Augusta, Maine—After months of grueling increases in the price of home heating oil and gasoline, the Energy, Utilities, and Technology Committee today will consider a bipartisan bill to reduce Maine’s dependence on oil. Veterans, the Maine Medical Association, clean energy businesses, environmental and conservation groups, and citizens plan to urge the committee to pass the bill.
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. Maine’s oil use has been up and down over the last several decades, closely following trends in prices.
“For generations, politicians of all ideological persuasions have bemoaned Maine and America’s dependence on oil. And yet, nearly four decades after the 1973 Arab oil embargo that first exposed the economic costs of the nation’s dependence on oil, Maine and the country as a whole still remain dangerously addicted to petroleum – with massive impacts on our environment, economy, and national security. It’s time to commit to reducing Maine’s oil dependence – once and for all,” said Environment Maine Director Emily Figdor.
Mainers are familiar with the economic and national security toll of our state’s dependence on oil. For more than three decades, Mainers have dealt with periodic spikes in oil prices as well as the gnawing sense that our dependence on oil fuels and empowers nations that do not have our best interests at heart. Oil also a leading cause of many of our most intractable environmental problems, including air pollution, water pollution, global warming, exposure to health-threatening chemicals, and destruction of pristine habitats on-shore and in marine environments. As oil becomes harder to find, the environmental toll of our dependence on oil will only increase.
“Thankfully, Maine has many tools that we can use to reduce our dependence on oil – safeguarding not only our economy and our national security, but our environment as well. By getting the most out of every drop of oil we use through improved energy efficiency, shifting toward transportation systems that use less oil, and by substituting clean fuels for both heating and transportation, Maine can achieve a dramatic reduction in our use of oil,” continued Figdor.
An Act to Reduce Maine’s Dependence on Oil, LD 553, sets 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.
“Every year, the stakes of Maine’s high-risk bet on oil as the major source of energy for our economy continue to rise. Maine must commit now to ending our dependence on oil. The Committee should pass this important bill to get Maine off oil,” concluded Figdor.
The bill is one of a handful of bills endorsed this year by the Environmental Priorities Coalition. Among those who plan to testify in support of the bill include Andrew Campbell, Iraq war veteran and member of Operation Free; the Maine Medical Association; American Lung Association of Maine; Maine Center for Economic Policy; Maine Pellet Fuels Association; Corinth Wood Pellets; other clean energy businesses; citizens; and environmental and conservation groups.
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).
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 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. Just last week, 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. As of last Thursday morning, the DEP had removed 206 tons of contaminated soil, 300 gallons of diesel fuel, 150 gallons of fuel and water mixture, and 10 cubic yards of absorbent pads.
* 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 since last September.