Maine Legislative Update
Maine policymakers wrapped up its two-year 130th Legislature in May 2022, completing one of the “most productive environmental and energy legislatures in more than 30 years,” according to one environmental advocate.
During the first year, Acadia Center wrote and championed legislation requiring the Maine Public Utilities Commission to include achieving the state greenhouse gas reduction targets as a primary mission. The bill opened the door for state agencies to take actions that consider equity and environmental justice goals in all state policy, programmatic, and regulatory decisions. Maine implemented key Climate Action Plan goals like eliminating HFCs, promoting offshore wind, setting appliance standards, and increasing weatherization funding; expanded electrification for building heating and transportation; and bills to incentive renewables, energy storage, microgrids, and other non-wires alternatives in Maine’s electricity grid.
With such a successful 2021, we expected 2022 to involve smaller-scale wins – but we had some big ones, too. Legislators passed bills to protect and conserve natural lands and waters and carbon storage opportunities. They enacted legislation to ensure renewable energy project siting is streamlined and transparent and avoids negative impacts to natural resources, including agricultural lands and forests. Policymakers funded climate education for schools, students; and teachers; established a Climate Corp for workforce development and energy projects; mandated carbon neutrality in Maine by 2045; made zoning and land use changes to increase affordable, efficient housing opportunities; set targets for electric vehicle fleet procurement in schools and towns; and provided tax incentives for clean energy projects, such as energy storage and energy-efficient buildings.
Acadia Center and its partners also took the lead on two substantial steps forward toward a clean energy future that benefits everyone.
- LD 1959 – An Act Regarding Utility Accountability and Grid Planning for Maine’s Clean Energy Future. Governor Mills introduced this bill in early 2022 to hold Maine’s electric utilities accountable to ratepayers for their performance. For months, Acadia Center worked with the Governor’s Office, legislators, the Public Advocate, environmental groups, and others to improve the bill. Acadia Center introduced language that implements the first half of our RESPECT plan – conducting comprehensive, all-fuels planning through a process involving stakeholder review and transparency. In the end, LD 1959 represents considerable progress in holding utilities accountable and initiating serious integrated grid planning for a reliable, clean, and affordable electricity grid, whether its investor or consumer owned utilities who are distributing the electrons through the wires. In an era of sky-high electricity prices and climate pollution, legislators chose not to leave Augusta without holding the state’s two utility-owned investors, Central Maine Power and Versant, accountable for their future performance and impacts on ratepayers. Instead, they embraced an all-encompassing, long-term, strategic grid planning process to modernize Maine’s electricity and engaging all stakeholders in designing, building, and operating a clean energy grid of the future. This was one of the most significant climate accomplishments of this legislative session.
- LD 2018 – An Act to Implement Recommendations Regarding the Incorporation of Equity Considerations in Regulatory Decision Making. This bill was a direct result of Acadia Center’s 2021 bill requiring the Governor’s Office to evaluate equity considerations in state-government decision making. It makes PUC proceedings more accessible to Maine people and requires the PUC to develop an environmental justice plan; requires the DEP to adopt rules establishing procedures to ensure that persons in environmental justice populations and frontline communities are provided with fair and equitable access to the department’s decision-making processes; and establishes definitions for “environmental justice,” “frontline communities” and related terminology. LD 2018 moves Maine forward in its commitment to environmental justice and a clean and safe carbon-neutral economy that benefits all people.
Acadia Center is already looking forward to 2023 and hopes to keep pushing to make this decade count for utility business model innovation, clean transportation, clean heating and next generation energy efficiency, grid modernization and transmission, offshore wind, and more.