Legislative Session Highlights

By Carissa Maurin
State Director

Environment Maine had a very busy legislative session working to pass policies to protect Maine’s clean air, water, and beautiful open spaces. Here’s a quick recap of the highlights:

Victories (signed into law):

Wildlife Over Waste:

An Act To Prohibit the Use of Certain Disposable Food Service Containers — LD 289 was the first in the nation ban on polystyrene takeout food and cup containers. Beginning January 1, 2021 establishments may not process, prepare, sell or provide food or beverages in or on a disposable food service container that is composed in whole or in part of polystyrene foam. Cutting out this source of pollution will protect wildlife and our oceans. 

An Act To Eliminate Single-use Plastic Carry-out Bags — LD 1532 prohibits a retail establishment from using single-use carry-out bags to bag products at the point of sale or otherwise make single-use carry-out bags available to customers beginning Earth Day April 22, 2020. It also states  that retail establishments need to charge at least a 5¢ fee for each reusable bag made of plastic and for each recycled paper bag used to bag products at the point of sale. 

Addressing Climate Change:

An Act To Increase Electric Vehicles in Maine — LD 624 establishes an electric vehicle rebate fund to be administered by the Efficiency Maine Trust. Beginning July 1, 2020, a person who purchases or leases an eligible battery electric vehicle can apply for and, as resources allow, receive a direct rebate of $2,500 if the person meets certain eligibility criteria. 

An Act To Reform Maine's Renewable Portfolio Standard — LD 1494 sets Maine’s goals for increasing consumption of electricity in the state that comes from renewable resources so that by January 1, 2030, 80% of retail sales of electricity in the state will come from renewable resources and by January 1, 2050, 100% of retail sales of electricity in the state will come from renewable resources.

An Act To Promote Solar Energy Projects and Distributed Generation Resources in Maine — LD 1711 will provide long term predictability in energy costs for Maine businesses, towns, and households by increasing access to solar power while creating hundreds of good quality jobs for electricians, builders and contractors. It removes the cap on community solar farms and allows clean energy to be available to those who other-wise couldn't have solar installed such as those who rent or live in mobile homes, and those who don’t have the financial resources to cover installation costs. This new solar policy will dramatically expand solar power investment while expanding access to solar power for low and moderate income families. 

An Act To Promote Clean Energy Jobs and To Establish the Maine Climate Council — LD 1679 creates the Maine Climate Council, its Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and its working groups to address a number of critical and pressing issues relating to the effects of climate change on the State, its communities and its environment and natural resources, must commence work on those issues as soon as is possible. Additionally it sets the goal that by January 1, 2030, Maine will reduce its gross annual greenhouse gas emissions to at least 45% below the 1990 gross annual greenhouse gas emissions level and by January 1, 2050, to at least 80% below the 1990 gross annual greenhouse gas emissions level.

Resolve, To Require the Approval by the Public Utilities Commission of a Proposal for a Long-term Contract for Deep-water Offshore Wind Energy — LD 994 requires the Public Utilities Commission to approve a contract to test floating wind turbines, the first of its kind demonstration project of floating offshore wind in the United States.

Clean Water, Conservation, and Public Health:

An Act To Reclassify Certain Waters of the State — LD 1743 updates the classifications for more than 400 miles of rivers and streams effectively decreasing the amount of pollution allowed to be discharged into them. Clean water benefits all Mainers and the aquatic species we depend on. 

An Act To Protect the Environment and Public Health by Further Reducing Toxic Chemicals in Packaging — LD 1433 will help reduce our exposure to toxins in food packaging by prohibiting the sale of food packaging to which phthalates (PFAS) have been intentionally introduced, effective January 1, 2022.

An Act To Prohibit Offshore Oil and Natural Gas Drilling and Exploration — LD 955 prohibits activities relating to offshore oil and natural gas exploration, development and production within state waters. Drilling places the state's coastal communities at economic and ecological risk from oil spills, and from the pollution caused by routine drilling operations and onshore industrialization, and threaten the quality of life and livelihoods of Maine citizens and economically significant industries, including tourism, recreation, commercial and recreational fishing, as well as small businesses that rely on a clean and healthy ocean and clean and healthy beaches.