Preserving Maine’s Character – The charm, character, and mostly pristine quality of Maine’s environment is one of the reasons we live here and a primary reason tourists come to visit. Our working waterfront, historic buildings, quaint harbors, town centers, and rural farms are in integral part of our identity. The working waterfront and farmland mean a way of life to some, and quality of place to others, but to all of us it is part of what it means to be Maine. We need to preserve these resources for current and future generations.
Environmental Stewardship – We have to be good stewards of the earth, because we can’t buy a new one for our children if we damage this one beyond repair. Maine’s natural world, its beauty, diversity, and the quiet solace found in it are an important part of who we are. Our lakes, ocean, woods, agricultural land and shoreline need our protection to keep them viable for fishing, farming, drinking, breathing, or just taking in the view.
Climate change is the single biggest threat to survival and quality of life for our children and beyond. A recent article documenting how a 4-degree warming of the Gulf of Maine will destroy our lobster fishery makes our need to act clear. And there are many other impacts we cannot ignore.
OK, but how do you do that? – We take advantage of the fact that given Maine’s strengths, smart policy can tackle climate change head-on and, in doing so, create quality jobs, keep more of our money in Maine’s economy, and become more energy and food self-sufficient. We could even supply food and energy to the rest of New England.
Energy: Maine people spend $6 billion annually on fossil fuels for home heat, transportation, and fossil fuel based electricity generation. Other than distribution charges, all of that money spent on fuel produced in other states or other countries is permanently leaving Maine’s economy. Fortunately Maine is well positioned to both expand our use of in-state alternative energy and, at the same time, reduce our energy consumption.
You only have to know three things to understand the importance of this:
- $6 billion a year – that’s how much we spend in Maine on fuel – the majority of this money leaves our economy for other states and other countries – for home heat, transportation, and fossil-fuel based electricity generation
- 156 Gigawatts – that’s how much electricity we could generate ten miles off the Gulf of Maine with offshore wind – many times what Maine uses, and the equivalent of many nuclear plants
- 450,000 – that’s the number of homes in Maine that could reduce their energy use by 20% through weatherization and energy efficiency improvements
Our energy plans can’t be based on consuming more fuel or electricity from somewhere else because that doesn’t help our economy, it helps other countries and states, and it doesn’t make heating our homes more affordable. A Maine comprehensive energy strategy must include serious investment in making our homes more energy efficient – bringing those improvements within the reach of all Maine homeowners – and creating more of Maine’s and New England’s energy right here through solar and offshore wind, and tidal power.
All these investment activities create quality jobs, and all of them increase our ability to afford living in Maine, while increasing our energy independence and putting more of our dollars back into Maine’s economy. Public investment to advance these policies, especially revolving loan funds or other financial measures to make our homes more energy efficient are essential to achieving this important win-win vision for Maine.
What we do to reduce fossil fuel consumption and help supply New England with renewable energy isn’t just important for our economy, creating good jobs, and reducing our energy costs of living. It’s also essential as part of doing all we can to reduce CO2 emissions to prevent Climate Change. Reducing CO2 prevents ocean acidification which already threatens our shellfish, and prevents the warming of the Gulf of Maine. Fishermen and women see the changes, they know it’s happening. And what a recent study shows is that a 4 degree rise in the temperature of the Gulf of Maine will cause early stage lobster survival rates to plummet. It would devastate our lobster fishery and we can’t let that happen.
Protect Watersheds: There are various point source and non-point source threats to our watersheds. And what happens to them affects the livelihood of clammers, the viability of habitat for wildlife, and the safety of water for human and animal consumption. For example, weak rules for open pit mining that have been defeated in the state legislature several times now. These mining proposals had the potential to create an ecological disaster with arsenic and sulfuric acid contamination of ground and surface water, and to leave Maine people yet another superfund site taking untold decades and billions of dollars to clean up. The benefit of a small number of short-term jobs is not justification for long-term loss of camping, guiding, hunting and tourism jobs, the poisoned water supply, and the cleanup bill left for Maine. Protection of watersheds can be proactive, and a win-win for workers and the environment as well.
In the last session I submitted a Farmland Restoration bill to provide matching grants to help farmers expand their acreage in production that required a plan for how to do so while preventing erosion, soil loss, and nutrient contamination of watersheds. The bill was supported by all farm groups and farmers; opposed only by the administration. Their objection that it duplicated what NRCS does to solve soil erosion problems was not correct. According to the Maine director of NRCS, the bill does what NRCS cannot do and is complementary to their work. Although the bill died in a partisan vote in the Senate, it is a model of how we can help farming expand in Maine while preventing harm to our watersheds. That is a win for clammers and others reliant upon healthy watersheds, and a win for Maine’s farmers, and it’s a policy I will continue to champion.
We Are the Stewards of Maine’s Natural Heritage and Environment for All Future Generations