Legislator wants state to help towns plan for climate change

Two freshman legislators have filed bills to make dealing with climate change once again a priority for state government.

Rep. William Noon, D-Sanford, wants the state to resume helping communities plan for the effects of climate change. That project was halted two years ago by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Rep. Paul McGowan, D-York, submitted a bill designed to make Maine more energy independent and sets goals such as reducing fossil fuel use by 20 percent.

“We’ve got to do something to get the state back into the game,” said Noon, who owns a farm near Springvale.

Noon said last week that he had not planned to submit any bills during his first months in office, but he was spurred by a newspaper story that noted that although a number of cities and towns are working on meeting the challenges of climate change — chiefly rising sea level and the threat of more intense storms — the state had pulled back from work begun under the administration of Gov. John Baldacci.

Under his administration, the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine in Orono completed a report outlining how changes in climate would affect the state.

The report was completed in 2009 and the state Legislature then passed a resolution ordering the DEP to lay out ways that Maine could adapt to these changes.

The DEP report, submitted in early 2010, was the work of 75 “stakeholders” representing interests ranging from Hannaford markets to the Maine Audubon Society to the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine, plus 13 state agencies. The document set out 60 recommendations.

Acknowledging that local communities would have to do the major work in preparing for climate change, the report was designed to support them by making available, for example, accurate climate data specific to Maine.

It also recommended that state agencies and municipalities work together to figure out how climate change will affect local buildings, roads and other structures — and how much it will all cost.

Baldacci signed another resolution seeking a second study to make more specific recommendations about climate change adaptation, along with cost estimates.

That report was due in January of last year, but with the election of Gov. Paul LePage, priorities in the DEP were shifted away from climate change and, instead of a report, the DEP submitted a two-page letter simply referring to the original report.

The 2010 report was even removed from the DEP’s website for a time.

Noon said his bill will call for restoring the process. Although the bill’s language was still being polished by the revisors’ office, he said he is seeking to have the state reconvene the stakeholders and complete a full second report.

McGowan said his bill follows the ideas contained in a European Union directive last fall to its member countries. Goals would include improving energy efficiency by 20 percent and increasing production of renewable energy by 20 percent, all by the year 2020.

“I think it’s possible to do that in seven years,” he said. “There’s great potential in Maine.”

The state has already moved on some fronts to cut carbon emissions and thus slow the effects of climate change.

Maine has extensive land-based wind farms and is planning for more turbine installations, including at offshore sites, and is encouraging the use of cleaner-burning wood pellets as well as solar and geothermal energy.

“Altogether this state spends $3 billion a year on oil from away,” McGowan said. “Think what we could do if we kept that money in Maine.”

“The issues are complex,” said Rep. Joan Welsh, D-Rockport, co-chair of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources. She said she did not know how many bills will touch on the area of climate change this year, although most that do deal with it are likely to come through her committee.

The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting is a nonpartisan, non-profit news service based in Hallowell. Email: mainecenter@gmail.com. Web: pinetreewatchdog.org.

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Comments

Frank Heller's picture

Making Maine more energy independent by ignoring hydro potential

With an estimated( USDOE energy lab in Idaho) 540 MW, in untapped hydro resources, and Gigawatts more in tidal energy; you'd think that Rep. Paul McGowan would have thought enough to highlight the one energy resource that made Maine an economic power house through the 17th century and well into the 19th.

But he didn't and instead babble on about wind energy which will only sap the economic vitality of Maine's Middle Class since it can cost up to 5x more than hydro energy from Quebec.

You would think he would reach across the aisle and endorse the Governor's effort to bring cheap, clean, green electricity to and through Maine; but no, he only wants divisiveness and discord and 'his way'. How moronic, uncivil, and hurtful for all Mainers without trust funds.

 's picture

MW get full credits

 's picture

FIX DEP rulemaking first please?

DEP has taken on more than it can handle. The setbacks in DEP's WIND rules are outdated.

Sound maps show 4000 feet is 45 Dba (above Maine sound law) Safety reports show debris scatter of over 4000 feet. Carbon footprint is not scientific. Goals will not be met by WIND....Redo the WIND law before adding more renewables.
Lift the ban on Hydro first.

 's picture

What does our use of oil have

What does our use of oil have to do with industrial wind turbines? I still don't understand that connection. We use oil to heat our homes and power our vehicles but as I understand it, these wind turbines generate, or are suppose to generate, electricity. The European Union directive on mandating renewables is causing absolute chaos and financial distress in Europe. The wind blows when it wants to. It's unpredictable and unreliable. The infrastructure needed to harness wind energy is extremely expensive and short lived. The climate on this planet has always been changing. We shouldn't develop coastal or river flood plains. We should plant trees and restore forest health. Insulate old housing stock. Start using LESS energy instead of consuming more and more. We should prepare for cold/heat/extreme weather events and practice good common sense. Does that really require a government study?

Frank Heller's picture

Fueling a CNG powered HONDA from your garage.

Yup, if you have natural gas coming into your home, you can buy a CNG powered Honda and refuel it using a compressor in your garage connected to the gas pipeline. Plenty of refunds, and this model of Honda was judged the 'greenist' car on the market.

 's picture

our portfolio is clean

Massachusetts RPS mandates them to buy from Maine. Maine's WIND goes out of state.

We do not burn oil for electricity.

Maine would do well to keep it's trees to sequester co2 if that is needed.

Frank Heller's picture

Wind farms don't pay with offsets for vegetation removed.

A wind farm with an avg. 40 acre 'footprint' will remove a lot of biomass for roads, transmission lines and the turbine. This forest removes tons of carbon from CO2, sequesters it, and returns pure oxygen.

WIND FARMERS DO NOT HAVE TO OFFSET THIS HARM TO THE CLEANLINESS OF THE ATMOSPHERE!

They get full subsidy no matter what they clear cut!

This is unjust and unfair...

 's picture

Let's vow to undertake a

Let's vow to undertake a study to determine how climate change will affect the frequency and severity of frost heaves in our transportation network.

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