This is the fourth in a series of episodes in season seven of Connect the Dots, the Center for Progressive Reform’s podcast on climate solutions. Subsequent posts will be posted throughout the summer.
Episode four—“Climate Win: Bipartisan Support in Climate Legislation”—features guests Stacy Brenner, a state senator representing Maine’s 30th district, and Jack Shapiro of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. The two joined Rob to discuss landmark climate legislation that was passed in Maine in May 2022. Sponsored by Senator Brenner, LD 1959 requires utility companies to undertake integrated grid planning processes every five years to support Maine’s requirements to reduce greenhouse gasses by 80 percent by 2050.
The new law requires the electric grid planning processes to begin with open, inclusive, and transparent technical conferences and stakeholder workshops. As part of the planning requirements, utility companies must also incorporate climate resiliency into plans in order to respond to extreme weather events that may disrupt energy services for Maine residents. In a state where service is notoriously unreliable, utility companies must now be more proactive in future planning.
Once utility companies file their plans, the plans are opened to public review and comment. The plans are also required to assess environmental, equity, and environmental justice impacts. While many states require separate assessments of equity or environmental justice, Maine is the first to incorporate this evaluation directly into grid planning. This provision ensures that companies consider how and which communities could be adversely impacted by clean energy development.
“We want to make sure that as we go through this, essentially, once in a century transition for our electric grid,” said Shapiro, “that we are well aware of where those impacts might land in a disproportionate way.”
The bill also outlines protective measures for whistleblowers. Employees or contractors who want to speak up about a company’s actions will be protected under this new measure.
When asked how she managed to gain bipartisan support for climate legislation, Senator Brenner explained that she and her colleagues approached the legislation with a focus on benefits that would resonate with conservative-leaning districts, including the financial wellbeing of consumers and fuel price stability. She also found that framing language is equally important. While “climate change” might be overwhelming or carry a certain connotation, a “clean energy economy” is clear and concrete.
Similar to Episode 7.1, Climate Win: Passing Maryland’s Climate Solutions Now Act, which featured a legislative climate win in Maryland, Senator Brenner and Shapiro recognize that no legislation can be passed without support. For Maine, achieving the state’s climate goals requires collective effort, and LD 1959 has paved the way for future climate wins in the state and beyond.
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