The storms of last winter have underscored a harsh reality: The climate crisis is here, and it is accelerating. Our state’s infrastructure, designed for an era of climatic stability, now faces unprecedented threats from increasing storm surges, high winds, flooding and erosion. It is appropriate that Gov. Janet Mills is convening a commission on infrastructure resilience to address these challenges.

However, any discussion on fortifying Maine’s infrastructure against these threats must include holding major polluters accountable for their role in climate destabilization.

Vermont, which has also seen historic flooding events in recent years, is leading the charge with its recently enacted Climate Superfund Act. This legislation mirrors the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund program, mandating that high-emission corporations such as ExxonMobil, Shell and Chevron bear financial responsibility for the costs associated with extreme weather damage in the state. These corporations have not only driven climate change with their emissions but have also spent decades sowing climate denial with billion-dollar misinformation campaigns, all while enjoying record profits year after year.

Maine should follow Vermont’s lead and pass similar legislation to ensure those most responsible for the crisis are also responsible for footing the bill. This is a matter of climate and economic justice.

A recent study in PLOS Climate highlighted that the wealthiest 10% of American households are responsible for 40% of all emissions. Within this group, the “super-emitters” – the top 0.1% of income earners – emit as much carbon in two weeks as an American living in poverty does in a lifetime. These individuals and corporations, who bear disproportionate responsibility for global carbon emissions, should shoulder their share of the responsibility for climate mitigation.

Maine had a chance to start this process with L.D. 1177, An Act to Assess Impact Fees on Megayachts, which was among the 35 bills that died at the end of the last legislative session for lack of executive action.


This bill proposed a modest fee of $10 per foot on yachts over 150 feet in length to fund climate mitigation infrastructure and harbor projects, such as dredging. Had it passed, this legislation could have generated millions of dollars for these vital projects. It was a missed opportunity, but it should serve as a catalyst for new legislation.

The significant environmental footprint of cruise ships is also another factor that must be taken into consideration. The companies that operate these ships should be required to invest in the infrastructure they frequently use during the summer in communities up and down the Maine coast.

The climate crisis is a collective problem that requires collective action. While individual and community efforts to reduce emissions and increase resilience are crucial, they must be accompanied by systemic changes driven by policy. By holding major polluters accountable, we can ensure a fairer distribution of the costs associated with climate adaptation. Instead of all the costs raining down on average Mainers, we must ensure that the burden falls proportionately on those who contributed most to this disastrous situation.

The upcoming commission on infrastructure resilience is an hopeful step forward, but it must incorporate measures to make high-emission corporations and affluent individuals pay their fair share. This approach not only alleviates the financial burden on ordinary taxpayers but also incentivizes polluters to reduce their carbon footprints, contributing to broader climate mitigation efforts.

The stakes are high, and the time for action is now. Maine’s policymakers must recognize the importance of this issue and act decisively to ensure a sustainable and resilient future for our state. By adopting legislation similar to Vermont’s and revisiting proposals like L.D. 1177, we can make significant strides toward building the resilient infrastructure Maine needs while holding those most responsible for climate change accountable.

We must take bold, equitable steps to protect our state and its people. The path forward requires a commitment to equity, fairness, and justice – principles that should guide us as we confront the challenges of the climate crisis. It is time for Maine to lead by example and ensure that those who have contributed most to this crisis also contribute most to the solutions.

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