Executive Summary

The State of Maine’s Environment is a set of reports written by senior environmental policy majors enrolled in the ES493 practicum at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. The course is taught by Professor Philip J. Nyhus of the Environmental Studies Program. Chapters in this report discuss Large Landscape Conservation, Energy Infrastructure, Industrial Hazardous Waste, and Voluntary Certification Schemes. In each chapter, we explore the history and context of the topic, evaluate its current state, and conclude with major findings, potential scenarios, and policy recommendations.

The first chapter of the report discusses the roles of federal, state, and private conservation lands in Maine’s large landscape conservation. The growth in conservation land throughout the state over the past 25 years and the variety of large landscape initiatives taking place are used to compare Maine’s state of large landscapes to the wider contexts of New England and the Northern Appalachian/Acadian ecoregions. Other findings indicate that private conservation land and growth in conservation easements have made substantial contributions to Maine’s conservation land. As Maine has relatively little federally conserved land, the state’s Governor and congressional delegation are recommended to support the proposed National Park in Maine’s North Woods. Furthermore, as development pressures remain amongst different stakeholders, currently existing federal, state, and private conservation entities must continue to collaborate in order to achieve large landscape conservation goals. Expanding the current conservation easement registry will increase public accessibility and enhance existing forums for discussing the future of Maine’s landscape.

The second chapter of the report discusses the general processes of electricity and natural gas transmission in Maine and how each relates to the production and consumption of energy in the state and New England region. Trends are used to identify specific infrastructure development projects and a number of environmental concerns including climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. Through the consideration of various command-and-control and market-based policies aiming to mitigate emissions, recommendations include the upgrade of Maine’s electricity transmission network to accommodate for a growth in renewable energy generation and an investment in clean energy transmission throughout the region. Also, a prudent and incremental shift from oil to a more expansive natural gas transmission network would ensure a sustainable energy future.

The third chapter of the report discusses the processes of generation, transportation, and disposal of industrial hazardous waste in Maine. The majority of the state’s hazardous waste is generated primarily by military facilities, with the most common waste types including lead and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Although large industrial corporations generate the bulk of industrial hazardous waste, the number of small businesses generating hazardous wastes is also significant. Maine exports 11 times more hazardous waste than it imports and while it does not contain any disposal facilities of its own, it does contain three treatment and storage facilities. Maine is a national leader in its waste product stewardship initiatives, and although it handles and disposes of relatively minimal hazardous waste, it should further incentivize industrial hazardous waste reduction and expand its Green Certification Programs to include larger corporations producing greater quantities of hazardous waste.

The fourth and final chapter of the report assesses four voluntary certification programs in Maine that vary in their goals, scope of potential, and standards: LakeSmart, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). Six criteria were developed to draw conclusions on the programs, including measures of transparency, specificity, and funding sources. By considering economic, social, and environmental concerns, voluntary certification programs demonstrate the capacity to significantly benefit environmental sustainability in Maine. A certification advisory board would help Maine adopt global and national standards, and annual reports provided by each program would increase transparency and enhance the consumer demand for programs. As a gap in governmental regulation of environmentally sustainable practices has contributed to the rise in Maine’s voluntary certification programs, the state government is recommended to provide more funding and support to influence their future success.