In one of their first official acts, Maine Governor Paul LePage’s new appointees to the three-person Maine Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) board ignored their own staff’s recommendation and approved a LePage-backed plan that would force Mainers to fund a dangerous expansion of natural-gas pipelines. In researching this abuse of power, I concluded that the corruption of Maine’s political leaders has reached a new level of calamity that directly flouts the Declaration of Independence. The gap between climate justice and climate policy is now so profound that it jeopardizes Americans’ rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In this unprecedented moment in history—when our world teeters on the brink of irreversible global climate catastrophe—it’s time to draw inspiration from our country’s founding document.
Manifestations of climate change appeared all around us this year. July was the hottest month in recorded history. More than 60,000 homes were damaged by a one-in-a-thousand-year flood in Louisiana. A wildfire in California forced 82,000 people to evacuate their homes. The residents of Shishmaref, Alaska, voted to relocate as climate-induced sea level rise swallows their homes. Drought dominates the Northeast. Heat waves shock the East Coast. The Standing Rock Sioux fight desperately to protect their land and history from a 1,172 mile pipeline that would carry up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil daily. A new report concludes that the world is already locked into 1.5C warming—the reddest of red lines for frontline communities and future generations.
Now come with me to Maine, where climate change threatens our way of life, and an egregious abuse of power has barely been noticed. Maine is uniquely impacted by climate change. Most of our economy depends on a healthy environment—from our seafood industry (gotta love that Maine lobster) to our farms to our winter businesses. In the age of climate chaos, we can no longer rely on seasons to come with the predictability of days past. Economic viability is threatened. The Gulf of Maine warms faster than 99 percent of the world’s oceans. Lobsters move north to colder waters. Dry summers decimate farms. Ticks dominate our woods. Warm winters pummel snow-dependent businesses. Climate action is an existential necessity for Maine.