Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Sara Gideon pledged to push for the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, and to support legislation to create a national “Conservation Corps” and aim for net-zero greenhouse gas emission by 2050.

Gideon unveiled her eight-point climate agenda Friday as part of her campaign against Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who is seeking a fifth term.

“We need to reduce carbon emissions, protect Maine’s key industries and preserve our coastlines from flooding and rising sea levels,” Gideon said in a video announcing the plan. “We also need to set stricter clean air and water regulations, increase our renewable energy production and make our transportation systems in Maine and across the U.S. more efficient.”

But the Collins campaign dismissed Gideon’s agenda, saying the plan “looks remarkably similar to Senator Collins’ record of accomplishment” on energy and climate issues.

Gideon’s climate change agenda includes:

Working to reverse Trump administration decisions that weakened Clean Water Act regulations, reversed Obama-era limits on power plant emissions and withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement;

Supporting legislation to achieve “net-zero” greenhouse gas emission by 2050;

Advocating for a clean energy standard that requires electric utilities to obtain a certain amount of energy from renewable sources;

Calling for the creation of a national Conservation Corps to hire young people to work on conservation projects;

Investing in renewable energy and infrastructure improvements.

As Maine’s House Speaker, Gideon and other Democrats helped pass a series of climate-related bills introduced by Gov. Janet Mills following her election in 2018. Those included bills establishing a Maine Climate Council, setting ambitious state goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and moving toward obtaining all electricity in the state from renewable sources.

Gideon has also been involved in several initiatives aimed at growing Maine’s solar energy market and was the lead sponsor of a bill that restored roughly $38 million to Efficiency Maine over the objections of former Gov. Paul LePage.

But there might not be as much daylight between Gideon and Collins on environmental and climate-related issues as on other heated topics in a closely watched race that could help decide which party controls the Senate next year.

Collins criticized President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, a United Nations-brokered pact on addressing climate change ratified by more than 180 countries. Collins has also opposed Trump moves to weaken interstate pollution regulations and is a vocal supporter of renewable energy, efficiency and weatherization projects in Maine.

Earlier this year, the American Council on Renewable Energy gave Collins a “renewable energy champion” award. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Collins has also helped direct federal funding to energy projects in Maine, including the University of Maine’s offshore wind energy pilot project.

However, Collins has also lost support from some in the environmental and conservation communities in recent years. For instance, the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund is endorsing Gideon after backing Collins in some previous campaigns.

In response to Friday’s plan announcement, the Collins campaign accused Gideon of taking political contributions from individuals in the fossil fuel or investments industries. They also seized on Gideon’s co-sponsorship of a bill proposing a carbon tax or fee on heating oil, gasoline and other fossil fuels at the wholesale level, with proceeds being used to reduce consumers’ utility bills.

The bill was quickly defeated but Republican lawmakers and party leaders continue to raise the issue as evidence that Democrats – and Gideon, in this case – want to raise taxes on fuels that Mainers need to heat their homes or drive to work.

The Collins campaign also pointed to the senator’s sponsorship of bills to fund renewable energy and energy storage technologies, address ocean acidification, fund land conservation and national parks, and provide tax credits to homeowners for energy efficiency upgrades. Collins also voted against President Trump’s two picks to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt and Anthony Wheeler.

“Sara’s ‘plan’ looks remarkably similar to Senator Collins’ record of accomplishment,” campaign spokesman Kevin Kelley said in a statement. “The truth is, as Speaker, Gideon strongly supported a climate plan that would have forced hardworking Maine families and seniors to pay more for gas and more to heat their homes.”

While Collins voted against the two EPA nominees, she also supported Trump’s nominations of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry as secretary of the Department of Energy and former Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke to head the Department of the Interior. Both men were unpopular with environmental and conservation groups during their terms in Trump’s Cabinet and subsequently resigned amid controversies.


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