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Issue Position: Chellie Pingree on the Environment

Issue Position


For the past seven years, environmental protection and the environment itself has been under attack by the Bush Administration. In Congress I would fight to make sure the EPA is living up to its mission to actually protect the environment. I would also stand up to the powerful corporate interests that not only constantly oppose any new environmental protections but that seek to weaken or destroy those that we have. We should leave our children and grandchildren a cleaner and healthier world.

Those who say we have to choose between a healthy environment and a healthy economy are wrong. The truth is we can have both. In fact, Maine's natural resources are closely linked to jobs, our image and our way of life. Protecting those resources is essential if we want to grow the Maine economy.

I went to the College of the Atlantic in the 1970s when America was making bold steps toward clean and renewable energy. Entrenched interests got us off that track, but now more than ever we need to stand up, protect our environment, and meet the challenges we face because of the climate crisis.

I believe it is extremely important that we bring the state of our environment into harmony. This is an issue that can be seen on both a large scale--dealing with global warming, for instance--and also on a smaller scale--changing how we interact with the natural world in our daily lives and communities.

In particular, I believe our dependence on fossil fuel has created a whole range of problems, starting with global warming but also including conflict in the Middle East and adverse economic impacts.

We have a unique opportunity to take concrete steps to protect and preserve the environment. We just need to show the political will to take advantage of

An Environmental Leader

Chellie Pingree's commitment to protecting the environment is uncompromising. As a Maine State Senator and Senate Majority leader, she was a champion of environmental causes and fought to preserve and protect Maine's natural resources. She spent many years as an organic farmer and believes that it is vital that we are able to live in health and comfort, and that we preserve a healthy balance in our communities between growth and conservation. This ethic has guided the issues she has worked on and the way she has lived much of her life. Chellie has served on the board of College of the Atlantic as well as the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), where she was Treasurer and founded the Farm Apprenticeship Program.

She was an original sponsor of legislation to appropriate $50 million to acquire public land in the largest non‐transportation bond proposal in Maine history. Pingree consistently voted to improve air quality, limit clear‐cutting, test emissions, and to suspend corporate subsidies for environmental violations.

Chellie's commitment and efforts have been widely acknowledged by environmental groups. Her LCV rating during her last 4 years in the Senate was a perfect 100%. Pingree was on the Maine League of Conservation Voter's "honor roll" for 1997‐98. She also received a perfect 100% rating in 1997‐1998 from the Natural Resources Council of Maine. In addition, the Maine Audubon Society honored her in 1998 for the "highest commitment to the environment."

Fighting for the Environment

Many of the most dangerous risks to our environment and, by extension, our health, can only be solved at the federal level. These threats will have to be addressed immediately by the US Congress if we are to avoid even more serious repercussions. Chellie's education, experience and record of creative and dynamic policy change make her the best choice to represent Maine in Washington, DC on environmental issues. While we fortunately have many technological solutions and legislative tools available to promote clean renewable energy and a healthy environment, Chellie's leadership skills will be critical in making real progress.

Addressing Global Warming

The debate is over and the world's scientific community agrees that global warming is without a doubt one of the greatest challenges we are facing in the next decade. However, we must also recognize it as one of our greatest opportunities. Our nation has a proud history of facing adversity with hard work and ingenuity. This is especially true of Maine people. Whether it's renewable energy, green technology, or energy efficiency, we can take on global warming and put Maine people to work. Federal support for research, workforce development and commercialization of new technologies is critical and will promote job growth not only in these immediate industries, but in related industries as well. Strong leadership in Washington, the kind that Chellie can provide, will be necessary for Maine to tackle global warming and create jobs at the same time.

Doing nothing is no longer an option. We are already facing irretrievable losses of plant and animal species and the situation grows worse every day.

Fuel Efficiency

Fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas regulation for new cars and trucks is the single most effective policy option available. I support H.R. 6, The Energy Independence and Security Act passed in 2007 that raises overall fuel economy of cars and light trucks to 35 miles per gallon by 2020 - the first fuel economy increase for these vehicles since 1975! This change will save 1.1 million barrels of oil per day, which will reduce global warming pollution by almost 200 million metric tons per year, equaling approximately 3% of U.S. emissions in 2005. It will result in a savings for American families of $700 to $1,000 a year. The law also raises efficiency standards for appliances and buildings, conserving energy, saving money and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

Control of Greenhouse Gases ­- GHG Emissions

Raising fuel efficiency standards is important, but setting standards for greenhouse gas emissions can bring about even more significant reductions in global warming pollution.

Maine has been in the forefront of lowering GHG emissions, having created the Maine Greenhouse Gas Initiative in 2003 ( The California GHG emission standards, which Maine and 15 other states have adopted ‐ about half of the national market ‐ would reduce greenhouse gases from the transportation sector by 18% by 2020. These reductions are more than twice as large as those that would be achieved under the CAFÉ standards in the recent Energy Bill. Unfortunately, the Bush administration has blocked the state standards by denying California and other states a routine waiver application, and at the same time has defied the Supreme Court by refusing to issue a federal regulation. As a result, the US now trails much of the rest of the world in terms of lowering GHG emissions - China, Europe, India and Canada all have far more stringent motor vehicle emissions standards. Chellie therefore supports the Safe Climate Act, proposed legislation currently in the House of Representatives that would lower emissions of GHG by 80% by 2050. The approach envisioned in this bill is better than some proposals that put off too much of the reduction for too long. This is too pressing a challenge to postpone with less vigorous measures.

Maine has also been a strong leader in establishing a regional cap and trade system to control GHG emissions from the electrical sector. Cap and trade programs were first created by the EPA in 2005 because of a desperate need to reduce GHG. This pragmatic approach of "emissions‐trading" hopes to capture 70% of GHG emissions by 2018. Emission caps are established and some plants unable to install the expensive technology can buy pollution credits. The revenue from these credits provides much‐needed funding to develop clean energy alternatives, invest in energy efficiency, and provide assistance to low‐income populations most heavily impacted by high energy costs. The problem has been that the remaining 30% of un‐capped emissions create "hot spots" of pollution, particularly mercury pollution. There needs to be a way to address the pollution from "hot spots" while at the same time enjoying the benefits of reduced GHG and more money for alternative energy development.

The solution seems to have come from a recent (February 8, 2008) ruling by a federal appeals court in response to a lawsuit filed by Maine and 16 other states against mercury polluters and the EPA. The EPA was found to have violated the federal Clean Air Act when it scrapped the administration's mercury policy. Cap and trade programs, however beneficial for controlling GHG and global warming, need to be balanced by current regulations such as the Clean Air Act, which safeguards community health. Industry organizations, which strongly supported the cap and trade mercury plan, still need to be held accountable. It will take leadership and the political will to take on the industries that resist change and find a balanced solution to global warming and the continued health of Maine citizens.

Energy Efficiency and Conservation

Let's not forget the simplest, cleanest, and cheapest way to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels: energy efficiency. Individuals and businesses can use more efficient lighting, appliances, and heating and cooling systems. Research shows that Maine could save well over one million mega‐watt hours of electricity if energy efficiency measures were maximized. As Americans, we all want to do our part to help our country. But when it comes to energy efficiency, we just aren't being asked. We need leadership in Washington to design a roadmap and light the path so every citizen can be proud to be part of the solution. Using LED bulbs, which are even more efficient than compact fluorescent bulbs, could reduce the national electric load by 20% by 2020 - enough to eliminate all the 150 new coal power plants currently in planning or construction. This is the direction we must go if we are to reduce our carbon emissions and at the same time cut our energy costs.

The opportunities are plentiful and Maine is a natural environmental leader by virtue of our work ethic, our resources, and our way of life. It's time for Maine to assume our place at the forefront of environmental change. It's time to take on the status quo in Washington that keeps us mired in inaction. It's time for leadership that helps every citizen do his or her part to fix the problem. It's time to put Maine people to work in solving global warming. It's time to address the challenge and take advantage of this opportunity.

Energy Independence

Energy independence is a cornerstone of the Maine way of life. Ensuring that we are not reliant on foreign or even out‐of‐state energy sources is a natural instinct for most of us, and a goal worth pursuing vigorously. Maine is well positioned to provide leadership for the nation on this front. Achieving energy independence has multiple additional benefits if done properly. Conversely, if done poorly, the quest for energy independence could create environmental, health, and economic consequences that could further deteriorate the condition we're currently in. It's not just about independence; it's about smart independence.

Being smart about energy independence means avoiding a rush to misuse our own resource, rely on old ideas, or extract resources in inappropriate places. It means not substituting one highly polluting energy source for another. We don't gain anything by producing electricity from coal that is strip‐mined in West Virginia rather than oil that is imported from Saudi Arabia. Instead, we just trade one set of problems for another.

Being smart about energy independence means investing in alternative energy sources that are clean, renewable, and fuel our economic engine. We need to invest in our most promising clean technologies. These could include biomass, wind, hydro, solar, ocean currents, biofuels, and others that are currently developed. We need to avoid the temptation to throw good money after bad. Increasing our nuclear facilities is a bad investment that saps the resources we need to invest in safe and clean alternatives. And turning coal into liquid fuels is a boondoggle that will double the carbon pollution of gas‐powered cars.

Being smart about energy independence means having a master plan that identifies what technologies should be pursued and what should be phased out. For example, the use of coal is dangerous on the front end when it is mined, and dangerous again on the back end, when it is burned to produce power.

Being smart means providing incentives for existing businesses that are part of the plan to innovate and clean up. It means encouraging reductions in consumption and maximizing our energy efficiency so our overall demand for energy is reduced.

Achieving energy independence is nothing short of patriotic. It's a tremendous opportunity to get our divided nation working together. By establishing national goals and benchmarks that become part of our public discussion, everyone participates in the solution and shares the pride that comes from achieving great changes.

Ultimately, achieving energy independence is not just about satisfying our Yankee instinct to be self‐reliant. Energy independence is about ensuring that we control our own destiny and our own resources. It's about disengaging from an economic relationship with a region of the world that puts our safety at risk. It's about building an infrastructure for the next seven generations that protects their environment, their health, and the Maine way of life.

Enforcement of Current Environmental Regulations

Many state and national environmental organizations list as the number one environmental priority the preservation and enhancement of existing environmental protections such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. Over the last seven years, environmental regulations have come under constant attack by the Bush Administration ‐ so any discussion about the environment should start with the understanding that we must protect and vigorously enforce the regulations already in place. Bipartisan legislation is needed to remove any question about Congressional intent for these acts and to restore them to their full potential to protect our environment.

Clean Air

For 30 years the Clean Air Act has made tremendous strides in protecting Americans (and Mainers), but it is at risk as the so‐called "Clear Skies Act" put forth by the Bush Administration threatens to dismantle much of the original law by changing how it interprets that law. Another example of where federal policies can have a devastating impact on Maine's air quality and environment is mercury pollution that is formed from out‐of‐state power plants and rains down on Maine's forests and waterways. By entering the food chain, mercury can damage the developing brains of fetuses and very young children, causing neurological problems and increasing learning disabilities. In a recent court ruling (February 2008) the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled unanimously that the EPA violated the Federal Clean Air Act when it scrapped the Clinton administration mercury policy. Congressman Tom Allen issued a statement saying "the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to impose regulations on utility company curb their emissions that cause mercury pollution..."

Maine has one of the highest asthma rates in the nation and the highest in New England. It is not unrealistic to describe our geographic location as the "tailpipe" for pollution from other states. Asthma and other lung diseases that result from ozone and particle pollution are the equally tragic health effect of that same archaic fossil fuel‐based system that results in global warming. Replacing fossil fuels with clean, healthy, and renewable energy sources is our responsibility to our children and must be one of our top priorities.

Chellie would continue in Maine's strong tradition of leadership representing Maine's vital needs with regard to air quality. But she recognizes that air quality is also dependent upon reducing reliance on fossil fuels and emphasizing clean renewable energy. (see II Addressing Global Warming)

Clean Water

Last year marked the 35th anniversary of the Clean Water Act that had such a profound positive impact on Maine's rivers, lakes and streams, clam flat, fisheries and other aquatic resources and on waterfront communities. Mainers such as Ed Muskie and George Mitchell played a key role in this legislation. However, polluters and inadequate and failing sewage treatment plant improvements continue to contaminate Maine's waterways and threaten to set back so much of that earlier progress. We will need a strong voice in Washington again to make sure Maine people and Maine resources are protected and restored. We need to amend federal law to affirmatively protect headwater streams and wetlands. And we need to restore federal funding of water and wastewater infrastructure systems to pre‐Bush levels. The backlog of repairs and replacements is especially important here in Maine in order to protect our coastal water quality and our fisheries.

A major national debate is occurring over the protection of headwater streams, wetlands and other waters due to the two misguided Supreme Court rulings and Bush administration policy that have expansively interpreted them. We should pass legislation to restore broad definition of "waters of the U.S." under the Clean Water Act [H.R. 2421/S. 1870].

Congress should use its oversight authority to ensure that navigation, flood control and harbor dredging projects undertaken by the Army Corps of Engineers are shown to be genuinely in the public interest, environmentally and otherwise, and a good use of taxpayer money.

Endangered Species

Attacks on the Endangered Species Act illustrate the Bush Administration's contempt for scientific practices and principals. It appears that Administration officials, including Vice President Cheney, have interfered to try to thwart the enforcement of the ESA. Other Administration appointees, with little or no scientific training, have become heavily involved in editing scientific reports on enforcement of the ESA. Chellie would fight to ensure that the next administration uses sound scientific principals to protect endangered plants and animals, and leaves politics out of the process.


Some environmental threats are visible and obvious, like thick smoke or exhaust fumes that we can see, smell, and taste. But other equally dangerous threats go unnoticed as we go about our daily lives. Naturally occurring and man‐made toxins are insidious poisons that can produce serious and deadly health effects without us ever knowing we've been exposed. A recent study entitled Body of Evidence, A Study of Pollution in Maine People, conducted by the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine, examined thirteen Maine men and women who volunteered to have their bodies tested. The study found a total of 46 different chemicals in samples of blood, urine and hair. These findings show that Maine people are routinely exposed to hazardous industrial chemicals.

Lead, arsenic, and radon are all found naturally in our water, our soil, and in air pockets underground. But there are also toxins in the ecosystem from pollutants we've taken steps to eliminate but whose effects are still being felt. Examples include mercury in polluted fish and thermometers; lead from old paint, computers, and televisions; and arsenic from pressure‐ treated wood. Efforts to educate the public to prevent exposure to toxins must be fully funded so we don't incur even greater costs to our health care system.

And there is the ever growing collection of dangerous man‐made chemicals that are added to consumer products to achieve a variety of effects ‐ stain‐guards for furniture; plastic softeners for shower curtains and nail polish; and plastic hardeners for reusable water bottles and the linings of food cans. These chemicals can cause cancer, learning disabilities, and infertility. They are especially dangerous in children, yet even toys are not tested for the harmful chemicals they could contain.

Inexplicably, there's little government regulation of these dangerous products. It's time to overhaul our chemical regulation system and ensure that products are safe before they go to market. Safer alternatives already exist. We need to require toxic ingredients to be phased out when non‐toxic alternatives are identified.

Taking on the chemical industry will take aggressive leadership. But our citizens shouldn't have to wonder if the products they buy are putting them at risk in their own home. Chellie has been a leader in working to get toxins out of the products we use and is proud of the work her daughter Hannah has done as the current Majority Leader in the Maine House to continue that fight.

Standing up to Industry

There are some common themes in the array of environmental challenges we are facing in the years ahead. One of them is the consistent presence of powerful and entrenched special interests that will invest overwhelming time and resources into maintaining the status quo and protecting their bottom line. It will take strong leadership, creative problem solving, and an ability to focus grassroots power in order to have any chance of succeeding against mega‐ corporations and their web of bureaucratic protection.

What could the future look like for our corporate citizens? We need industry to maximize their use of clean and healthy technologies. We need them to incorporate systems that make best use of raw materials and limit their environmental footprint. This could include using recycled paper and other office supplies, enforcing policies of no idling of vehicles, and buying local to reduce transportation distance, among many other environmentally friendly policies. We need them to clean up operations that pollute or put employees at risk. We need them to take responsibility for the end‐of‐life handling of products with toxic components. Maine's E‐Waste program is a model that can be followed nationwide. And we need chemicals to be thoroughly tested before being put on the market for use in consumer products.

We need serious penalties for bad players. Proper enforcement will drive development of clean technology. Our natural resources belong to all of us. Their industrial use is a privilege, not a right. Polluters need to be identified and penalized swiftly so their actions do not jeopardize the resource or the public health. We also need to reward those who do it right. They are role models to their corporate colleagues and should be recognized for their efforts.

Maine's Economic Engine Runs on Environmental Stewardship

Whether it's forest products, farming, fishing, or outdoor recreation, Maine jobs and the Maine economy have always been strongly linked to our natural resources. It's no surprise then that Maine people are deeply respectful of and connected to our environment. As such, we are well positioned to seize on today's opportunities to build our economy using our significant natural resources.

Federal support is critical if Maine is going to be able to take advantage of the growing environmental economic opportunities. Maine needs innovations in product development and marketing within its natural resource industries in order to integrate and succeed in the global economy. Financial resources are needed to support pilot projects, like the Red Shield project that will integrate a bio‐refinery into its pulp processing plant in Old Town. Policy change is also vital. Without the policies and resources from the federal level, Maine will be hamstrung in responding to the opportunities before us.

We need to protect our land and resources that continue to draw visitors from all over the world. We need to preserve our open spaces, our public land, and our public access. And we need to ensure that only sustainable forestry practices are followed in our national forests ‐ this means ending subsidized road building for logging national forests.

Maine's natural resources are our economic heritage and our economic future. We need strong leadership in Washington to ensure that Maine's natural ability to help solve our nation's environmental challenges is not overlooked.

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