Portland, Maine—The Legislature today gave final approval to a bill that sets ambitious goals to reduce Maine’s dependence on oil and requires the state develop a comprehensive plan to achieve the goals.
“Maine is dangerously addicted to oil – with massive impacts on our environment, economy, and national security. We applaud lawmakers for taking this first, important step to start to get Maine off oil,” said Environment Maine Director Emily Figdor.
Maine is the fourth most oil dependent state in the country, as a result of the state’s heavy reliance on oil for both heating and transportation. Over the last several decades, Maine’s oil use has closely followed trends in prices.
An Act to Improve Maine’s Energy Security, LD 553, sets ambitious yet achievable goals to reduce Maine’s oil use, requires the state develop a plan to achieve them, and calls for periodic reporting on the state’s progress in meeting the goals. Specifically, the bill extends an existing requirement to reduce the use of liquid fossil fuels for heating by 30% by 2030 to oil use in all sectors of the economy. The bill also adds a long-term goal to reduce Maine’s overall oil use by 50% by 2050.
“Getting Maine off oil is a long-term process, but we have the technology to get started today. We can do it by getting the most out of every drop of oil we use through improved energy efficiency and by transitioning to clean, made-in-Maine energy sources—more hybrid cars and trucks, expanded public transit options, wind power off our coast, incentives for people to go solar, and more,” continued Figdor.
The bill is one of a handful of bills endorsed this year by the Environmental Priorities Coalition. The Maine Medical Association, American Lung Association of Maine, Maine Center for Economic Policy, and clean energy businesses such as the Maine Pellet Fuels Association, among others, also support the bill.
The bill is sponsored by Republican Representative Stacey Fitts (Pittsfield), House chair of the committee, along with Senators Phil Bartlett (D-Cumberland), Roger Katz (R-Kennebec), Chris Rector (R-Knox), and Seth Goodall (D-Sagadahoc) and Representatives Jane Knapp (R-Gorham), Michael McClellan (R-Raymond), Jon Hinck (D-Portland), and Alex Cornell du Houx (D-Brunswick).
“We urge Governor LePage to sign this long overdue bill to start to break Maine’s oil dependence,” concluded Figdor.
Environment Maine is a citizen-based environmental advocacy organization working to preserve Maine’s open spaces, protect clean air and water, and steer the state toward a clean energy future.
Background on the Impacts of Maine’s Oil Dependence:
* Oil a leading cause of many intractable environmental problems, including air pollution, water pollution, global warming, exposure to health-threatening chemicals, and destruction of pristine habitats on-shore. As oil becomes harder to find, the environmental toll of our dependence on oil will only increase. Oil is Maine’s largest in-state source of air pollution, and the state suffers from unacceptably high levels of air pollution. Every county in Maine except Oxford County received a grade of C or worse for high levels of smog pollution in the American Lung Association’s 2010 State of the Air Report, and Androscoggin, Cumberland, Kennebec, Knox and York Counties all received Ds or Fs. Air pollution harms the health of many Mainers, contributing to cardiovascular problems, strokes, heart attacks, respiratory infections, inflamed lung tissue, and asthma attacks. Polluted air can even be fatal.
* Oil spills such as the BP Deepwater Horizon impose massive damage on the environment, but smaller spills, tanker accidents, pipeline leaks, and leaking underground storage tanks are common. For example, about a week ago, an estimated 5,000 gallons of gasoline spilled and seeped into the ground when a tank was breached in Wallgrass, after a truck carrying the oil overturned. In late March, about 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel leaked from a parked tanker truck into the Pleasant River in Columbia Falls. The fuel flowed contaminated a three-and-a-half mile area, including the Pleasant River Hatchery, which houses 135,000 Atlantic salmon.
* In terms of the economic impacts, Maine’s oil dependence is a huge drain on our economy. Even before oil prices spiked over the last several months, according to the U.S. Energy Department, Mainers spent nearly $15 million on oil every single day – the vast majority of which we ship out of state and overseas, whereas many of the solutions to the problem would keep money in our local economy. According to the Governor’s Office of Energy Independence and Security, for every $1 increase in a gallon of oil, Maine exports the equivalent of $1 billion from the state’s economy – an increase in price that we’ve seen over the last year.