AUGUSTA – Members of 27 of Maine’s environmental, conservation and health organizations met Thursday morning at the State House to lobby legislators about the importance of protecting Maine’s natural heritage.

The Environmental Priorities Coalition, which represents 100,000 members, also produced an environmental agenda to help guide legislators, according to Maureen Drouin, executive director of Maine Conservation Voters, the coalition’s facilitator.

Priority bills include efforts to protect rivers and land, reduce climate change, protect people and businesses from exposure to dangerous chemicals and make it easier for people to improve home and business energy efficiency.

The agenda also includes a standard: To not weaken environmental protections.

“Protecting and preserving Maine’s environmental legacy takes vision and vigilance, and Maine lawmakers have an important role to play,” Drouin said on Thursday after the conference.

“And, with their leadership, it really comes down to taking steps to protect our good health, our good jobs, and the quality of life that our environment provides for all of us. People are looking for smart investments, and the environment is a smart investment.

“Every year, in good times and in bad, Maine lawmakers have passed forward-thinking policies to protect our environment, because they know that our environment is the foundation of our prosperity and our way of life,” Drouin said.

Coalition members include Maine Audubon, the American Lung Association of Maine, Appalachian Mountain Club, Bicycle Coalition of Maine, Maine Congress of Lake Associations, Maine Council of Churches, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardiners Association, Maine Rivers, and the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

According to a summary report of the coalition’s agenda, supporting it will:

• Increase protections for waterways like the Crooked River in Oxford and Cumberland counties, Alder Stream in north-central Maine near Dover-Foxcroft, and The Basin, a coastal waterbody in Sagadahoc County.

• Ensure funds for the Land for Maine’s Future program to conserve working farms, forests and natural heritage.

• Broaden, simplify and streamline Maine’s energy efficiency and weatherization programs.

• Guide planning to ensure that public and private development is as clean and as energy efficient as possible.

• Protect neighbors and farmers from the dangers of pesticide spray by establishing a comprehensive notification system.

• Set a mercury standard and require bulb manufacturers to share cost and responsibility for collection and recycling.

In 2007 and 2008, nine of the coalition’s 10 priority bills were passed by and signed into law.

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