June 19, 2018
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Green jobs bill would help environment, economy

By Katie Kokkinos, Special to the BDN

On June 26, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454) — a historic step toward a new clean energy economy and a healthy future. We applaud Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud for voting to pass this bill.

Now it’s up to the U.S. Senate to pass a bill that unleashes the potential of clean energy to rebuild our economy, put millions of Americans back to work and stop global warming. Not only does Maine have the potential to become a hub for this new economic activity, but Maine workers have the opportunity to benefit from the thousands of jobs that would be created by investing in a clean energy future.

We can make our homes and businesses so efficient that any energy they use is generated onsite from clean sources like wind, solar, and geothermal power. The wind power fever has taken off here in Maine and many refer to our state as the “Saudi Arabia of wind.” This summer, Gov. John Baldacci and Maine’s entire federal delegation secured $5 million for research and testing offshore wind sites. There are two wind farms operating in northeastern Maine, which together contain nearly 77 wind turbines that power thousands of New England homes. According to a recent spread in Mainebiz, there are two more farms currently being built, two projects approved for construction, and three more projects that have been proposed. All of these wind farm projects would provide even larger amounts of steady energy for Maine.

With this potential and momentum, Maine could lead the charge towards the clean energy economy. Clean energy has been a bright spot in our economy in recent years. In the words of President Barack Obama upon passage of the bill, “Make no mistake: this is a jobs bill.” These jobs will be in manufacturing, selling, installing and servicing wind turbines, solar panels and efficient buildings and automobiles.

We’ve already seen these effects. According to a survey of green businesses by the Pew Charitable Trusts, job growth in Maine’s emerging clean energy economy has been faster than in the economy as a whole — 22.7 percent growth in green businesses compared with 3.3 percent in all businesses combined. (See the executive summary at http://www.pewglobalwarming.org/cleanenergyeconomy/).

President Obama gets this. He wants to lead America into a new energy era, one in which we move away from the polluting energy sources of the past and towards the clean energy technologies of the future. But President Obama and the leaders in Congress cannot bring about this change alone.

Environment Maine estimates that oil and coal companies, along with other polluters, have hired 2,000 lobbyists to stop clean energy legislation from moving forward — that’s nearly four lobbyists for every member of Congress. Recent news out of Washington indicates that lobbyists hired by the coal industry went so far as to forge letters from constituents to pressure members of Congress to vote against the house bill. To push clean energy plans forward, our senators need to hear from us.

Now is the time for bold and meaningful action on clean energy and global warming. Environment Maine is calling on Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to pass a strong clean energy jobs bill that will unleash the power of clean energy to transform our economy, protect our environment and build a more sustainable fu-ture.

Katie Kokkinos is the environmental advocate at Environment Maine.

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