The second session of the 127th Legislature started out on a positive note with the Governor releasing the Land for Maine’s Future bonds and the Legislature unanimously supporting the extension of the expired 2010 bond.
Unfortunately, after that initial success, the rest of the session proved to be very difficult. The highlight was the strong support we received from our members, activists and supporters on the comprehensive solar bill. Although it was very disappointing to have lost the veto override, it was rewarding to see so many of our community engaged with the issue.
Our 2016 priorities included:
Support at the community level is what helped us achieve success on LMF in January after a difficult end of the previous session. We hope that history repeats itself and strong community support sends a new Legislature to Augusta next year with a clear mission to approve comprehensive solar legislation.
Thank you for being part of the solution,
|Ole Amundsen III, Executive Director||Jennifer Burns Gray, Staff Attorney and Advocate|
Climate change presents one of the biggest threats to wildlife and habitat in Maine. As our winters become warmer and shorter, many of our iconic species, such as moose, lynx and our state bird, the Black-capped Chickadee, are affected. By 2080, 314 bird species — including 50 Maine birds — are likely to lose 50 percent of their habitat, according to research from National Audubon. Warmer stream temperatures threaten Maine’s native brook trout and endangered Atlantic salmon. Sea level rise will erode our state’s coastal habitats which will have a negative impact on endangered birds like the Piping Plover and Least Tern.
The Legislature’s failure to override the Governor’s veto on the comprehensive solar bill (LD 1649) by only three votes was the biggest disappointment of the session. Four lawmakers who had voted earlier in the day in support of the veto override hid in an office rather than participate in the final reconsideration vote on this important legislation. One lawmaker who had just voted in support of the veto override sat in her seat and failed to vote the second time. The Governor and his allies, including some national solar installer organizations, worked very hard to defeat LD 1649. The failure of a solar bill that had broad coalition support was a big missed opportunity — especially at a time when it’s been so challenging to move positive environmental legislation forward at both the state and national level. Now our attention turns to the Public Utilities Commission which is poised to take up the issue of net metering.
Maine’s northern forest is the single largest undeveloped forestland in the eastern United States. Its woods, waters and wildlife create outstanding recreational experiences for Maine people and visitors, bringing good jobs and new opportunities for economic growth. Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry houses the state’s core programs that benefit and conserve the North Woods.
National Monument opponents proposed a bill aimed at denying the state’s consent to a national monument within its borders. We opposed the bill because of its broad public policy implications, but our efforts to stop the anti-national monument bill (LD 1600) failed by a narrow margin. Fortunately, due to constitutional issues, the goal of the bill cannot be achieved despite its passage.
Efforts to divert revenue from the Bureau of Parks and Lands never gained momentum this session. However, the Governor vetoed (and the House failed to override) LD 1629, the bill advancing the unanimous recommendations of the Commission to Study the Public Reserved Lands Management Fund. Supported unanimously by the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee and without opposition in the House and Senate, the bill had a number of important provisions, including charging the Bureau of Parks and Lands (BPL) with conducting a forest inventory on the state’s public lands and developing a statewide priority list of recreational infrastructure projects for the state’s public lands.
In order to successfully protect and conserve Maine’s wildlife and wildlife habitat, we need to ensure that much-needed state programs and services continue to be funded. Our ability and willingness to invest in conservation today will impact Maine’s forests, rivers and sea shores, as well as the economic and recreational opportunities they provide for generations to come.
The Governor released the Land for Maine’s Future (LMF) Bonds he held hostage and the Legislature unanimously approved a five-year extension of the 2010 LMF bond, originally valued at $7.5 million (LD 1454). Unfortunately, the effort to secure new bond money (LD 1248) to replenish the fund fell short.
New bond funding (LD 1069) for municipalities to install “Stream Smart” culverts or stream crossings was not included in the final bond package.
Maine’s extraordinary environment is an integral part of what we value about our state. Our jobs, health, recreation activities and identity as Maine people all have their roots in our beautiful environment. When we work together to protect our natural resources, Maine people and businesses can thrive. Maine’s land use regulations are designed to protect our water, land and wildlife and steer development to the most appropriate places. These core protections support good jobs, healthy people and thriving wildlife populations.
The Environment and Natural Resources Committee sent the Department of Environmental Protection a letter urging them to implement some of the Shoreland Zoning stakeholder committee recommendations intended to improve water quality. These include increasing training for local officials and regularly updating shoreland zoning guidelines.
We negotiated with multiple stakeholders, including the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (DIFW), a bill (LD 1636) that passed and the Governor signed into law. The law provides DIFW with new tools to manage endangered and threatened species, especially bats.
The Legislature, following the lead of a strong majority of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, rejected the bill (LD 1478) that would have given the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad an exemption from the Maine Natural Resources Protection Act and Shoreland Zoning. Although we support the goals of the Narrow Gauge Railroad, we could not support impairing a valuable waterfowl and wading bird wetland by building a new railroad and adjacent pathways through the marsh and setting a new precedent for allowing such an exemption.
We applaud Representatives Sara Gideon and Norm Higgins and Senator David Woodsome for their tremendous efforts to pass comprehensive solar legislation.
Representative Sara Gideon (D) of Freeport represents District 48 and is serving her second term. She is the Assistant House Majority Leader and served on the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee her first term. She sponsored last year’s solar bill and led the negotiations to craft a comprehensive solar bill.
Representative Norman Higgins (R) of Dover-Foxcroft represents District 120 and is serving his first term. He serves on the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. Contrary to the very strong desires of his leadership, Rep. Higgins, together with Senator Woodsome, negotiated an amended version of the solar bill that they championed until the bitter end. Their bill fell just a few votes short of overriding the Governor’s veto.
Senator David Woodsome (R) of North Waterboro represents District 33 and is serving his first term. He is the Senate Chair of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. Together with Rep. Higgins, he negotiated an amended version of the solar bill that showed great promise and which narrowly missed the threshold needed to overturn the Governor’s veto.
We also recognize Senator Justin Alfond who is termed out after eight years of outstanding leadership.
Senator Justin Alfond (D) of Portland represents District 27 and is serving his fourth and final term in the Senate. He serves as the Senate Minority Leader having served as Senate President in the 126th Legislature. We are very appreciative of Senator Alfond’s outstanding leadership during these past challenging legislative sessions. He has been a true friend of conservation and has guided his caucus to consistently support us on our issues. We’ll miss him.
Is a partnership of 31 environmental, conservation and public health organizations representing over 100,000 members who want to protect the good health, good jobs and quality of life that our environment provides.
Appalachian Mountain Club
Atlantic Salmon Federation
Bicycle Coalition of Maine
Conservation Law Foundation
Environmental Health Strategy Ctr.
Friends of Casco Bay
Islesboro Island Trust
Maine Association of
Maine Center for Economic Policy
Maine Conservation Alliance
Maine Council of Churches
Maine Council of Trout Unlimited
Maine Interfaith Power & Light
|Maine Lakes Society
Maine Organic Farmers &
Maine People’s Alliance
Maine Wilderness Guides Org.
Natural Resources Council of Maine
Physicians for Social Responsibility,
RESTORE: The North Woods
Sierra Club, Maine Chapter
The Ocean Conservancy
The Trust for Public Land
The Wilderness Society
Toxics Action Center