New Poll: Maine Residents Support Clean Energy, EPA Plan to Cut Power Plant Pollution

Solar Panels at Mt. Abram ski area courtesy Maine Office of Tourism.jpg
Solar panels at Mt. Abram ski area (courtesy Maine Office of Tourism)

Maine residents overwhelming support limits on dangerous emissions from power plants and they prefer more investment in energy efficiency and clean, renewable sources like wind and solar to traditional (and dirty) fuels like oil and natural gas, a new poll confirms.

A survey of 500 demographically diverse Mainers released this week finds that 74 percent favor the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan to set the first-ever limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, the largest source of the pollution driving climate change and extreme weather.

The poll also shows 65 percent of those surveyed want more investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources like wind and solar -- instead of traditional and polluting domestic energy resources such as coal, oil, and natural gas -- to keep the lights on in Maine.

And more than half (56 percent) believe the government should be doing more to promote smarter energy use and renewable sources to reduce reliance on carbon-producing fuels that pollute the environment, and have contributed to global warming.

The survey, conducted last month in Maine and four other states on behalf of NRDC by the bipartisan polling team of Hart Research Associates and American Viewpoint, should send a clear message that Mainers don't support the Big Polluter agenda being pushed in Washington and will hopefully serve as an important signal to the state's politically divided congressional delegation, as well.

Mainers Know Climate Change is Real

The vast majority of Maine residents don't need to be convinced that climate change is here since nature has already persuaded them. In fact, 94 percent of those polled believe climate change is real, and 64 percent recognize human activity is the cause. Only 4 percent said climate change doesn't exist.

Just last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared 2014 the hottest year on earth since record-keeping began in the 1800s - and unfortunately, Maine has been no stranger to these heat records. It's also experiencing more severe storms and flooding, and has been declared a disaster area 18 times since 2000.

Mainers see what climate change is doing to winter recreation, the forests, and the fishing industry, among others. For example, scientists say the waters of the Gulf of Maine are heating up faster than 99 percent of the world's oceans, which is sending cod, herring and shrimp farther north.

The latest poll further proves that climate change is not just a liberal issue. The Maine respondents were from across the political spectrum, with 37 percent labeling themselves as "very" or "somewhat" conservative; 28 percent as "very" or "somewhat" liberal; 33 percent as "middle of the road;" and 2 percent unsure.

Maine's Carbon Pollution

Maine power plants released 3.7 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution in 2012 (the latest available totals), equal to the annual emissions from 778,947cars. But EPA plans to issue its final pollution rules for power plants by mid-summer and NRDC's modeling shows strong federal regulations could cut Maine's carbon pollution by 254,000 tons in the next five years alone, equal to annual emissions from 53,000 cars.

The poll results this week confirm Mainers support steps to cut emissions from power generation:

  • 75 percent said it was "extremely important" to expand programs that encourage optimizing energy use, such as adding insulation and more efficient appliances for homes and businesses; and
  • 68 percent classified investments in no-emissions renewable energy in the same category.

Fortunately, Maine is already moving in a positive direction: In 2013, over half of the state's net electricity generation came from renewable energy resources -- with about 29 percent from hydroelectricity, 25 percent from wood, and 7 percent from wind - and there's the potential for even more. As an example, Maine home to the nation's first commercial, grid-connected tidal energy project, located in Cobscook Bay.

Mainers Profit from RGGI

Maine also is a longtime member of the nine-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the nation's first mandatory, market-based regulatory program to cap and reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector. A gradually declining number of power-plant-pollution permits are auctioned off and states use the revenue to invest in efficiency programs and clean, renewable energy.

Efficiency Maine, the third-party administrator of all the efficiency programs in the state, uses RGGI proceeds and system charges to fund efficiency initiatives like weatherization and upgraded lighting. In 2014, it invested $36.4 million in energy efficiency that will result in in $264,791,306 in avoided energy costs over the life of the measures installed. In fact, Maine now invests 85 percent of its RGGI carbon dioxide allowance proceeds in residential and commercial energy efficiency programs and grants for large-scale industrial energy efficiency and conservation projects.

There's little doubt that Maine residents want a clean energy future. They know action is needed to cut carbon emissions and mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change. And they want to ensure the slogan on their welcome signs remains true:

Maine: The Way Life Should Be.