Rep. Vicki Doudera

An affirmative vote on March 16 from the Maine Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee has advanced a bill, LD 2018, to implement recommendations regarding the inclusion of equity considerations in regulatory decision making. The groundwork for this legislation was laid last session by Rep. Vicki Doudera (D-Camden) with her bill, now Public Law 2021, Chapter 279: An Act to Require Consideration of Climate Impacts by the Public Utilities Commission and to Incorporate Equity Considerations in Decision Making by State Agencies.

LD 2018 establishes definitions for “environmental justice” and “front line communities,” and sets methods to incorporate the weighing of equity decisions in deliberations at the state’s Department of Environmental Protection and the Public Utilities Commission. The measure comes from a report written by the Governor’s Office of Policy, Innovation and the Future, based on dozens of conversations about environmental and climate justice in Maine, as well as three public forums that drew participation from people across the state who represented environmental justice; climate action; public health; tribal nations; members of low-income communities; younger and older Mainers and representatives from state and quasi-state agencies.

“The virtual public forums were extremely well-attended and showed us how important this work is to a wide cross section of the people of Maine,” said Doudera. “For too long, vulnerable voices have been left out of the critical decisions that impact neighborhoods, and it’s time we listen to everyone.”

The Camden legislator said she is pleased with the progress of LD 2018 thus far. “The public hearing on March 14 was very positive. Not only does the bill take the important step of defining in statute what we mean when we say, ‘environmental justice’ and ‘front line communities,’ but it will make PUC proceedings more accessible to everyday Mainers. It also requires our DEP to adopt rules ensuring that folks in impacted communities are provided with fair and equitable access to the department’s decision-making processes.”

Doudera said it was especially gratifying to work closely with people from her district on the bill. “Jessica Scott, a new Camden resident and senior climate advisor at GOPIF, did an incredible job — she managed the forums and wrote the 24-page report. Acadia Center, based in Rockport, reached out with the initial idea for the bill back in late 2020, and Dan Sosland, Jeff Marks and I worked with other environmental groups to get it passed and signed into law.”

Doudera noted that LD 2018 faces further votes in the Legislature before going to Governor Mills’ desk.

“I’m very grateful for all of the support this work has received and hope it continues going forward,” she said. “No matter what happens, I’m happy that I stepped up to sponsor the legislation and put in the time necessary to get this far, because the path has led to some amazing conversations and outcomes, and it is important, gratifying work.”

Doudera (D-Camden) is serving her second term in the Maine Legislature, representing the towns of Camden, Islesboro, and Rockport. She is a member of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee and chairs the legislative Gun Safety Caucus. You can reach her at victoria.doudera@legislature.maine.gov.