In the last of our series diving into our top 2023 Farm Bill priorities, we…
Action Alert: Protect Important Agricultural Soils from Solar Energy Developments
An important bill is being heard before the Maine Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Committee this week. LD 1881 would add a layer to the permitting process for solar energy installations over 20 acres in size and needs your support. This bill adds unique protections for Maine’s important farmland soils.
LD 1881 – An Act Regarding Compensation Fees and Related Conservation Efforts to Protect Soils and Wildlife and Fisheries Habitat from Solar and Wind Energy Development and High-impact Electric Transmission Lines Under the Site Location of Development Laws is scheduled for public hearing on May 10, 2023 at 9am. Read on to learn more about the bill and how you can support by sharing your testimony and contacting key legislators.
What would this bill do?
LD 1881 proposes changes to the permitting process for new solar installations in an effort to establish a stronger balance between supporting solar development in Maine and ensuring it does not result in the loss of important agricultural lands, especially prime agricultural soils and soils of statewide importance which are most conducive to productive agriculture, yet make up only 14 percent of all Maine soils. LD 1881 advances the goal of balanced solar siting by deterring renewable energy development on Maine’s prime farmland soils and soils of statewide importance by requiring developers to pay a mitigation fee if development does occur on those lands. Revenue generated through this effort would be used to support farmland protection efforts. In addition, the bill requires developers of solar energy developments, wind energy developments or high-impact electric transmission lines to pay for conservation efforts or a compensation fee to fund off-site habitat improvement or preservation projects to alleviate the adverse effects of a development on wildlife and fisheries habitats.
Protecting farmland in Maine is essential for ensuring that we have the land base to grow our agricultural economy, particularly as more farmers reach retirement age and development pressures increase across the state. MFT supports renewable energy production on farmland and on active farms as long as it does not significantly diminish the potential for agricultural production. On-site energy production can provide economic support to a farm, reduce the farm’s energy costs, and is important for addressing climate change. This bill will not infringe on farmers’ ability to install solar on their land but rather helps to ensure that Maine adds a layer of protection for its most valuable agricultural soils which are critical to supporting a robust local and regional food system – now and in the future.
A public hearing for LD 1881 is scheduled for Wednesday May 10, 2023 at 9am before the Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (ACF) committee.
Ways to Get Involved
- Testify at the pubic hearing (9am on Wednesday, May 10th)
- In-person: The hearing is being held in Cross Building, Room 214. There is a 3-minute time limit per person, so be prepared to keep your oral delivery of your testimony brief. Written testimony is not required, but if you want to distribute copies of your written testimony to the ACF committee members you should bring 20 copies. If you are testifying in-person, you do not need to submit your written testimony through the online portal.
- Over Zoom: You can submit written testimony and/or sign-up to deliver oral testimony over Zoom by following this link. Once there, select “public hearing,” select the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee, the date of the hearing (May 10, 9am), and the bill title (LD 1881 – An Act Regarding Compensation Fees and Related Conservation Efforts to Protect Soils and Wildlife and Fisheries Habitat from Solar and Wind Energy Development and High-impact Electric Transmission Lines Under the Site Location of Development Laws). You will then be able to upload written comments and/or sign up to provide live testimony. If you would like to deliver your testimony orally, you need to sign-up at least 30 minutes prior to the start of the hearing. There is a 3-minute time limit per person, so be prepared to keep your oral delivery of your testimony brief.
- Submit written testimony: If you cannot make it to the hearing in-person or on Zoom, you can submit written testimony online anytime before the hearing at https://www.mainelegislature.org/testimony/ (follow the steps above for testifying over Zoom).
- Contact members of the ACF Committee (listed below) to express your support for LD 1881 and increased protection for Maine’s agricultural resources.
More information about LD 1881
LD 1881 – An Act Regarding Compensation Fees and Related Conservation Efforts to Protect Soils and Wildlife and Fisheries Habitat from Solar and Wind Energy Development and High-impact Electric Transmission Lines Under the Site Location of Development Laws helps to ensure that expanding solar development in Maine does not result in the loss of important agricultural lands, especially prime agricultural soils and soils of statewide importance which make up only 14 percent of all Maine soils.
- This bill requires developers of solar energy projects to pay a compensation fee or pay for conservation efforts to mitigate adverse effects on prime agricultural soils or soils of statewide importance.
- The bill also requires developers of solar energy developments, wind energy developments or high-impact electric transmission lines to pay a compensation fee to fund off-site habitat improvement or preservation projects to mitigate the adverse effects of a development on wildlife and fisheries habitats.
- The bill directs the Department of Environmental Protection to establish one or more compensation funds to carry out the projects or to authorize a public, quasi-public or municipal organization or a private, nonprofit organization to administer the funds.
- This bill also directs the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, in consultation with other agencies, to adopt rules and define “prime agricultural soils” and “soils of statewide importance” and to establish variable compensation amounts based on the value of the habitats and agricultural soils affected and the degree of adverse effect caused by the development.
- The rulemaking must also establish mitigation strategies that may reduce or otherwise alter any compensation fee, including but not limited to the use of wildlife-friendly fencing and dual-use solar energy and agricultural production.
Please take action and help us build support for this important new legislation.
Members of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee include:
Senator Henry Ingwersen of York, Chair (D – Senate District 32) – Henry.Ingwersen@Legislature.Maine.gov
Senator Russell Black of Franklin (R – Senate District 5) – Russell.Black@Legislature.Maine.gov
Senator Craig Hickman of Kennebec (D – Senate District 14) – Craig.Hickman@Legislature.Maine.gov
Representative Bill Pluecker of Warren, Chair (I – House District 44 – William.Pluecker@Legislature.Maine.gov
Representative Danny Costain of Plymouth (R – House District 33) – Danny.Costain@Legislature.Maine.gov
Representative Dean Cray of Palmyra (R – House District 69) – Dean.Cray@Legislature.Maine.gov
Representative Timothy Guerrette of Caribou (R – House District 4) – Timothy.Guerrette@Legislature.Maine.gov
Representative Randy Hall of Wilton (R – House District 74) – Randall.Hall@Legislature.Maine.gov
Representative Allison Hepler of Woolwich (D – House District 49) – Allison.Hepler@Legislature.Maine.gov
Representative Caldwell Jackson of Oxford (R – House District 80) – Caldwell.Jackson@Legislature.Maine.gov
Representative Rebecca Jauch of Topsham (D – House District 51) – Rebecca.Jauch@Legislature.Maine.gov
Representative Laurie Osher of Orono (D – House District 25) – Laurie.Osher@Legislature.Maine.gov
Representative Kathleen Shaw of Auburn (D – House District 88) – Kathleen.Shaw@Legislature.Maine.gov
Questions? Reach out to Shelley Megquier, MFT’s Policy and Research Director email@example.com
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