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Environmental groups file suit against Maine DEP for failing to curb transportation emissions

In this Oct. 30, 2017 file photo lights from automobile traffic leave trails on a street in Freeport, Maine, where most outlet shopping stores are closed due to a severe storm knocking out electricity.
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP file
In this Oct. 30, 2017 file photo lights from automobile traffic leave trails on a street in Freeport, Maine, where most outlet shopping stores are closed due to a severe storm knocking out electricity.

Several environmental groups have filed suit against the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for failing to slash carbon emissions as required by state law. They say the DEP and the Board of Environmental Protection have not adopted a single policy to cut transportation emissions in the five years since Maine's Climate Law was adopted.

Transportation accounts for the biggest source of Maine's carbon emissions. Maine's Climate Law, passed as an emergency measure in 2019, established mandatory emissions reductions. They must be slashed by 45% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.

Both the DEP and the BEP are supposed to pass rules to ensure compliance, But Emily Green of the Conservation Law Foundation says that hasn't happened.

"The board has had, over the last couple of years, three big opportunities to cut emissions specifically from the transportation sector. It has considered a rule that would have brought more clean trucks into our state two different times and rejected it both times. It has most recently rejected a rule that would have ensured that Mainers could access more clean cars," she says.

Green says without additional commitments, the state won't meet the 2030 target. And that's why her organization, joined by the Sierra Club and Maine Youth Action, have filed suit. They're asking the court to set a deadline this year to get new rules adopted.

A spokesperson for the DEP said he could not comment on pending litigation. But Hannah Pingree of the governor's Office of Policy Innovation and the Future acknowledged that the state has a lot of work to do over the next six years.

Pingree said she hadn't yet read the lawsuit but said she could understand young peoples' frustrations about the pace of progress on climate change. She also serves as co-chair of the state's climate council.

"The good news is, the governor, state leaders and leaders in Washington right now are on their side in many ways," Pingree said, "making investments that will allow the state to take the kind of actions they want to see happen."

A similar lawsuit brought by environmentalists against the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection over its failure to implement carbon reduction goals was successful in 2016. The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that the DEP must adopt regulations to ensure reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and that the limits must decline on an annual basis.