Guest column

Clean environment key to public health

By Rep. Christine Burstein | Sep 10, 2016

This time of year especially, it’s easy to appreciate our state’s natural beauty.  Our environment and natural resources give Maine its unique character.

As a family nurse practitioner and state representative, I believe maintaining a clean environment is one of the most important ways we can protect the public’s health and well-being. From the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink to our opportunities to recreate in the Maine outdoors, our relationship with the environment around us has a big impact on our health.

That’s why I was so proud to receive a perfect score on the Maine Conservation Voters scorecard. Many of my Democratic colleagues in the House and Senate also earned 100-percent ratings.

The statewide environmental advocacy organization releases its scorecard each year, taking into account lawmakers’ votes on key issues. Among the issues considered during the two-year Legislature that adjourned this spring, Maine Conservation Voters highlighted votes on nine key measures.

Some are great examples of the Legislature taking action to protect our natural resources. We rejected weak mining rules proposed by the administration that would have left our water vulnerable to pollution and taxpayers on the hook for the clean-up costs.

Lawmakers came together to unanimously override Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a bill to restore energy efficiency funding to the Efficiency Maine Trust. It was a bipartisan rejection of this administration’s efforts to eliminate $38 million in funding from important efforts that save Maine people money and reduce our energy use.

We also came together in a bipartisan way to reauthorize $6.5 million in voter-approved bond funds to protect forests, farms and working waterfronts through the Land for Maine’s Future Program. Without the Legislature’s action, these bonds would have lapsed because of how long the governor had refused to issue them — in direct contradiction to the will of Maine voters.

On other environmental and conservation issues, we weren’t as successful. Another measure sought to stop the governor from holding Land for Maine’s Future bonds hostage as leverage in unrelated negotiations. Though lawmakers approved the bill, we were unable to override the governor’s veto.

Another big disappointment was the fact that, despite bipartisan efforts, the governor successfully vetoed a comprehensive solar measure that could have created 650 new jobs right here in Maine while reducing our energy costs. We had an important chance to bring our solar policy into the 21st century, but House Republicans stood by the governor’s misguided opposition to this industry.

The scorecard also included a measure to prevent the diversion of revenue from timber harvesting on public lands to unrelated programs and another to support recommendations to improve public land management.

Good stewardship of our environment is right for our economy, our health and our way of life. We need to protect what makes our state so special.

As always, please feel welcome to contact me at christine.burstein@legislature.maine.gov with questions or concerns related to state government. It’s an honor to serve as your state representative.

Rep. Christine Burstein, D-Lincolnville, is serving her first term in the Maine House of Representatives and is a member of the Health and Human Services Committee. She represents the towns of Belmont, Liberty, Lincolnville, Montville, Morrill, Palermo and Searsmont.

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