Students and organized labor tell lawmakers to support Maine's green energy revolution

By Ramona du Houx

Students and representatives of organized labor were among the dozens of Mainers who turned out on April 23, 2019 to support a measure that promises Maine its own Green New Deal, modeled before the resolution in the U.S. Congress. U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree spoke at the event.

"It's encouraging to see so many young activists, our future. They know we need to take action now, before it is too late," said Pingree, who was one of the first members of Congress to support the Green New Deal.

According to federal and United Nation's reports the world only has 11.5 years to turn climate change around. Failure means mass extinctions of species, millions of deaths, migrations of vast numbers of people, probable increases in war zones, flooding and extreme weather conditions worldwide.

Work under the Baldacci administration established a base line for an economy that would grow and flourish with green energy technologies, built and installed in Maine. LePage's administration rolled back some of those efforts. Now, citizens are looking to Governor Mills who told the students she's starting a special committee, with a young person on it, to investigate all the options. Rep. Maxmin has already heard from her constituents and is taking action.

“This bill emerged from conversations with my constituents and reflects the urgent need for economic renewal in our rural counties. It grows out of the concerns that I hear in my district: the need for good jobs, lower property taxes and protecting our environment, upon which so much of Maine’s industry and culture depends,” said Rep. Chloe Maxmin, D-Nobleboro, the bill sponsor.

In other states it has already been proven that green energy tech jobs, create good paying jobs while lowering energy costs to consumers.

Maxmin’s proposal is the first state-level Green New Deal to be endorsed by the state AFL-CIO affiliate.

“Our response to the climate crisis should serve as a means for job creation and economic and social justice,” Maine AFL-CIO Executive Director Matt Schlobohm told the committee. “Realistically, that will only happen if workers are at the table. We appreciate that this bill is rooted in that kind of framework.”

The bill would require Maine to move to 80 percent renewable energy electricity consumption by 2040, support solar power for schools to reduce costs and create a Task Force for a Green New Deal that focuses on economic growth, job growth and renewable energy growth. It establishes an ongoing Commission on a Just Transition that is charged with ensuring the shift to a low-carbon economy benefits all residents fairly and equitably.

Haley Maurice, a Bowdoin College student who helped organize Maine Youth for Climate Justice, was among the activists there to speak with lawmakers.

“Today, hundreds of young people, as part of our first action led by Maine Youth for Climate Justice, are standing together, meeting with our elected officials and making known that our future, Maine’s future, needs to be protected without hurting others along the way,” Maurice testified at the bill’s public hearing.

Jason Shedlock, executive director of the Maine State Building and Construction Trades Council, highlighted the bill’s efforts to provide workforce training.

“I rise in support of this legislation not only because it’s the right step forward in equipping Maine to meet the environmental demands of both the present and future but also because, in doing so, we can meet the workforce needs now and on the horizon as well,” Shedlock told members of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.

The committee will hold a work session on the bill, LD 1282, in the coming days. At that time, members will have the opportunity to offer amendments and vote on a recommendation to the full Legislature.

Maxmin is a first-term lawmaker who represents House District 88, which includes Chelsea, Jefferson and part of Nobleboro. She is a member of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee.