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Maine Passes State-Level Green New Deal for Workforce Development

June 21, 2019


A Maine bill framed as the state’s own Green New Deal passed its final legislative hurdle on Tuesday.

Originally mandating an 80 percent renewable portfolio standard for electricity providers by 2040, the latest version of the bill does not include that goal. Other legislation with an RPS is also being considered in Maine.

The final wording instead focuses on workforce initiatives for the state. It requires that the construction of grid-scale generation employ a certain percentage of people from an apprenticeship program and provides solar installations on newly built schools.

Much like the federal Green New Deal, Maine’s legislation centers a just transition. Representative Chloe Maxmin, a climate activist serving her first term in the state’s House, introduced the bill. Though it changed from its original form, Maxmin said the conversations surrounding the legislation will go on to frame and influence other climate initiatives under consideration in the state — much like the federal Green New Deal prompted new levels of policy engagement.

“The renewable energy transition can bring Maine down or it can lift us up,” Maxmin said. “That’s up to us to decide. It’s up to political bodies to decide.”

Maine Governor Janet Mills, a Democrat, recently announced a climate bill that would set an RPS of 100 percent by midcentury and an interim target of 80 percent renewable electricity by 2030. Maxmin said discussions around her bill helped integrate equitable transition language and workforce development into that more wide-ranging climate package championed by the governor. That bill is still working its way through the legislative process.

Maxmin’s bill is part of a wave of state-level action surrounding renewable portfolio standards that include workplace retraining initiatives tied to the energy industry.

In recent months, states such as New Mexico and Washington have passed laws legislating job training and economic redevelopment in areas impacted by the transition away from fossil fuels.

Youth activists have played a significant role in pushing for new policies. The Sunrise Movement, which has advocated for the Green New Deal at the federal level, frames itself as a “movement of young people.” Maxmin, at 26 years old, is the youngest woman currently serving in Maine’s legislature.

Maxmin’s bill was also the first Green New Deal plan endorsed by an AFL-CIO affiliate, according to the representative. The federal Green New Deal has struggled to gain buy-in from national unions, and the national AFL-CIO opposes it. The Service Employees International Union endorsed the federal resolution in early June.

Maine’s Green New Deal now heads to Mills’ desk. The governor’s office did not respond to request for comment before publication on whether she plans to sign it.

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