Maine Environmental Priorities Coalition

Environmental Priorities Coalition
NEWS RELEASE
For Immediate Release: January 16, 2014

Contacts: Maureen Drouin, (207) 485-0215, maureen@maineconservation.org  
Beth Ahearn, (207) 671-5071, beth@maineconservation.org

Environmental Coalition Unveils Legislative Priorities for Building Maine’s Economy
Fishermen, Farmers, and Solar Engineers Call for Investments in Natural Resource-Based Economy

(download PDF)

(AUGUSTA)  Calling Maine’s water, land, and wildlife the key to economic growth and prosperity, the state’s leading environmental organizations have introduced a plan to build Maine’s natural resource-based economy for generations to come.  At a press conference this morning at the State House, speakers from the Environmental Priorities Coalition (EPC) unveiled a six-part legislative agenda that will lead to new investments in Maine’s natural resource-based industries and reinforce core environmental protections that are inextricably linked to Maine’s economic prosperity.

“Maine’s competitive advantage is our environment, our people, and our quality of life,” says Maureen Drouin, Executive Director of the Maine Conservation Alliance.  “We all agree that protecting our environment and growing our economy go hand-in-hand.  Now let’s work together to make it happen.  This year’s EPC priorities are innovative and common sense opportunities for Maine families and businesses to grow and prosper.”

Speakers included a lobsterman, solar power installer, farmer, smart growth advocate and former state scientist - all of whom count on Maine’s natural resources for their work and their recreational activities.  The six priority bills were discussed in detail, and include proposals to address clean water, solar power, ocean acidification, food systems, mining, and lakes protection.

A bill introduced by Senator Vitelli (D-Sagadahoc) would help establish solar power as a priority for Maine and put goals in place for developing and investing in solar power and solar jobs.

"Directing our energy dollars to locally-produced solar energy reaps many rewards for the people of Maine,” said Vaughan Woodruff, a solar power installer from Pittsfield.  “It increases our energy independence, provides clean energy that is less expensive than conventional alternatives, and supports small businesses in our rural and urban communities. All of our neighbors in New England have developed robust policies and seeing the benefits; it is time that we do the same."

Addressing what many are calling a major environmental crisis, another priority bill would bring marine experts together to study and recommend responses to ocean acidification and its impacts on Maine’s commercial shellfish industry. 

Richard Nelson, from the town of Friendship stated, “As a lobsterman working the Gulf of Maine, we along with the clammers and those farming shellfish have noticed changes in the ocean environment such as ocean acidification caused by carbon pollution.  To avoid the economic hardships it may cause, we need to do whatever we can to fix it or adapt to it.”

To support Maine’s “local foods” economy and improve nutrition for Maine children, Senator Johnson (D-Lincoln) has introduced a bill to allow farmers and fishermen to create food hubs, where producers can combine, store, process, and distribute their products to schools and other large institutions.

"Across Maine, farmers and food producers are making every effort to provide healthy, locally grown food to our state,” said Marada Cook, from Crown of Maine Organic Cooperative in Vassalboro.  “This bill offers a needed boost to these efforts. The low-interest loans and Farm-to-School opportunities will accelerate the good work already being done on our farms and in our schools."

The EPC agenda includes a recommendation that new rules on metallic mineral mining be rejected by the legislature on the grounds that they threaten water quality and leave Maine taxpayers responsible for paying the clean-up costs of a mining operation. 

Susan Davies, a retired aquatic biologist from Liberty said, “We need mining laws that are smart and fair, but the rules being considered are neither.  The threats that mining operations could pose to Maine’s rivers, lakes, and ground water are well-documented.  The type of mining being proposed for Maine has never been operated successfully without polluting nearby waters.  If we’re going to dive into a mining operation, we deserve solid assurances that our water quality will not be sacrificed, and that those who reap the benefits of the operation pay all the clean-up costs.”

Representative Jeff McCabe (D-Skowhegan) has introduced a bill that responds to Maine’s deteriorating lake water quality and the impacts on property values and by extension municipal budgets.  The bill would strengthen the state’s lake protection programs and prevent the use of pesticides and fertilizers near shorelines.

“Maine lakes are a huge economic driver for our state,” said Ginger Jordan Hillier, a former environmental public health coordinator for the Department of Environmental Protection who lives in Monmouth.  “They generate $3.5 billion in economic activity annually and help sustain 52,000 jobs.  But lake protection efforts have been weakened in recent years.  We need to get back on track and do more to protect this valuable resource for our children and grandchildren.”

Lawmakers will be considering a clean water bond this year, which would invest $50 million in safe drinking water, storm and flood preparation, and recreational fisheries and waterfowl habitat in communities across the state. 

“Water is Maine’s most essential resource, yet we only seem to notice it if there is too much or too little,” stated Nancy Smith of GrowSmart Maine.  “Clean water is critical to our health and we've certainly seen instances with the recent rains where public infrastructure has been overwhelmed.  This legislation represents cost-effective, long-term investments that protect our drinking water sources from contamination and our towns and cities from significant storm damage, all while reducing future costs of infrastructure repair and upgrades. Lawmakers should send the Clean Water and Safe Communities Bond to the voters.”

Maine’s Environmental Priorities Coalition is a partnership of 28 environmental, conservation, and public health organizations representing over 100,000 members.  This is the tenth year the coalition has introduced a slate of priority bills for conserving Maine’s water, land, and wildlife.

“These bills offer creative solutions to difficult challenges while protecting our natural resources and the quality of life they provide,” added Drouin.  “We can make Maine a leader in creating and sustaining jobs that support our farmers, fishermen, scientists, guides, and everyone who works in our recreation economy.  In the process we can create exciting opportunities for families and businesses all across the state.”

###

Maine’s Environmental Priorities Coalition is a partnership of 28 environmental, conservation, and public health organizations representing over 100,000 members who want to protect the good health, good jobs and quality of life that our environmental provides for all of us.