2007 to 2012, and is predicted to grow by 4.7 percent through 2022, beating a forecasted U.S. growth rate of 2.3 percent. It also has high average wages at $74,091. That compares with Maine’s average private-sector wage of $38,090.

    RGGI is providing significant benefits to Maine homeowners and businesses by supporting cost-effective weatherization and efficiency improvements while being an effective solution to help address global warming. The program is one of the most important steps in Maine’s Climate Action Plan, developed under the Baldacci administration to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to create an energy independent Maine. It also creates incentives for energy efficiency and clean, renewable power.

    RGGI has generated $2.2 billion in benefits for the nine U.S. states participating. It also created more than 14,000 new jobs in the Northeast and saved consumers $460 million in lower electric bills over the past three years, according to a report released July 13, 2015 by Analysis Group, a Boston-based consulting company.

    “This (29th) auction comes directly on the heels of several independent reports which have reinforced RGGI’s benefits to consumers, the economy, and our environment,” said Katie Dykes, Deputy Commissioner for Energy of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and Chair of the RGGI, Inc. Board of Directors. “States across the country are preparing for the implementation of EPA’s Clean Power Plan. With a seven year track record the RGGI states have demonstrated that reducing pollution is fully compatible with economic growth and providing reliable power.”

    The six-year-old carbon trading market, the first in the U.S., serves as a model for other states, which all must now regulate emissions to meet new rules from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Pennsylvania and Virginia officials have discussed joining RGGI.

    “There are a lot of states that are looking carefully at doing the same thing,” said Paul Hibbard, an Analysis Group vice-president and co-author of the study. “It will be hard for states to not realize that from the standpoint of economic efficiency, that’s the way to go.”

     The Northeast program was overhauled last year. After reducing the amount of allowances available by 45 percent, prices increased, and so did the incentive to cut emissions.

    Recently, Stanford researchers have a developed 50-state roadmap to a clean, renewable energy future, proving that Maine can become energy independent. The study, published in the Energy and Environmental Sciences, showcases how each state can replace fossil fuels by tapping into renewable resources available in each state, such as wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, and in some states— like Maine— tidal and off-shore wind.

  • Obama returns some land rights to Native Americans

    Robert and Fannie Mitchell. Tribal affiliation: Dine Photograph: Matika Wilbur

    Last month, the US justice and interior departments announced a $1 billion settlement over nearly 56 million acres of Indian land held in trust by Washington but exploited by commercial interests for timber, farming, mining and other uses with little benefit to the tribes.

    The attorney general, Eric Holder, said the settlement "fairly and honourably resolves historical grievances over the accounting and management of tribal trust funds, trust lands and other non-monetary trust resources that, for far too long, have been a source of conflict between Indian tribes and the United States."

    Native Americans have been marginalized and have suffered descrimination since the white man came to these shores.

    Three years ago, Matika Wilbur sold almost everything she owned, left behind her apartment in Seattle, and set out on the open road. The former high school teacher had one goal: to photograph members of each federally recognized Native American tribe in the United States.(above photos)

     Wilbur has traveled more than 250,000 miles to ensure stereotyped images are broken.

    For more go HERE

     

  • Maine ecologists seek climate change opportunities

     One of Maine’s leading experts in climate change will moderate a discussion in November on developing "a positive vision" to leverage climate change.

    Sponsored by the Georges River Land Trust, “Climate Change and Our Economy: A Positive Vision for Maine in an Era of Rapid Climate Change,” will be held at the Strand Theatre in Rockland. 6:30 to 8 p.m.,Thursday, Nov. 5. 

    The moderator will be Unity College President Dr. Stephen Mulkey. Georges River Land Trust Executive Director Gail Presley called him “a champion of sustainability science” who has pivoted the Unity College curriculum to focus on the “what’s next” of environmentalism, sustainability science, and the transdisciplinary approach to ecological problem solving.

    Mulkey will moderate a conversation with a panel of Maine ecological leaders who will provide their perspectives on climate change solutions for Maine’s future. Panelists include Natural Resources Council of Maine Executive Director Lisa Pohlmann, Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club Director Glen Brand, and ReVision Energy co-founder William Behrens.

    “We are pleased to offer an evening of discussion about climate change and how our incredible landscape can be leveraged to make Maine become a major economic player through adaptation,” Presley said.

  • Free wildflowers from Wyman's to help bees and berries

    Wyman’s has launched a 2015 honeybee campaign, a program that distributes free wildflower seeds in an effort to educate the public about the importance of keeping honeybees alive so they can pollinate habitats. For Wyman's blueberries honeybees are esential.

    The company website, nobeesnoberries.com, encourages people to sign up for the free seeds and provides information on Colony Collapse Disorder. the name given in the absence of a known cause, to the mysterious disappearance of honeybee colonies over the last decade in the U.S.

    “Honeybees are responsible for pollinating one-third of our nation’s produce, including wild blueberries,” the website reads. “Every berry we grow owes its existence to the crazy dance of a honeybee from flower to flower. In our business, it’s simple. No bees, no berries.”

  • LePage vs Land for Maine's Future's protection of Maine woods

    Woods in Maine, photo by Ramona du Houx

    Op-Ed

    Gov. Paul LePage threatens to increase logging on Maine’s Public Reserved Lands beyond sustainable levels and divert the revenues to unrelated purposes. But his plans run contrary to the origins, unique characteristics and purpose of these Lands.

    Maine has about 600,000 acres of Public Reserved Lands, comprising 30 parcels across the North Woods and Down East regions. Many people have hiked, camped, birded, fished or hunted on them, including at the Bigelow Preserve, Donnell Pond, Little Moose and Deboullie units. They differ from other Maine-owned places, such as state parks, wildlife management areas, lands purchased with funding from the Land for Maine’s Future Program, and boat launches.

    The Public Reserved Lands system as we know it today was created in the 1970s and 1980s after enterprising Portland Press Herald reporter Bob Cummings unearthed the fact that Maine people owned “reserved public lots,” about 1,000-1,280 acres in every unorganized township. The lots were reserved to the people when Maine was separated from Massachusetts in 1820. Many lots were not actually located on the ground; they were simply a percentage of a township’s entire land base. Over the years the lots, particularly the un-located ones, had become “lost“ and were simply incorporated into the rest of the township. The private owners of the townships — mostly large paper companies — managed the public lots as if they owned them.

    When the lots were rediscovered in the 1970s, a complicated trading process began. The state focused on consolidating the scattered parcels into larger units that had multiple public values, including wildlife habitat, scenic areas and recreation sites, as well as timber. The result is the spectacular system of Public Reserved Lands of today.

    A unique characteristic is that the lands are subject to a “public trust,” which limits how they can be used. While the state of Maine has absolute power over its other ownerships, it does not have full authority over the Reserved Lands. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court determined that the trust constrains their uses, and any income derived from timber harvesting or other management is likewise subject to the public trust and specific uses.

    Management of the Public Reserved Lands is funded entirely by money generated from the lands themselves, primarily from timber harvesting. The revenues pay for all roads, trails, campsites, picnic tables, other recreational infrastructure, wildlife habitat and ecological protection activities, and timber management and harvesting activities. No taxpayer funds are used. The total-self-funding mechanism is unique to our Public Reserved Lands.

    The state parks, by contrast, are funded by taxpayers through the General Fund. Management of lands acquired with Land For Maine’s Future funds — places managed by entities such as the Bureau of Parks and Lands, local land trusts, or the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife — may be funded through endowments, harvesting revenues or taxpayer funds.

    For 40 years, the Bureau of Parks and Lands (formerly the Bureau of Public Lands) has harvested sustainably on the Public Reserved Lands, managing them in exemplary fashion, improving timber quality and quantity. Today, the lands include some of the best, largest and oldest trees in the state. Big, old trees are not merely economic assets, but they also provide some of the finest habitat in Maine (outside of Baxter State Park) for plant, bird and mammal species that thrive in such environments.

    Traditionally, BPL foresters have established harvest levels on Reserved Lands after a timber inventory. The inventory was updated in 2012 by an independent consultant and forms the basis for the current sustainable cut level. Unfortunately, the LePage administration is pushing to log significantly above the scientifically determined levels and wants to divert funds to unrelated purposes — heating the homes of low-income families. But because of the public trust, no matter how worthy the proposal for an alternative use of those funds, the harvest revenues from Reserved Lands may not be diverted elsewhere.

    The administration should seek heating monies — a good cause — from sources unencumbered by legal protections that prevent him from doing so. Indeed the public trust doctrine was set up to prevent such unrelated diversions.

    Equally important, overcutting would degrade the important wildlife habitat and recreational values. Our Public Reserved Lands are a special part of the legacy our forebears gave us two centuries ago. Likewise, we are obliged to pass them unimpaired to generations 200 years down the line. That is what public trust means.

    Catherine B. Johnson is the Natural Resources Council of Maine’s North Woods project director and senior staff attorney.

  • Annual Acadia Night Sky Festival in its Seventh Year

    August 14, 2015

    Aurora photo by Ramona du Houx

    Dark night skies lend themselves to the ultimate stargazing experience in Downeast Maine at the 7th Annual Acadia Night Sky Festival, Sept. 10-14. The festival explores and celebrates the starlit skies through education, science and art workshops, lectures and parties and is presented by Celestron.

    There will be events held throughout the duration of the festival in and around Acadia National Park. The park and Downeast Maine are home to stellar night skies, which afford viewers the opportunity to see the clearest star-filled night skies in the eastern U.S. The festival is geared towards families and astronomers alike, and is a great way for residents and visitors to celebrate and promote the protection of the night skies while enjoying nationally recognized speakers, workshops, solar viewings, hikes and more.

    The festival kicks off with a variety of events, including a presentation by keynote speaker Dr. John A. Grant, III, a geologist at the Center for Earth & Planetary Studies at the National Air and Space Museum. Grant will be presenting "Exploring Mars with the Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity Rovers." Following Grant's presentation, attendees may enjoy the "Stars Over Sand Beach" event, where attendees can gaze at Acadia's amazing night sky and learn about constellations guided by an Acadia National Park ranger.

    Other events taking place during the festival include a sip and paint event, photography classes taught in the park, star parties allowing viewers to get up-close and personal with constellations and other night sky features, and a viewing of "The Astronaut Farmer" at the Celestial Cinema in Agamont Park. There will also be book signings and a variety of children's activities.

    In addition to Grant, there will also be many nationally recognized speakers at the festival. Dan Barry, MD, PhD, is a former NASA astronaut and veteran of three space flights, four spacewalks and two trips to the international space station, as well as Alisdair Davey from the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Other can't-miss events include an under-the-stars boat cruise with Abbe Museum educator and Wabanaki storyteller George Neptune, bioluminescent night paddles in Castine, and solar viewing at The Jackson Laboratory.

    The 2015 Acadia Night Sky Festival is presented by Celestron. Additional support comes from Friends of Acadia, Bar Harbor Whale Watch, Bluenose Inn, Cape Air and Witham Family Hotels.

    For a complete listing of events happening during the 7th Annual Acadia Night Sky Festival presented by Celestron, visit www.acadianightskyfestival.org. For travel information to the area, visitwww.barharborinfo.com.

  • The Clean Power Plan in Maine

    Graphic and article by Ramona du Houx

    President Obama’s Clean Energy Plan would limit carbon pollution from all power plants, set improved energy efficiency standards for appliances and buildings, boost clean renewable energy, and help Americans, businesses, and communities deal with the effects of climate change.

    "'We’re the first generation to feel the impact of climate change; we're the last generation that can do something about it.' We only get one home.  We only get one planet.  There’s no plan B," said President Barack Obama announcing the Clean Power Plan. 

    The EPA’s Clean Power Plan sets the first ever federal limits on the carbon pollution that comes from existing power plants and causes climate change. The plan, which encourages investments in clean energy and energy efficiency, is designed to achieve a 32 percent reduction in power-plant carbon pollution by 2030. The plan explicitly builds on an existing policy in Maine and the Northeast, known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, which already sets a limit on carbon pollution from power plants.

    “Maine has suffered in many ways from coal-burning power plants to our south and west,” said Charles Colgan, Professor Emeritus of Public Policy and Planning at USM, currently, Director of Research for the Center for the Blue Economy, and former state economist of Maine. “From an economics perspective, those regions have been burning cheap dirty coal, while we foot the pollution bill and struggle to compete. The Clean Power Plan helps level the playing field, because Maine has already taken major actions to clean up our power supply.   Maine people should not have to pay the price for cheap coal power produced elsewhere. It is good news for anyone who cares about Maine’s competitiveness.”   

    The Clean Power Plan provides considerable flexibility to states to develop strategies to meet the pollution reduction targets, including through regional cooperation. A recent analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists identified Maine as one of 14 states on track to surpass Clean Power Plan pollution targets for 2020.  Maine has considerable clean energy resources, such as wind, solar, hydro and ocean renewables, which create local jobs and energy security. All of this puts Maine at a competitive advantageas the Clean Power Plan is implemented across the nation.

    “As a farmer who has been producing maple syrup and growing hay for decades, I have already observed negative changes in the climate,” says Russell Black, a farmer and Maine state representative (R-Wilton). “If we want to hand the Maine we grew up with to our kids, whether we’re farmers or not, we need to take smart actions to prevent climate change from getting far worse. I’m proud of the bipartisan solutions Maine has adopted that help our economy while reducing pollution.”

     The Cap-n-trade carbon reduction plan will:

    Protect the health of American families.

    In 2030, it will:
    • Prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths;
    • Prevent 1,700 non-fatal heart attacks; 
    • Prevent 90,000 asthma attacks in children;
    • Prevent 300,000 missed workdays and schooldays.

    Boost our economy by:
    • Leading to 30 percent more renewable energy generation in 2030;
    • Creating tens of thousands of jobs; and
    • Continuing to lower the costs of renewable energy;

    Save the average American family
    • Nearly $85 a year on their energy bills in 2030
    • Save enough energy to power 30 million homes in 2030, and
    • Save consumers $155 billion from 2020-2030;

    Continue American leadership internationally
    on climate change by keeping us on track
    to meet the U.S. 2020 and 2025 emissions targets.

    The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), is the nation’s first market-based regulatory program to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, and has placed Maine in a great position in the Clean Power Plan.

    “The Clean Power Plan is great news for Maine on so many different levels,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “It will ensure that other states join us and do their part to address climate change before it takes too great a toll on our economy, our health and our way of life. Maine has taken bold, effective action; these national limits on carbon pollution are way overdue.”

     RGGI allowance auctions have taken place quarterly since September 2008, generating  $64,804,926.89 million in total for Maine. By law, Maine invests RGGI revenue into energy efficiency programs and investments. From 2009 - 20011 Maine invested $27 million from its sale of carbon credits in energy efficiency projects, generating $80 million in reduced electric bills for residents and businesses. This activity added a total of $92 million to Maine’s economy, including more than 900 jobs, according to the NRDCM.

    Since 2013 Efficiency Maine has been allocating 35 percent of its revenues from RGGI to programs that will reduce home heating demand, lower costs and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

     “Out of the $2.5 million, nearly $1 million will go to the Home Energy Savings Program, enough to help another 1,000 homeowners invest in insulation, heat pumps and other energy-saving improvements,” added Voorhees.

    The Full Remarks by President Barack Obama about Clean Power Plan:

     THE PRESIDENT:  Gina, I want to thank you not just for the introduction, but for the incredible work that you and your team have been doing -- not just on this issue, but on generally making sure that we've got clean air, clean water, a great future for our kids. 

         I want to thank all the members of Congress who are here, as well, who have been fighting this issue, and sometimes at great odds with others, but are willing to take on what is going to be one of the key challenges of our lifetimes and future generations.  I want to thank our Surgeon General, who’s just been doing outstanding work and is helping to make the connection between this critical issue and the health of our families.

         Over the past six and a half years, we've taken on some of the toughest challenges of our time -- from rebuilding our economy after a devastating recession, to ending our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and bringing almost all of our troops home, to strengthening our security through tough and principled diplomacy.  But I am convinced that no challenge poses a greater threat to our future and future generations than a changing climate.  And that's what brings us here today.

         Now, not everyone here is a scientist -- (laughter) -- but some of you are among the best scientists in the world.  And what you and your colleagues have been showing us for years now is that human activities are changing the climate in dangerous ways. Levels of carbon dioxide, which heats up our atmosphere, are higher than they’ve been in 800,000 years; 2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record.  And we've been setting a lot of records in terms of warmest years over the last decade.  One year doesn’t make a trend, but 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have fallen within the first 15 years of this century.

         Climate change is no longer just about the future that we're predicting for our children or our grandchildren; it's about the reality that we're living with every day, right now. 

         The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security.  While we can't say any single weather event is entirely caused by climate change, we've seen stronger storms, deeper droughts, longer wildfire seasons.  Charleston and Miami now flood at high tide.  Shrinking ice caps forced National Geographic to make the biggest change in its atlas since the Soviet Union broke apart. 

         Over the past three decades, nationwide asthma rates have more than doubled, and climate change puts those Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital.  As one of America’s governors has said, “We're the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.”

         And that's why I committed the United States to leading the world on this challenge, because I believe there is such a thing as being too late. 

    Most of the issues that I deal with -- and I deal with some tough issues that cross my desk -- by definition, I don't deal with issues if they’re easy to solve because somebody else has already solved them.  And some of them are grim.  Some of them are heartbreaking.  Some of them are hard.  Some of them are frustrating.  But most of the time, the issues we deal with are ones that are temporally bound and we can anticipate things getting better if we just kind of plug away at it, even incrementally.  But this is one of those rare issues -- because of its magnitude, because of its scope -- that if we don't get it right we may not be able to reverse, and we may not be able to adapt sufficiently.  There is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change.  (Applause.)

    Now, that shouldn’t make us hopeless; it's not as if there’s nothing we can do about it.  We can take action.  Over the past several years, America has been working to use less dirty energy, more clean energy, waste less energy throughout our economy.  We've set new fuel economy standards that mean our cars will go twice as far on a gallon of gas by the middle of the next decade. Combined with lower gas prices, these standards are on pace to save drivers an average of $700 at the pump this year.  We doubled down on our investment in renewable energy.  We're generating three times as much wind power, 20 times as much solar power as we did in 2008.

    These steps are making a difference.  Over the past decade, even as our economy has continued to grow, the United States has cut our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth.  (Applause.)  That's the good news.  But I am here to say that if we want to protect our economy and our security and our children’s health, we're going to have to do more.  The science tells us we have to do more.

    This has been our focus these past six years.  And it's particularly going to be our focus this month.  In Nevada, later in August, I'll talk about the extraordinary progress we've made in generating clean energy -- and the jobs that come with it -- and how we can boost that even further.  I'll also be the first American President to visit the Alaskan Arctic, where our fellow Americans have already seen their communities devastated by melting ice and rising oceans, the impact on marine life.  We're going to talk about what the world needs to do together to prevent the worst impacts of climate change before it's too late.

    And today, we're here to announce America’s Clean Power Plan -- a plan two years in the making, and the single most important step America has ever taken in the fight against global climate change.  (Applause.) 

    Right now, our power plants are the source of about a third of America’s carbon pollution.  That's more pollution than our cars, our airplanes and our homes generate combined.  That pollution contributes to climate change, which degrades the air our kids breathe.  But there have never been federal limits on the amount of carbon that power plants can dump into the air.  Think about that.  We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and sulfur and arsenic in our air or our water -- and we're better off for it.  But existing power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of harmful carbon pollution into the air.

    For the sake of our kids and the health and safety of all Americans, that has to change.  For the sake of the planet, that has to change. 

    So, two years ago, I directed Gina and the Environmental Protection Agency to take on this challenge.  And today, after working with states and cities and power companies, the EPA is setting the first-ever nationwide standards to end the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from power plants.  (Applause.) 

    Here’s how it works.  Over the next few years, each state will have the change to put together its own plan for reducing emissions -- because every state has a different energy mix.  Some generate more of their power from renewables; some from natural gas, or nuclear, or coal.  And this plan reflects the fact that not everybody is starting in the same place.  So we're giving states the time and the flexibility they need to cut pollution in a way that works for them. 

    And we'll reward the states that take action sooner instead of later -- because time is not on our side here.  As states work to meet their targets, they can build on the progress that our communities and businesses are already making.

    A lot of power companies have already begun modernizing their plants, reducing their emissions -- and by the way, creating new jobs in the process.  Nearly a dozen states have already set up their own market-based programs to reduce carbon pollution.  About half of our states have set energy efficiency targets.  More than 35 have set renewable energy targets.  Over 1,000 mayors have signed an agreement to cut carbon pollution in their cities.  And last week, 13 of our biggest companies, including UPS and Walmart and GM, made bold, new commitments to cut their emissions and deploy more clean energy. 

    So the idea of setting standards and cutting carbon pollution is not new.  It's not radical.  What is new is that, starting today, Washington is starting to catch up with the vison of the rest of the country.  And by setting these standards, we can actually speed up our transition to a cleaner, safer future.

    With this Clean Power Plan, by 2030, carbon pollution from our power plants will be 32 percent lower than it was a decade ago.  And the nerdier way to say that is that we’ll be keeping 870 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution out of our atmosphere.  (Applause.)  The simpler, layman’s way of saying that is it’s like cutting every ounce of emission due to electricity from 108 million American homes.  Or it's the equivalent of taking 166 million cars off the road. 

    By 2030, we will reduce premature deaths from power plant emissions by nearly 90 percent -- and thanks to this plan, there will be 90,000 fewer asthma attacks among our children each year. (Applause.)  And by combining this with greater investment in our booming clean energy sector, and smarter investments in energy efficiency, and by working with the world to achieve a climate agreement by the end of this year, we can do more to slow, and maybe even eventually stop, the carbon pollution that’s doing so much harm to our climate.

    So this is the right thing to do.  I want to thank, again, Gina and her team for doing it the right way.  Over the longest engagement process in EPA history, they fielded more than 4 million public comments; they worked with states, they worked with power companies, and environmental groups, and faith groups, and people across our country to make sure that what we were doing was realistic and achievable, but still ambitious. 

    And some of those people are with us here today.  So, Tanya Brown -- Tanya, wave, go ahead -- there’s Tanya.  (Applause.)  Tanya Brown has joined up with moms across America to spread the word about the dangers climate change pose to the health of our children -- including Tanya’s daughter, Sanaa.  There’s Sanaa, right there.   

    Dr. Sumita Khatri has spent her career researching the health impacts of pollution at the Cleveland Clinic, and helping families whose lives are impacted every single day.  Doctor, thank you.  (Applause.) 

    Sister Joan Marie Steadman has helped rally Catholic women across America to take on climate.  Sister, thank you so much for your leadership.  (Applause.)  And she’s got a pretty important guy on her side -- as Pope Francis made clear in his encyclical this summer, taking a stand against climate change is a moral obligation.  And Sister Steadman is living up to that obligation every single day.  

    Now, let’s be clear.  There will be critics of what we’re trying to do.  There will be cynics that say it cannot be done.  Long before the details of this Clean Power Plan were even decided, the special interests and their allies in Congress were already mobilizing to oppose it with everything they’ve got. They will claim that this plan will cost you money -- even though this plan, the analysis shows, will ultimately save the average American nearly $85 a year on their energy bills.

    They’ll claim we need to slash our investments in clean energy, it's a waste of money -- even though they’re happy to spend billions of dollars a year in subsidizing oil companies.  They’ll claim this plan will kill jobs -- even though our transition to a cleaner energy economy has the solar industry, to just name one example, creating jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy. 

    They’ll claim this plan is a “war on coal,” to scare up votes -- even as they ignore my plan to actually invest in revitalizing coal country, and supporting health care and retirement for coal miners and their families, and retraining those workers for better-paying jobs and healthier jobs.  Communities across America have been losing coal jobs for decades.  I want to work with Congress to help them, not to use them as a political football.  Partisan press releases aren’t going to help those families. 

    Even more cynical, we've got critics of this plan who are actually claiming that this will harm minority and low-income communities -- even though climate change hurts those Americans the most, who are the most vulnerable.  Today, an African-American child is more than twice as likely to be hospitalized from asthma; a Latino child is 40 percent more likely to die from asthma.  So if you care about low-income, minority communities, start protecting the air that they breathe, and stop trying to rob them of their health care.  (Applause.)  You could also expand Medicaid in your states, by the way.  (Laughter.) 

    Here’s the thing.  We've heard these same stale arguments before.  Every time America has made progress, it's been despite these kind of claims.  Whenever America has set clear rules and smarter standards for our air, our water, our children’s health, we get the same scary stories about killing jobs and businesses and freedom.  It's true. 

    I'm going to go off script here just for a second.  (Laughter.)  Because this is important -- because sometimes I think we feel as if there’s nothing we can do.  Tomorrow is my birthday, so I'm starting to reflect on age.  And in thinking about what we were doing heretoday, I was reminded about landing in Los Angeles to attend a college as a freshman, as an 18-year-old.  And it was late August.  I was moving from Hawaii.  And I got to the campus, and I decided -- I had a lot of pent-up energy and I wanted to go take a run.  And after about five minutes, suddenly I had this weird feeling, I couldn't breathe.  And the reason was, back in 1979, Los Angeles still was so full of smog that there were days where people who were vulnerable just could not go outside.  And they were fairly frequent.

    And folks who are older than me can remember the Cayuga River burning because of pollution, and acid rain threatening to destroy all the great forests of the Northeast.  And you fast-forward 30, 40 years later, and we solved those problems.  But at the time, the same characters who are going to be criticizing this plan were saying, this is going to kill jobs, this is going to destroy businesses, this is going to hurt low-income people, it's going to be wildly expensive.  And each time, they were wrong. 

    And because we pushed through, despite those scaremongering tactics, you can actually run in Los Angeles without choking.  And folks can actually take a boat out on that river.  And those forests are there.

    So we got to learn lessons.  We got to know our history.  The kinds of criticisms that you're going to hear are simply excuses for inaction.  They’re not even good business sense.  They underestimate American business and American ingenuity. 

    In 1970, when Republican President Richard Nixon decided to do something about the smog that was choking our cities, they warned that the new pollution standards would decimate the auto industry.  It didn’t happen.  Catalytic converters worked.  Taking the lead out of gasoline worked.  Our air got cleaner. 

    In 1990, when Republican President George H.W. Bush decided to do something about acid rain, they said the bills would go up, our lights would go off, businesses would suffer “a quiet death.” It didn’t happen.  We cut acid rain dramatically, and it cost much less than anybody expected -- because businesses, once incentivized, were able to figure it out.

    When we restricted leaded fuel in our cars, cancer-causing chemicals in plastics, it didn’t end the oil industry, it didn’t end the plastics industry; American chemists came up with better substitutes.  The fuel standards we put in place a couple of years ago didn’t cripple automakers.  The American auto industry retooled.  Today, our automakers are selling the best cars in the world at a faster pace than they have in almost a decade.  They’ve got more hybrids, and more plug-ins, and more high fuel-efficient cars, giving consumers more choice than ever before, and saving families at the pump. 

    We can figure this stuff out as long as we're not lazy about it; as long as we don't take the path of least resistance.  Scientists, citizens, workers, entrepreneurs -- together as Americans, we disrupt those stale, old debates, upend old ways of thinking.  Right now, we’re inventing whole new technologies, whole new industries -- not looking backwards, we're looking forwards. 

    And if we don't do it, nobody will.  The only reason that China is now looking at getting serious about its emissions is because they saw that we were going to do it, too.  When the world faces its toughest challenges, America leads the way forward.  That’s what this plan is about.  (Applause.) 

    Now, I don't want to fool you here.  This is going to be hard; dealing with climate change in its entirety, it's challenging.  No single action, no single country will change the warming of the planet on its own.  But today, with America leading the way, countries representing 70 percent of the carbon pollution from the world’s energy sector have announced plans to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.  In December, with America leading the way, we have a chance to put in place one of the most ambitious international climate agreements in human history.  

    And it’s easy to be cynical and to say climate change is the kind of challenge that’s just too big for humanity to solve.  I am absolutely convinced that’s wrong.  We can solve this thing. But we have to get going.  It's exactly the kind of challenge that's big enough to remind us that we’re all in this together. 

    Last month, for the first time since 1972, NASA released a “blue marble,” a single snapshot of the Earth taken from outer space.  And so much has changed in the decades between that first picture and the second.  Borders have shifted, generations have come and gone, our global population has nearly doubled.  But one thing hasn’t changed -- our planet is as beautiful as ever.  It still looks blue.  And it's as vast, but also as fragile, as miraculous as anything in this universe. 

    This “blue marble” belongs to all of us.  It belongs to these kids who are here.  There are more than 7 billion people alive today; no matter what country they’re from, no matter what language they speak, every one of them can look at this image and say, “That’s my home.”  And “we’re the first generation to feel the impact of climate change; we're the last generation that can do something about it.” We only get one home.  We only get one planet.  There’s no plan B. 

    I don't want my grandkids not to be able to swim in Hawaii, or not to be able to climb a mountain and see a glacier because we didn’t do something about it.  I don't want millions of people’s lives disrupted and this world more dangerous because we didn’t do something about it.  That would be shameful of us.  This is our moment to get this right and leave something better for our kids.  Let’s make most of that opportunity.

     

  • “A river is not an amenity, it is a treasure.”

    Maine’s rivers belong to all of us. They flow through our cities and towns and through our history. For the last half-century, the state of Maine has been a leader in protecting our rivers against damage by the hydroelectric power industry. Maine currently has authority to negotiate with dam owners for operating conditions that benefit state residents, our rivers and the species and jobs that rely on them.

    Proposed legislation included in the Senate’s Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 could negate three decades of work aimed at establishing a level playing field wherein the interests of all parties, not just the hydroelectric power industry, can be taken into account. The industry is seeking changes to federal legislation that would silence state, tribal and local voices; strip Maine of its authority to hold dam owners accountable for water quality violations; and end critical protections for fish and wildlife. While many aspects of our nation’s energy systems need to be upgraded and improved, this should not result in harm to our valuable natural resources. We do not believe this bill helps increase the hydropower supply or improves the regulatory process.

    Maine has a reputation for collaboration among hydropower dam owners, state officials, local communities and natural resource agencies.The system works well to balance the needs of the public for electricity, clean drinking water, recreational opportunities and protection of fish and wildlife that depend on our rivers. But it did not happen by accident; it took decades of work on the part of individuals and organizations who believed the need for energy should be balanced with the needs of the fish and wildlife that share our rivers and persuaded the Congress to adopt amendments to the Federal Power Act, or FPA, to achieve this balance.

    There are dam owners who seek to return to the bad old days and the bad old ways, where they were not answerable for the destruction of public resources. We do not want to see riverfront communities lose the opportunities Maine has gained to collaborate with dam owners and natural resource agencies during hydropower relicensing. Nor do we want to see these communities forced to take on additional costs for protecting fish and wildlife as the balance shifts away from dam owners to local taxpayers. We do not want to see Maine lose negotiating power and face new obstacles to its efforts to restore sea-run fish to our rivers.

    Since removal of the Edwards Dam on the Kennebec River in 1999, water quality has improved. Now, nearly 3 million native alewives return annually to the Kennebec, the largest migration of its kind on the eastern seaboard. Alewives support Maine’s commercial fishing industry, as well as its freshwater and marine food chains. Alewives feed nearly every fish, bird or mammal found in Maine — including bald eagles, osprey, seals, whales, cod, haddock, tuna, striped bass and bluefish. Section 3001(g) of the Energy Modernization Act of 2015 sets back efforts to restore commercially valuable and iconic fish stocks that have been denied access to their ancestral habitat by existing hydropower dams. Had this bill been the law of the land before the removal of Edwards Dam, we might never have achieved these important benefits. And, if enacted, we may not see similar benefits on the Saco, Penobscot, Mousam, Kennebec and Union Rivers where federal hydroelectric licenses are under consideration.

    Hydropower licenses are issued for up to five decades; facilities that are coming up for review now were first constructed before our modern environmental laws were put in place. The public gets a chance to ensure that dam owners make changes to bring their facilities up to modern standards, but it’s an opportunity that may come only once in a generation. Many communities rely on rivers for drinking water. Municipal utilities require costly technology to make river water safe for drinking. If Congress enacts this hydro “power grab,” the owners of dams will be able to skirt local laws as well as the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and other water and wildlife protections. If this legislation passes, we will lose our authority to shape dam operations to the interests of our communities and businesses.

    It is important to let Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King know that the people of Maine demand a voice in the management of our rivers so that the public’s interest in clean drinking water, the protection of fish and wildlife and recreational opportunities will be preserved.

    Rivers are important in their own right. As United States Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said a century ago, “A river is not an amenity, it is a treasure.”

    Clinton B. Townsend is a member of the board of directors of Maine Rivers. Landis Hudson is the executive director of Maine Rivers.

  • Hunters and Anglers Nationwide Support the EPA’s Clean Water Rule

    Sportsmen and women across the political spectrum support protecting smaller streams and wetlands. photo by Ramona du Houx

     A new nationwide, bipartisan survey found broad support among hunters and anglers for applying Clean Water Act protections to smaller streams and wetlands.

    "As every hunter or angler knows, ducks need healthy wetlands and fish need clean water—it’s that simple,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, which commissioned the poll. “Everyone on Capitol Hill should take note: clean water has the bipartisan support of millions of sportsmen and women across our nation—and these men and women vote.”

    One of the poll’s key findings is that more than 8 in 10 of the hunters and anglers (83 percent) surveyed thought that the Environmental Protection Agency should apply the rules and standards of the Clean Water Act to smaller, headwater streams and wetlands. Support for this policy was strong across the political spectrum with 77 percent of Republicans, 79 percent of Independents and 97 percent of Democrats in favor.

    “The results of this poll are unambiguous: America’s hunters and anglers care very deeply about water quality,” said Al Quinlan, the president of Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. “It is unusual to see such intense levels of public support for any issue.”

    The issue of protecting smaller streams and wetlands adjacent to those streams has been politically contentious in recent years. The Clean Water Act protected all of the nation’s streams and wetlands from its passage in 1972 until two split Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 left it unclear exactly which streams and wetlands could be covered by the law.

    “Eighty percent of hunters and anglers, regardless of their political affiliations, support improved Clean Water Act protections for small streams and wetlands,” said Nick Bennett, an avid hunter and the Staff Scientist for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Our elected officials in Washington need to pay attention to these poll results and support efforts to improve our water quality and wildlife habitat. Clean water and good habitat are the foundations of high-quality fishing and hunting and the jobs these industries provide in Maine and across the country.”

    The bipartisan research team of Public Opinion Strategies (R) and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (D) partnered on the survey of 1000 registered voters who also hunt or fish. The sample leaned conservative—38 percent of those polled were Republicans, while just 28 percent were Democrats. Almost half of those surveyed (49 percent) said they considered themselves a supporter of the Tea Party. 

    “It would be hard to find a more conservative group than the hunters and anglers we polled,” said Lori Weigel, a partner at the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies. “And yet their support of this policy is broad‐based and wide‐spread, cutting across partisan and ideological divisions. And it endures after hearing the arguments against it.”

    In May, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers finalized a rule clarifying that the Clean Water Act applies to more than half of the nation’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands—bodies of water that had been in a legal limbo for more than a decade. However, Congress is considering legislation that would undermine or nullify this rule.

    Additional results from the poll:

    • Fully 89 percent say that the Clean Water Act has been “more of a good thing” for the country, with majorities of every single demographic sub‐group echoing this sentiment.
    • More than 8 in 10 sportsmen (82 percent) agree with the statement: “We can protect our water quality and have a strong economy with good jobs for Americans at the same time, without having to choose one over the other.”
    • Three-quarters (75 percent) of hunters and anglers see applying the Clean Water Act to smaller streams and wetlands is more of a safeguard, rather than a burdensome regulation.
    • Almost half of those surveyed (47 percent) say that water quality and fish and wildlife habitat issues are of primary importance to their voting decisions. Nearly all sportsmen say these issues are at least somewhat significant in their voting decisions (92 percent).
    • Two-thirds (67 percent) say they would have a more favorable opinion if their Senator upheld this application of the Clean Water Act. Only one-in-ten would feel less favorably (11 percent).

    “Hunters and anglers were the original conservationists and their support for this policy comes as no surprise,” said Jim Martin, conservation director at the Berkley Conservation Institute, a branch of Pure Fishing, one of the largest tackle manufacturers in the sportfishing industry. “Restoring Clean Water Act protections to smaller streams and wetlands will help the economy, protect our drinking water and allow us to pass the great sport of fishing down to future generations. Congress should allow this common-sense rule to take effect without delay.”

  • Maine House backs bill to require release of voter-approved bonds held hostage by LePage

     

    By Ramona du Houx

    The House on June 11, 2015 gave its initial approval to a bill that requires governors to issue voter-approved bonds, a measure prompted by Gov. Paul LePage’s holding hostage of Land for Maine’s Future bonds. The vote on LD 1378  was 102-48.

    “This governor has not done anything for sportsmen and sportswomen. He needs to respect the will of the voters and allow $20 million in voter-approved investment to flow across our state,” said House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan. “The governor is jeopardizing more than 30 projects. He is hurting landowners and Mainers who make their livelihoods in the outdoor economy, especially in rural Maine. I have offered him an olive branch. I am willing to meet him in the middle. I am willing to split my proposed $20 million LMF bond and have $10 million go toward heating assistance to low-income Mainers. I am still waiting to hear from him.”

    Maine voters have supported LMF bonds six times. The program has broad support from Mainers – rural and urban and from the northern, southern, western and eastern parts of the state.

    “I firmly believe Maine voters have spoken at the ballot. No one –  not even the governor – should be able to veto their decisions,” said Rep. Roland “Danny” Martin, D-Sinclair, House chair of the State and Local Government Committee, a former Inland Fisheries and Wildlife commissioner and a member of the Land for Maine’s Future board for eight years during the Baldacci administration. “Land for Maine’s Future matters for each of our state’s 16 counties, but it especially matters for rural Maine. LMF increases access to recreational pursuits like hunting, fishing, hiking, snowmobiling and camping. It’s an important economic driver for Mainers who make their livelihoods in the recreation economy and in related fields like hospitality.”

    Since it was created in 1987, LMF has protected 560,000 acres of conservation and recreation lands, 52 water access sites, 37 farms of more than 8,900 total acres and 20 commercial working waterfront properties. Its projects include Mount Kineo in Moosehead Lake, Nicatous and West Lakes in Hancock County and projects in the Kathadin Forest and along the Machias River.

    “It’s tempting for me to talk about the historic conservation opportunities before us now, or if you've ever pulled up to a favorite cover you've hunted since you were a kid only to find a gate and a Massachusetts plate, my concerns about working forest becoming kingdom lots,” said Rep. Martin Grohman, D-Biddeford. “But this is really about good governance. The bonding process provides a lot of opportunity for political input – by the Legislature, the executive and the voters – but now the voters have spoken, and it is time to release the bonds

    Winthrop’s Kennebec Land Trust’s proposed project on Howard Hill is among those now at risk. It

    would transfer to the city of Augusta 164 acres of privately owned  property running from Capitol Street in Augusta to the Hallowell city line, noted Rep. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, the House chair of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee. In his floor speech, he quoted Theresa Kerchner, the land trust’s executive director, about the delay in receiving $338,000 in LMF funding.

    “‘Our business plan for the project is based on that award, so we’re very disappointed that we’re in the position we’re in, in terms of the LMF program,’” Hickman quoted. “’So we have to wait it out.’ Let’s cast a vote to help end that wait.”

    LD 1378 would prevent any governor from disregarding the will of voters when it comes to bonds. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, allows for five exceptions: when the debt service would be greater than the amount budgeted; when the issuance hurts the state’s credit rating; when the state treasurer determines a delay will result in a better interest rate; if project is no longer going forward; and when alternative funding is available.

    The bill faces further action in the Senate and House.

  • G-7 nations plan to ‘decarbonise global economy’ and end extreme poverty and hunger

    Article and photo by Ramona du Houx

  • LePage's over cutting strategy at the expense of Land for Maine's Future program

    Editorial by Catherine B. Johnson is the Natural Resources Council of Maine’s North Woods project director and senior staff attorney.

    Gov. Paul LePage threatens to increase logging on Maine's Public Reserved Lands beyond sustainable levels and divert the revenues to unrelated purposes. But his plans run contrary to the origins, unique characteristics and purpose of these Lands.

    Maine has about 600,000 acres of Public Reserved Lands, comprising 30 parcels across the North Woods and Down East regions. Many people have hiked, camped, birded, fished or hunted on them, including at the Bigelow Preserve, Donnell Pond, Little Moose and Deboullie units. They differ from other Maine-owned places, such as state parks, wildlife management areas, lands purchased with funding from the Land for Maine’s Future Program, and boat launches.

    The Public Reserved Lands system as we know it today was created in the 1970s and 1980s after enterprising Portland Press Herald reporter Bob Cummings unearthed the fact that Maine people owned “reserved public lots,” about 1,000-1,280 acres in every unorganized township. The lots were reserved to the people when Maine was seperated from Massachusetts in 1820. Many lots were not actually located on the ground; they were simply a percentage of a township’s entire land base. Over the years the lots, particularly the un-located ones, had become “lost“ and were simply incorporated into the rest of the township. The private owners of the townships — mostly large paper companies — managed the public lots as if they owned them.

    When the lots were rediscovered in the 1970s, a complicated trading process began. The state focused on consolidating the scattered parcels into larger units that had multiple public values, including wildlife habitat, scenic areas and recreation sites, as well as timber. The result is the spectacular system of Public Reserved Lands of today.

    A unique characteristic is that the lands are subject to a “public trust,” which limits how they can be used. While the state of Maine has absolute power over its other ownerships, it does not have full authority over the Reserved Lands. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court determined that the trust constrains their uses, and any income derived from timber harvesting or other management is likewise subject to the public trust and specific uses.

    Management of the Public Reserved Lands is funded entirely by money generated from the lands themselves, primarily from timber harvesting. The revenues pay for all roads, trails, campsites, picnic tables, other recreational infrastructure, wildlife habitat and ecological protection activities, and timber management and harvesting activities. No taxpayer funds are used. The total-self-funding mechanism is unique to our Public Reserved Lands.

    The state parks, by contrast, are funded by taxpayers through the General Fund. Management of lands acquired with Land For Maine’s Future funds — places managed by entities such as the Bureau of Parks and Lands, local land trusts, or the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife — may be funded through endowments, harvesting revenues or taxpayer funds.

    For 40 years, the Bureau of Parks and Lands (formerly the Bureau of Public Lands) has harvested sustainably on the Public Reserved Lands, managing them in exemplary fashion, improving timber quality and quantity. Today, the lands include some of the best, largest and oldest trees in the state. Big, old trees are not merely economic assets, but they also provide some of the finest habitat in Maine (outside of Baxter State Park) for plant, bird and mammal species that thrive in such environments.

    Traditionally, BPL foresters have established harvest levels on Reserved Lands after a timber inventory. The inventory was updated in 2012 by an independent consultant and forms the basis for the current sustainable cut level. Unfortunately, the LePage administration is pushing to log significantly above the scientifically determined levels and wants to divert funds to unrelated purposes — heating the homes of low-income families. But because of the public trust, no matter how worthy the proposal for an alternative use of those funds, the harvest revenues from Reserved Lands may not be diverted elsewhere.

    The administration should seek heating monies — a good cause — from sources unencumbered by legal protections that prevent him from doing so. Indeed the public trust doctrine was set up to prevent such unrelated diversions, including illogical connections between harvest revenues and home heating oil.

    Equally important, overcutting would degrade the important wildlife habitat and recreational values. Our Public Reserved Lands are a special part of the legacy our forebears gave us two centuries ago. Likewise, we are obliged to pass them unimpaired to generations 200 years down the line. That is what public trust means.

    This first appeared in the Bangor Daily News.

  • Boyan Slat, 19, has begun to clean up the worlds oceans using ocean currents

    Never stop dreaming and doing. There are solutions to solve man made problems and young entrapenures are engaged in that process. They are giving us all a future.

    Boyan Slat saw the devestation caused by garbage patches around the world and took on the challenge of finding a solution. He gave a riveting Ted Talk unveiling his plan to clean the pollution using passive flotation devices and the ocean's own currents.  In 2014, at the age of 19, his plan became feasible, and now it's going into effect off the coast of Japan.

    Because of ocean currents, most plastic that ends up in the oceans finds its way into garbage patches around the globe. They poison marine life and end up in the food supply of the planet. Toxic chemicals like PCBs and DDTs are absorbed by the plastic and cause diseases like cancer, malformation and impaired reproductive ability. Some marine life also get tangled up in plastic waste and drown.

     It's estimated that 1/3rd of the world's oceanic plastic pollution is within the great Pacific Garbage Patch (number 01 on the map above).

    The currents pull the sea life under the floatation devices but the lighter-than-water plastics float into the barriers.  What would have taken humanity 70,000 years to clean with boats and nets can be cleaned, instead, in decades.

    It's estimated that a single, 100km cleanup array will clean 42 percent of the ocean's plastic in 10 years.  The first array will be deployed in 2016 and technology is underway to recycle the plastic into biofuel.

     For more information please visit https://fund.theoceancleanup.com

  • Obama administration rules to restore protections to 55 percent of Maine’s streams

     

    By Morgan Rogers

    More than half of Maine’s streams will regain federal protections under a final rule signed today by top Obama administration officials. The measure restores Clean Water Act safeguards to small streams and headwaters that have been vulnerable to development and pollution for nearly ten years.

    “Our rivers, lakes, and drinking water can only be clean if the streams that flow into them are protected,” said Taryn Hallweaver, Director of Environment Maine. “One in three Mainers get their drinking water from sources that depend on small streams and wetlands currently unprotected from pollution. That’s why today’s action is the biggest victory for clean water in a decade.”

    For nearly 40 years, the Clean Water Act, authored primarily by Maine’s Senator Edmund Muskie, who was inspired to act by the severely polluted Androscoggin River he grew up along, ensured federal protections for all of Maine’s waters. Unfortunately, a set of polluter-driven lawsuits and Supreme Court decisions in the 2000s opened up loopholes that left nearly 25,000 miles of streams in Maine without clear protection under the Act.

    “Everyone agrees that the Clean Water Act has been a resounding success for rivers inMaine and across the nation.  Looking back it's hard to believe how polluted many of our rivers were and how far they've come,” said Landis Hudson, Executive Director with Maine Rivers. “Now we have a historic opportunity to better protect our wetlands and streams by actively supporting the Clean Water Act rule. It's an important opportunity for our future.”

    The court rulings had put small streams, headwaters and certain wetlands in a perilous legal limbo, allowing polluters and developers to dump into them or destroy them, in many cases without a permit. In a four-year period following the decisions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had to drop more than 1,500 cases against polluters, according to one analysis by the New York Times.

    Today’s rule, first proposed in March 2014 by EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is backed by robust scientific review. It returns Clean Water Act protections to streams that feed the drinking water sources for nearly 500,000 Mainers and one in three Americans. Millions of acres of wetlands, vital for flood control filtering pollutants, and recharging groundwater supplies, will also again be shielded under federal law.

    “You can’t have healthy food without healthy soil, and you can’t have healthy soil without clean water,” said Heather Spalding, deputy director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. “This rule will provide healthy returns for farmers, consumers and ecological systems across the country.”

    Aside from agriculture, clean water is also crucial to supporting fish, wildlife and Maine’s vibrant recreational industry. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, $1.4 billion was spent on wildlife recreation in Maine in 2011, including $372 million on fishing, and more than 1.1 million people participated in these recreation activities.

    “The Clean Water Act was passed to make America’s rivers and streams swimmable, fishable and drinkable,” said Jeff Reardon, President of the Maine Council of Trout Unlimited.  “Water flows downstream, so protecting headwater streams is essential to protect downstream trout habitat, recreation, and drinkablewater.”

    “We can’t have healthy lakes and rivers in Maine or across the country without protecting the small streams and wetlands that feed them,” said Lisa Pohlmann, Executive Director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “The Clean Water rules will ensure that our small streams and wetlands can filter pollutantsfrom our sources of drinking water, protect against flooding, and serve as critical habitat for fish and wildlife.”

    Despite broad public support for restored clean water protections, oil and gas companies, developers, and other polluters have waged a bitter campaign against them. The U.S. House has passed multiple bills to block or severely weaken the rule, including one measure three weeks ago. 

    While today’s action signaled the final chapter in the decade-long fight for small streams and headwaters, advocates warned today that U.S. Senate leaders were more determined than ever to use their authority derail the Clean Water Rule during the next 60 days. Last Tuesday, a key subcommittee adopted a measure by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) to thwart the rule. This summer, the Senate is likely to use the Congressional Review Act block the clean water protections, setting up a veto fight with the president.

    “The decision to strengthen enforcement of the Clean Water Act to protect small streams and wetlands is an important victory, especially for Maine,” said Glen Brand, Sierra Club Maine Chapter Director.  “We are counting on Maine’s congressional delegation to push back on any attempt to undermine EPA’s action.”

    “Senators King and Collins have stood up for Maine’s waterways against polluters in the past, and we need them to do so again,” concluded Hallweaver. “Today the administration signed and sealed critical protections for our rivers and drinking water, but they simply won’t get delivered without Senators King and Collins.”

  • Union solidarity at BIW in Maine

    Bath Iron Works shipbuilders took to the streets May 21st for a solidarity rally. Photo by Sarah Bigney

    By Ramona du Houx

    Bath Iron Works shipbuilders took to the streets May 21st for a solidarity rally to promote solidarity during the year before the union’s contract expires.

    “The union is behind its leadership, and the company is going to have to negotiate with us and not dictate to us," said Jay Wadleigh, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local S6. “They need to abide by the contract, stop misleading the media and just work with us so we can get the costs of these ships down. We’re the best shipbuilders in the world. We want to work. We just want to be treated with dignity and respect and be negotiated with and not dictated to.”

    BIW is known as one of the best shipbuilders in America. It's slogan is "Bath Built is Best Built."

    This is the second big march at the shipyard this year. On March 24 nearly 1,000 members of the International Association of Machinists Union Local marched to rallying support and protesting a variety of proposed BIW changes.

    Caps on defense spending have resulted in fewer Naval contracts thus spurring the BIW changes including outsourcing work and cross-training employees.

    BIW says the measures will increase the shipyard’s efficiency and keep the costs of building destroyers competitive. The shipyard insists it needs to be competitive to win two bidding contracts. But the union says there are better ways to cut costs. The stalemate has resulted in a third-party arbitration and a federal lawsuit charging BIW with violating its contract with workers.


    Bath Iron Works shipbuilders took to the streets May 21st for a solidarity rally. Photo by Sarah Bigney

  • Climate Change Is A ‘Serious Threat To Global Security’ new report and President Obama's speech

    Polution in Maine at SAPPI lumber mill. photo by Ramona du Houx

    President Barack Obama told the 2015 Coast Guard graduating class on May 20th in New London, Connecticut that climate change is a “serious threat to global security.” It, “will affect everything that you do in your careers.” 

     In addition to causing rising sea levels and diminishing sea ice, which will transform the Coast Guard’s purview, climate change is also behind increased extreme weather events and can contribute to political instability. In his speech, Obama referenced climate change’s role in Superstorm Sandy, as well as in war and terrorism in Syria and Nigeria.

    “This is not just a problem for countries on the coast or certain regions in the word,” he said. “Climate change will affect every country on the planet.”

    Also on May 20th the White House released “The National Security Implications of a Changing Climate,” findings that outlines climate change’s impacts on national and international security.

    The report concludes:

    Climate change is predicted to strain economies and societies around the world, placing an additional burden on already-vulnerable nations abroad and putting pressure on capacity at home. Climate change will change the nature of U.S. military missions, demand more resources in the Arctic and other coastal regions vulnerable to rising sea levels and other impacts, and require a multilateral response to the growing humanitarian crises that climate change is predicted to bring.

    All the miltary branches of the US understand the impacts of climate change as a sercurity threat far better than many Republican members of Congress, who continue to fight climate change inititives. “Politicians who say they care about military readiness ought to care about this, as well,” said Pres. Obama in his speech.

    Climate change is expected to impact to homeland security, economic structures, and the safety and health of Americans stressed the President.

    The Coast Guard has low-emissions initiatives which Obama recongnizedReadiness in the face of climate change is an increasing concern for the U.S. military and is considered a threat multiplyer. 

    The Commander of the U.S. Pacific Forces has called climate change the biggest threat to the region’s security.

    “The best scientists in the world know climate change is happening,” Obama said. “Our analysts in the intelligence community know climate change is happening.”

    Fourteen of the 15 hottest years on record have been in the past 15 years.

    U.S. carbon emissions are lower than they have been in decades, Obama said, but he noted that it would take cooperation in the global community to address overall emissions.

    “As a nation, we face many challenges…. yet even as we meet threats like terrorism, we must not and cannot ignore a peril that can effect generations,” Obama said.

  • White House plan to save honeybees before it's too late- still needs pesticide limits

    A honeybee collects pollen on a flower
     Honeybees, both domestic and wild, are responsible for 80 percent of the world’s pollination according to a Greenpeace report. Photograph: George D Lepp/Corbis

    The White House has announced an ambitious plan to “promote the health of honeybees and other pollinators” in the United States in a bid to help reverse a worrying trend that has seen the honeybee population fall by half over the last seven decades.

    It includes making millions of acres of federal land more bee-friendly, an explicit ambition to increase the population of the monarch butterfly, and the provision of millions of dollars to be spent on research.

    "The decline of these species is a serious problem and is a threat to the health of our country's agricultural system," said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.  "Bees and monarchs add $15 billion in value every year to the crops they help pollinate, and if these species disappear there are a lot of farms that could disappear with them." 

    The plan announced by the Obama Administration today sets a goal of dramatically reducing honey bee die-offs from the current 40 pecent a year to 15 percent and increasing the population of migrating monarch butterflies from the current 33 million to 220 million by 2020.  In 1994, an estimated 1 billion butterflies migrated to a mountain forest in Mexico.

    A third of what we eat on our plate would disappear without bees according to the federal government.

     Two of the most commonly used reasons for the mass decline of honey bees are loss of habitat, which today’s plan expressly addresses, and widespread use of toxic pesticides, which it does to a far lesser degree.

    "One missing link in this strategy is the effect of pesticides and herbicides on pollinators," Pingree said.  "Increasingly, pesticides are being linked to death of honey bees and the wide-spread use of Roundup on GMO crops has wiped out milkweed and monarch butterflies are disappearing as a result." 

    Pingree has been a vocal critic of the use of genetically modified crops that are designed to resist herbicides like glyphosate (the main ingredient in Roundup).   

    Last year, research emerged from Harvard University showing that when colonies of honeybees were exposed insecticide around the world, half of them died. More needs to be done to protect honeybees.

    Honeybees, both domestic and wild, are responsible for 80 percent of the world’s pollination according to a report by Greenpeace.

  • Lakes protection bill becomes law without LePage’s signature

    On the shores of Flagstaff Lake in Maine, Photo by Ramona du Houx

     A bill to protect Maine lakes and the local economies that depend on them has become law without the signature of Gov. Paul LePage.

     “Maine’s lakes are one of the state’s most valuable assets and cherished resources. Maine’s lakes are the source of clean drinking water for many Maine families. They are vital to the economy, supporting 52,000 jobs and injecting $3.5 billion into our state’s economy each year,” said Rep. Ben Chipman, an unenrolled member from Portland. 

    LD 568, An Act to Protect Maine Lakes, became law on Wednesday. The bill protects water quality by prohibiting the use of fertilizers containing nitrogen or phosphorus near shorelines.