The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) and the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce hosted "Getting Down to Business on Climate: A panel discussion with Senator Angus King" on Friday, June 6 in Portland. Senator King could not predict the outcome of what he expected to be “a helluva fight” in the Senate over new rules proposed by the EPA to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the country. Maine is already ahead of the game as a participant since 2007 in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which has reduced our own emissions and generated $257 million in cost savings. King moderated a panel of local experts—among them PDT Principal Alan Kuniholm, president of the Portland Society for Architecture (PSA) —each contributing an industry perspective on the proposed rules. Kuniholm told the crowd that Portland’s design community is actively seeking solutions for the effects of climate change, specifically PSA’s work with rising sea levels and increased occurrence of severe storm events. PSA has sponsored a number of conferences related to this issue along with independent risk assessments studying how rising sea levels will affect the City of Portland. (Commercial Street is especially at risk.)
Kuniholm also noted that reducing demand is key to reduce Maine’s fossil fuel consumption and power usage in general. Maine’s first school of architecture at the University of Maine at Augusta and the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code are essential resources in educating and setting standards for demand and emissions reductions. Kuniholm invited the attendees to visit Architecture 2030, an initiative started by noted architect Ed Mazria, to learn more about how architects are at the forefront of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Bob Perciaseppe, deputy administrator of the EPA, pointed out that the government does regulate a range of unhealthy chemicals but until now has done nothing to regulate carbon. He congratulated Maine on its efforts to date and reminded us that our air, water, farms, and forests are affected daily by power plant emissions drifting east.
Economist Charles Colgan of USM debunked the notion that capping power plant emissions would harm the economy, though he noted that electric bills might rise in some parts of the country in the short term. He cited a January 2014 report by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection indicating that Maine’s GDP did not decline as a result of the drop in emissions after 2005.
The Maine Public Broadcasting Network is likely to run a segment of Friday’s event on Speaking in Maine in the coming weeks.