AUGUSTA — Former Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage appeared to spend no public policy time on the issue of climate change and its impact on Maine, despite an overwhelming number of the world’s scientists saying the burning of fossil fuels is warming the planet and jeopardizing the future.

When he wasn’t dismissing climate change as something beyond humanity’s control, he sometimes wondered if it might not be a good thing, suggesting publicly in 2013 that warming might open up a channel through the Arctic that could offer new shipping prospects for Maine.

His successor, Democrat Janet Mills, has a sharply different take on the issue.

These are some of the areas in which she has either reversed course from LePage’s stance or taken steps to do so:

  • United States Climate Alliance: Mills announced in February that Maine would become the 22nd state to join a coalition dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in keeping with the goals of the Paris Agreement, a treaty opposed by President Donald Trump. LePage steered clear of the group.
  • Reducing carbon emissions: While LePage vetoed a 2013 measure to plan for climate change, Mills is pressing for the creation of a Maine Climate Council to lead the effort, with the goal of reducing carbon emissions from electricity production by 80 percent by 2030 and to rely entirely on renewable sources for electricity by 2050. LePage had decried even a 20 percent cut as a “job killer.”
  • Solar energy credits: This month, Mills signed legislation to re-establish the state’s metering policy for solar power to ensure consumers who produce excess electricity from solar panels will be fairly compensated for its value, a policy LePage opposed as part of his dislike for anything he viewed as a subsidy for solar power.
  • Communal solar: Mills also seeks to make it financially easier to add solar panels to buildings where the public gathers, from libraries to churches, in order to reduce costs and reliance on oil heat.
  • Wind power: Mills ended a moratorium in February on new commercial wind turbine project permits that LePage put in place in 2018. The move allows developers the opportunity to apply for licenses again.
  • Electric vehicles: While LePage spoke of taxing electric cars extra because they don’t pay gasoline taxes, which go to help maintain Maine roads, Mills advocates doing more to encourage their use. She pushed for the inclusion of more charging stations as part of the price for her support for Central Maine Power Co.’s controversial electricity transmission line proposal through Western Maine.
  • Oil drilling off the coast of Maine: Mills pulled Maine from the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition that LePage joined to push for more offshore oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic Ocean. Opponents of exploration cite the environmental risk of oil spills and the need to reduce, rather than expand, the use of fossil fuels.

filed under: