Coalition and Lawmakers Announce Environmental Priorities for 2022 Legislative Session

AUGUSTA, ME – Yesterday, Maine’s Environmental Priorities Coalition (EPC), a partnership of 37 environmental, conservation, climate action, and public health organizations, joined legislative leaders and dozens of Mainers from across the state to announce their top priorities for the 2022 legislative session.
Each year, the EPC identifies a slate of priority bills that will have the greatest impact on protecting Maine’s environment, public health, and climate future. These aren’t the only bills the organizations track, support, and celebrate, but they represent the best collective opportunities to protect and increase access to clean water, protect biodiversity and our environment, fund opportunities for climate education, address out-of-state waste, and improve tribal-state relations.
“Our 2022 policy priorities reflect the Coalition’s commitment to tackling the climate crisis, protecting Maine’s treasured lands and waters, and advancing environmental justice for communities hit hardest by pollution,” stated Kathleen Meil, Director of Policy and Partnerships at Maine Conservation Alliance, and spokesperson for the Coalition. “As we move forward during these challenging times, we’ve selected priorities that will help our state emerge stronger and set us on a path toward a just and sustainable future for generations to come,” continued Meil.
The seven bills selected by the coalition were introduced by legislative sponsors and advocates during a live online event on Thursday. They include proposals to:
The nine bills selected by the Coalition were introduced by legislative sponsors during a live online event on Friday. They include proposals to:
Recognize tribal sovereignty (LD 1626);
Stop filling Maine landfills with out-of-state waste (LD 1639);
Help restore Maine’s rivers (not yet printed);
Encourage climate change education in Maine public schools (LD 1902);
Expand Maine’s ecological reserve system (LD 736);
Add the Pine Tree Amendment to Maine’s Constitution (LD 489); and
Protect Maine’s clean water (not yet printed).
Learn more about the package of priority bills and listen to the recording of the event here.
From lawmakers and advocates:
Assistant House Majority Leader Representative Rachel Talbot Ross, Cumberland County, speaking about LD 1626, the bill she has submitted to restore the Wabanaki tribes’ inherent sovereignty:
“This bill is critically important in advancing equity and justice in our state. It is legislation that will bring Maine tribes into alignment with the 570 other federally recognized tribal nations. It further provides the opportunity to take an affirmative step forward in dismantling systemic racism by restoring the tribes’ right to self-determination.”
Senator Rick Bennett, Oxford County, addressing the importance of LD 489 – known widely as the “Pine Tree Amendment” – of which he is a co-sponsor:
“Sadly, we can’t trust our government at times to be unconflicted by the power exerted by big corporations and others who have their own special interests to bear. And we’ve seen that too often and increasingly in state government. I believe this amendment will protect people and generations to come from that encroaching misuse of governmental power.”
Senator Anne Carney, Cumberland County, speaking about the bill she has submitted to close a loophole that allows for out-of-state waste to be landfilled in Maine:
“The state-owned landfill, Juniper Ridge, is filling up at an alarming rate – we have about six years of volume left. A significant cause is construction demolition debris imported from Massachusetts and states with more stringent solid waste laws – hundreds of thousands of tons of CDD is minimally processed and then deposited in our state-owned landfill. LD 1639 will make sure we are not importing solid waste that takes up the landfill space we Mainers need.”
Representative Nicole Grohoski, Hancock County, speaking to how LD 736 would help expand Maine’s ecological reserve system thus protecting biodiversity and tackling climate change:
“Over two decades ago, Maine set the ambitious goal of protecting examples of all the diverse habitats across our state. We’ve made great progress – protecting gems like the Cutler Coast, the Bigelows, and the Mahoosucs from development – but there are arbitrary limits in statute that prevent us from realizing the original goal. LD 736 would allow us to expand the ecological reserve system to preserve Maine’s biodiversity, mitigate climate change, and enhance our outdoor recreation economy.”
Representative Lydia Blume, York County, addressing LD 1902 and the need for resources to support Maine teachers who are eager to teach climate change and nature-based programs:
“The bill aligns with the 4-year goals of the Maine Climate Action Plan, namely the goal of increasing education offerings related to climate and energy. Now is the time to fund climate education professional development and community partnerships for all of our educators. Our students need this knowledge and engagement to, in part, overcome any growing anxiety about our climate future and its effects. Their generation is going to see such rapid climate change and we can help them to cope if we pass this bill. We will all need our youth’s energy and engagement to do all that must be done to avoid the worst effects of what a warming planet could inflict upon us.”
Nick Bennett, Staff Scientist and Healthy Waters Project Director, Natural Resources Council of Maine, raising the historical significance of upgrading water quality classifications this year:
“The Reclassification Bill would upgrade protections for rivers and streams in nine Maine counties. It’s a big step forward for Maine’s clean water and a great way to honor the legacy of Senator Edmund Muskie in this, the 50th anniversary year of the Clean Water Act that he authored.”
John Burrows, Executive Director for U.S. Operations, Atlantic Salmon Federation, explaining the role that specific dams play in harming Maine’s rivers:
“This legislation threatens the ability of the state to manage its natural resources and to have a voice in federal decisions regarding a number of uneconomical and detrimental dams that are severely harming Maine’s rivers and the Gulf of Maine ecosystem. On the Kennebec River, this legislation will bring to a halt the continued restoration of economically and ecologically vital species like alewives, American shad, and American eel, while also making the extinction of the iconic Atlantic salmon in the U.S. all the more probable.”