AUGUSTA, Maine — More than 300 high school and college students from across Maine rallied on the steps of the Capitol Saturday to highlight what they say is the governor's "dismal climate record" and to demand a faster transition to a fossil-free economy.
"We're here calling for an immediate ban on all new fossil fuel infrastructure because climate change is affecting Maine citizens right now and we're trying to call out the governor's irresponsible and short-sighted energy policies," says Matthew Miles Goodrich, a member of Bowdoin Climate Action, the group that recently staged a sit-in for fossil fuel divestment at Bowdoin College.
He says the governor touts natural gas as a clean, cheap option for Mainers while his appointees to the Public Utilities Commission simultaneously cut millions of dollars for energy efficiency. Goodrich points out that natural gas contains methane, which is also a potent greenhouse gas. He says that makes it an unworkable solution for climate change.
"But that's only the starting point," Goodrich says. "We have to stop all new fossil fuel infrastructure in the state, whether that's tar sands, natural gas or conventional sources like coal and oil."
Stopping the infrastructure, he says, means stopping the construction of any new pipelines. The rally was organized by Maine Students for Climate Justice.
"We're a coalition of student groups from across the state and we came together about a year and a half ago because we realized there was a real need for organized student power around the issue of climate change and climate justice," says Meaghan LaSalla, a student member from the University of Southern Maine. "We're dedicated to confronting the systems and institutions that fuel the climate crisis ... and this is the biggest event we've ever organized and we think it's the largest youth-led climate action in the history of the state."
Mount Desert Island High School sophomores Sarah Soucek, Addie Beal and Ellie McGee boarded a charter bus in Ellsworth to attend the rally. They say they're worried that action to address climate change isn't happening fast enough and they wanted to speak out.
In addition to demanding no new fossil fuel infrastructure, students say they want more investments in clean energy, more affordable transportation and more education about climate change.