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Maine Legislature: February Recap

Our Policy Director and Legislative Team have been working diligently on our priorities this session! Between op-eds, letters to the editor, constituent outreach and more, they have been able to make progress on advancing a livable future. Here is their February recap: 

LD 2077: An Act Regarding Customer Costs and the Environmental and Health Effects of Natural Gas

Mainers have worked tirelessly on shaping our state’s economy and public policy to reflect the urgent needs of a sustainable and livable future. Whether it be through Governor Mills’ climate action plan Maine Won’t Wait; the passage of key legislation on energy or transportation; or the work on frontline communities, our state remains committed to progress. Yet, natural gas utilities threaten to roll back some of that hard-earned progress by seeking to expand their pipeline infrastructure. This spells out environmental consequences for our state: pipeline infrastructure of this nature typically has a lifetime of 50 years. This means any natural gas pipeline expansions that occur may be with us until 2084. It would contribute to GHG emissions and make it especially difficult to fulfill our goal to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050. These potential expansions by utilities not only contribute to long-term damages to climate, but trap Mainers into using comparatively expensive heating. In Maine, heat pumps’ installation costs are typically ⅔ that of a furnace replacement, and have cost savings of $1,000 annually. Overall, it is deeply concerning to see any sort of natural gas expansion given the financial and environmental concerns surrounding such projects. 

This concern drives our work on LD 2077. Maine Youth Action has been closely working with environmental partners to get this legislation across the finish line in some way, shape, or form. We delivered testimony to the Energy, Utilities, and Technology (EUT) committee late January and have worked on mounting external pressure on committee members to support the bill. Our legislative team lead, Megan Sauberlich, has worked diligently on coordinating constituent outreach and been able to get youth activists across Maine Youth Action to express their support to pause natural gas expansion. We also have worked on drafting op-eds, letters to the editor and speaking with committee members individually about the merits of LD 2077. Our team and coalition partners are fighting an uphill battle, but we seek to make some progress during this session. We feel confident that a compromise has been reached that would be backed by a majority of the committee. 

LD 1111: An Act Concerning Contracts and Agreements for Large-scale Water Extraction

LD 1111 aimed to protect one of our state’s critical natural resources- water. Major companies like Poland Spring have recently pushed to sign agreements with municipalities on large-scale water extraction. These agreements, in fact, could last as long as 45 years. Municipalities, especially those who may be dependent on Poland Springs as a source of revenue, tend to sell out rights to water extraction for pennies on the dollar. As a result, they are able to extract enormous amounts of water at extremely cheap rates. In a time of increasing droughts in Maine and the uncertainty surrounding the future of water amid climate change, large-scale water extraction poses a threat to Maine communities. LD 1111 sought to address this problem with provisions such as public hearing requirements and a cap on the length of  water extraction agreements. Corporate lobbyists, backed by Poland Springs, came in droves to Augusta to oppose the bill in its entirety. MYA’s legislative team mobilized support for the bill, alongside Community Water Justice, Sierra Club ME, MYCJ, among others. We have fought hard for months to keep the bill alive despite the mounting pressures for corporate lobbyists. 

Despite a close committee vote of 5-7, LD 1111 ultimately failed in the House 42-92 and in the Senate 12-21. Although MYA and other allies were disappointed in the legislature failing to pass this crucial legislation, we have found our advocacy efforts to be revitalizing. It led us to discover a whole coalition of advocates willing to fight against big corporations for the sake of protecting our natural resources. MYA wholly expects to continue our advocacy on this issue, so stay tuned on what future action we may take!


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