The Maine House of Representatives voted along party lines Monday to restart work on a climate adaptation plan that was approved three years ago but languished under the administration of Gov. Paul LePage and his commissioner of environmental protection.
L.D. 825, sponsored by Rep. William Noon, D-Sanford, would resume study of the long-term effects of climate change and weather extremes and require a report to be submitted by Feb. 27, 2015, for consideration by the 127th Legislature.
“The (Department of Environmental Protection), after two years, issued a two-page letter that basically said, ‘We don’t have the money to study this,’ ” Noon said Monday after the 83-55 vote. “But we need some sort of study on this. We can’t keep putting it off.”
The bill next heads to the Senate, where it likely has more support, but a LePage veto is possible. If Monday’s vote stands, there would not be a two-thirds majority in the House to override a veto.
Noon said the bill had support from Republicans on the environment and natural resources committee, but he’s not surprised those Republicans are now retreating.
Even if the governor does not veto the bill, it could die because of funding concerns. The bill contains a fiscal note of about $244,000.
“That’s kind of preposterous,” Noon said. “There are a lot of stakeholders – the University of Maine, the Conservation Law Fund, the Nature Conservancy, the Natural Resources Council of Maine – (that) have all said they were willing to chip in to help with this.”
Several states have taken up climate change studies and plans, but the debates have often turned political.
“I think every state has to address how they want to go forward on this and the level of detail that works for them,” DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho told the Press Herald earlier this year.
“I look for guidance from the (environment and) natural resources committee, because they are the ones who prioritize our workload,” she said. “They did not ask for a briefing from us in the (Republican-controlled) 125th Legislature.”
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