Legislative Update: successes, but still some work to do!

Things are happening quickly in Augusta, as legislators hope to wrap up their session this week. I wanted to keep you and all of our advocacy supporters up to date on what’s happening with Maine Audubon’s priority legislation. Much of the progress we’ve made this year has been thanks to the messages you’ve been sending to legislators, thousands of letters in all, and we thank you for your support.

Recent Highlights
There was movement this week on several of the bills that I emailed you about late last week. Hundreds of you responded with messages to your representatives urging them to do the right thing. Here’s what happened.

• SEA LEVEL RISE BILL SIGNED. Maine Audubon was vocal in our support for LD 1572, a bill that would require state agencies to make recommendations to incorporate updated sea level rise projections into each agency’s rules. We’re pleased to announce that this legislation was enacted late last week, and was signed by Governor Mills on Thursday!

• BALLOON RELEASE BILL. As you know, discarded balloons can be a major problem for wildlife including sea turtles and seabirds. Maine Audubon for years has supported legislation, LD 1023, seeking to discourage plastic pollution by properly defining the intentional release of multiple balloons as littering. The legislature enacted this legislation this week, meaning it’s on its way to the governor’s desk where it will hopefully soon become law.

• EXTENDED PRODUCER LIABILITY. We are strong supporters of LD 1541, which would reduce pollution and improve recycling by making manufacturers — not Maine consumers and towns — responsible for the cost of recycling packaging materials. The House and Senate voted in support of this bill on Wednesday night and Thursday, respectively, and now the bill heads to the appropriations table before final enactment and, hopefully, the governor’s signature. A long process but worth it for a first-in-the-nation policy!

• OFFSHORE WIND. Maine Audubon has been supporting two pieces of legislation related to floating offshore wind this session: LD 336, which would encourage research into the impacts and viability of floating offshore wind in Maine by requiring the state to enter into an agreement to purchase power from research turbines; and LD 1619, Governor Mills’ proposal for a moratorium on offshore wind in state waters, where the majority of lobster fishing occurs. LD 336 was enacted by the legislature this week, a great sign, while LD 1619 was tabled for further debate. More to come.

• THE BEE’S KNEES. We told you the good news last week about LD 155, which would ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in residential areas in Maine, that it had passed in the legislature and was now awaiting the governor’s signature. Update: The governor signed the bill and it is now law! Congratulations!

• NET ENERGY BILLING. Maine Audubon supports Maine’s practice of net energy billing, which encourages the use of small-scale renewable generation facilities by using a consumer’s own electric generation to offset other energy usage. We supported LD 936, which in part sought to create a stakeholder group within the Public Utilities Commission to consider distributed generation programs. The bill passed through the legislature and is now on the governor’s desk.

• DECOMMISSIONING SOLAR PROJECTS. Maine Audubon supported LD 802, which requires developers to create a decommissioning plan for solar projects of more than three acres. This legislation will ensure that there are plans and financing in place to remove solar projects when they’ve reached the end of their lifespans. We were pleased to see that the legislature supported this bill and it was signed by Governor Mills last week.

• PLASTIC BAG BANS KEPT IN PLACE. Reducing the ubiquity of single-use plastic bags remains critical to protecting seabirds and other wildlife from harmful plastic pollution, and LD 244 sought to roll back important progress. Maine Audubon’s Advocacy Intern testified against this bill, which we’re pleased to report did not make it out of Committee.

• MORE GOOD PESTICIDE NEWS. Maine Audubon supported LD 316, an act to prohibit the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which has been found to be hazardous to human health. The bill was passed by both chambers of the legislature and signed by Governor Mills earlier this month.

There are many other important bills this session, but these were among the ones that Maine Audubon put the most effort into. We’re incredibly pleased with the progress we’ve made this session, and look forward to continuing to fight for laws that protect Maine wildlife and habitat through the summer and during the next legislative session.

UPDATE July 7, 2021

• LAND FOR MAINE’S FUTURE. LMF is Maine’s most successful land conservation program, responsible for protecting more than 600,000 acres in the state, including more than 325,000 acres of working farms, forests, and waterfronts, miles and miles of recreational trails, and critical wildlife habitat. But it’s been underfunded for years. However, the program was included in the state budget, infusing LMF with $40M over 4 years, a long-awaited and major victory for wildlife protection and outdoor recreation!

We truly thank you for your help on these bills, and urge you to stay tuned as we near the finish line of this busy first session. Thanks for working with us to help protect Maine wildlife and habitat.