Although this was a challenging year for lawmakers because of the pandemic, the Legislature was remarkably successful in enacting a broad range of environmental laws that will benefit Mainers for years to come. By almost any measure, Maine’s environment was a big winner in the 2021 legislative session.

Kettle Cove in Cape Elizabeth and other state parks, which have been experiencing record visitation, will benefit from the $50 million allocated to address a backlog of maintenance projects. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer, File

Gov. Mills and her administration and lawmakers of both parties played vital leadership roles in delivering new laws to conserve land, promote clean energy, address climate change, protect clean water, reduce pollution and strengthen recycling.

Lawmakers approved landmark investments in the public lands that are the backbone of Maine’s tourist economy. By providing $40 million in the state budget for the Land for Maine’s Future program, new funding will be available for the first time since 2012 to conserve thousands of acres of land for recreation, farmland preservation, working waterfronts, public access and working forests. Equally important is the $50 million allocated for Maine’s popular state parks to address a backlog of maintenance projects, arriving at a time when our parks are experiencing record visitations.

We also are pleased that $25 million was provided to protect clean water through wastewater plant upgrades, and that $22 million will help protect drinking water.

Consistent with Maine’s new Climate Action Plan, the Legislature enacted important new laws to promote clean energy, curb carbon pollution and reduce electricity bills for Maine people.

The Legislature targeted $50 million in energy-efficiency upgrades toward low-income and older homeowners, as well as renters, municipalities, schools and businesses. This investment will result in more than $100 million in lifetime energy savings, weatherize more than 3,000 homes and support close to 500 jobs. Strengthened energy-efficiency standards for eight appliances will save an estimated $9 million annually by 2025, and a ban on potent greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons will further reduce harmful pollution.

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The Legislature allocated new funds to help cities and towns prepare for the impacts of climate change, including building climate-resilient infrastructure. The Public Utilities Commission will now be required to play an active role in helping Maine meet its climate goals. New laws strengthened support for solar energy and offshore wind power, which hold the promise of delivering clean energy and jobs while stemming the billions of dollars we send annually to out-of-state fossil fuel companies. And Maine became the first state to require divestiture by the state pension fund in fossil fuel stocks.

Maine also added to its record of leadership in recycling and “producer responsibility” laws by enacting a first-in-the-nation bill that requires manufacturers of packaging waste to help pay for the recycling of these materials. This law will improve recycling rates and create an incentive for manufacturers to design packaging with the environment in mind, as demonstrated by similar laws around the world.

Lastly, legislative leaders and the governor acted decisively to address toxic chemicals that threaten the health of Maine people and our environment. They responded to the risks posed by so-called “forever chemicals” (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS) by banning the sale of products containing PFAS by 2030, funding well water testing and strengthening PFAS drinking water standards. PFAS chemicals pose a health risk to children and pregnant women, and dairy farms across Maine are struggling to respond to alarming levels of PFAS in their wells. New laws also will ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides for lawn care because of the threat they pose to bees and other pollinating insects; prohibit pesticide applications within 75 feet of school grounds, and require continuous fence-line monitoring of air pollution at oil tank farms.

These victories for Maine’s environment would not have been possible without the involvement of thousands of Maine people who spoke up for these bills, the leadership from lawmakers and administration staff who devoted countless hours to keeping these bills on track and the tireless advocacy by our partners in the business community and Maine’s network of environmental, public health and community organizations.

Taken together, these new laws build on the long legacy of bipartisan action in Maine to protect the environment that is so central for our economy and quality of life. Despite challenges caused by the pandemic, lawmakers did an excellent for our environment, our health and our future. For that, we are enormously thankful.


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