As world leaders gather in France, it is clear climate change poses challenges and unique opportunities for the United States. Here at home, there are few places where this is as readily apparent as the state of Maine, where environmental stewardship is directly tied to citizens’ way of life. From the state’s picturesque coastline and its maritime industries to its working forests and recreational landscapes, it is the environment that truly serves as the primary economic driver in the Pine Tree State. Thankfully, Sen. Susan Collins’ actions in support of domestic, affordable, clean energy solutions represent responsible approaches that will help ensure a better quality of life for future generations.
This year, the Clean Power Plan was announced as a national policy aimed at achieving a 32 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by the year 2030. As is often the case in Washington, political pressure has spurred division on the plan, along with efforts to block its implementation. Instead of seeking to terminate the plan in its entirety, Collins has worked to bring the federal plan in line with the work already being accomplished by government, private industry and energy consumers in Maine to address greenhouse gas emissions.
Because of Maine’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, the state has witnessed the greatest annual reduction in greenhouse gases in the country. Recent investments in efficiency programs have conserved 1.5 billion kilowatt hours of electric consumption and decreased present and future electric costs for local businesses and consumers in Maine by more than $142 million, according to RGGI. In fact, among the nine states that subscribe to the regional initiative, carbon dioxide emissions have reduced more than 40 percent over levels witnessed a decade ago.
Beyond ensuring increased flexibility in Clean Power Plan compliance measures that take into account Maine’s historic progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Collins has also fought to address the impact that pollution from other states has on Maine’s residents. Collins voted against a resolution in the Senate that would have prohibited implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.
In addition to serving as a strong advocate for the promotion of biomass, solar and offshore wind technology — industries with the potential to create thousands of good jobs in Maine — Collins introduced the bipartisan Clean Cookstoves and Fuels Support Act to directly address the health problems caused by exposure to smoke from traditional cookstoves.
Collins has also led efforts to support the Land and Water Conservation Fund, including matching federal grants to state and local communities for the development of outdoor recreation facilities and funding to support the acquisition of key land parcels within Acadia National Park. And as temperatures start to drop in advance of winter months, it is worth recognizing Collins’ efforts to improve energy efficiency, including the Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program, which has provided much-needed financial assistance to Maine families when it comes to the rising costs associated with home heating.
Beginning with former U.S. Sen. Edmund Muskie’s fight to ensure bipartisan passage of the Clean Air Act, Maine’s elected leaders have occupied a unique place in our nation’s environmental leadership for nearly 50 years. Due in large measure to the hard work, independence and bipartisan policies Collins has championed on behalf of the state of Maine, that robust spirit continues to be alive and well today. Collins deserves to be commended for working across party lines to fight for the best interests of her constituents and the country.
James Dozier is executive director of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions.