2019-01-10 / Editorial

New leadership will protect way of life

Beyond the Headlines
by Sen. Justin Chenette

Our economy, personal health and quality of life are all dependent on how we treat our natural resources.

If we don’t have clean air and clean water, there isn’t much else that matters after that. Fighting for the environment might not be the sexiest issue to tackle, but it’s critically important. It’s a fundamental need for human survival.

When Senate President Troy Jackson appointed me to serve on the Environment & Natural Resources Committee, I knew this appointment was a reflection of my work in the legislature so far. I have consistently earned high marks and endorsements from environmental groups such as Maine Sierra Club and Maine League of Conservation Voters.

The Environment & Natural Resources Committee oversees the Department of Environmental Protection and handles legislation pertaining to air and water quality, mining rules, hydropower and sets overall environmental policy for the state. With the election of Janet Mills as Maine governor, there is a major environmental and energy reset.

For years under Gov. Paul LePage, the protection of our natural resources and an expansion of alternative energy took a back seat. Instead, we saw a rolling back of solar power incentives and just merely inching toward better mining rules. We don’t have a tax credit or rebate program from electric or hybrid vehicles like other states. And public transportation to reduce our carbon footprint is only in certain areas and needs support to gain a true foothold. Needless to say, there is a big to-do list and having heard Gov. Mills speak at the recent inauguration, I know tackling climate change and expanding renewable energy sources are going to be core priorities for this new administration. It’s a very welcomed change. In case LePage sees this, climate change is not good for our economy, A.K.A. opening up Canadian shipping routes. I will work hand in hand with Gov. Mills to achieve environmental policy outcomes that Maine people have demanded and frankly our economy needs.

The fact that Gov. Mills will be adding solar panels to the roof of the Blaine House should be indication of a big shift in energy philosophy. We should be leading the green energy future, to create jobs and lower energy costs for Maine residents.

My priority will be to focus on preventing offshore oil drilling, designating our water supply as a public right, expanding solar power and preparing communities for sea level rise and erosion. With the Trump Administration filling the EPA with cronies and oil lobbyists, our job on the state level has never been more important to push back. We must also be weary of corporate creep in government regulation like appointments on the Board of Environment Protection from entities such as Nestle. Our committee will handle the nomination process for the new commissioner of environmental protection. As always, I will evaluate the candidate with careful consideration and ask probing questions to determine effectiveness.

This will be an important committee assignment for our area as well. Making sure Camp Ellis is on the forefront of the conversations with federal officials and seeing what state money could be used to help alleviate local property tax dollars toward beach replenishments and storm prevention solutions. Coastal erosion is a big issue for many, but is especially true for Saco, Ocean Park and Old Orchard Beach. The committee will give me a platform to advocate for our communities and help address local concerns. Luckily, Rep. Lori Gramlich of Old Orchard Beach is also on this committee with me, which can only further amplify our voices and impact.

On a personal level, my husband is a member of the Saco Conservation Commission and is an environmental engineer, so the issue of the environment is near and dear to both of us. I see the work he does regarding environmental remediation and see the need to promote better policies to prevent it from getting to that point.

I look forward to the opportunity to set a new, positive direction to protecting what makes Maine a wonderful place to visit and to live.

Justin Chenette is serving his second term in the Maine Senate representing Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Hollis, Limington and Buxton. He is the chair of the Government Oversight Committee and member of the Environment & Natural Resources Committee. He previously served two terms in the Maine House of Representatives. Outside the Legislature, Justin is the Marketing Coordinator of Saco Sport & Fitness, Marketing Director of the Scamman/ Valentino Real Estate Team, and is President of Saco Main Street.

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