Earlier this month, Maine Farmland Trust’s Municipal Policy Associate Thacher Carter had the opportunity to…
The presence of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in soil, water, crops and livestock is an emerging national issue, and PFAS contamination in Maine is alarming, especially for farmers whose livelihoods are connected to the land. For some farms, concentrations of PFAS contamination may be high enough to prevent farming in the near-term. At the same time, solar energy development is increasing rapidly across the state, including on undeveloped agricultural lands. On-site energy production can provide economic support to a farm, reduce the farm’s energy costs, and is important for addressing climate change. But making sure we have the land base to support a robust local and regional food system — and food security in Maine — is also critical. MFT believes that solar generation and agriculture can co-exist symbiotically in Maine as long as solar siting is structured to balance these important interests.
MFT supports LD 1591, An Act to Promote Economic Reuse of Contaminated Land Through Clean Energy Development, because it would help to address both the challenge of PFAS contamination threatening the financial stability of farm businesses and families, and the need for balanced solar siting strategies that do not impede agricultural production or land access for farmers. LD 1591 proposes measures to promote the economic reuse of developed, impacted, or contaminated land, including farmland impacted by PFAS, through renewable energy projects that guarantee ratepayer savings. Since research on PFAS remediation methods is still ongoing and we are still at the brink of understanding the potential for successful remediation, MFT supports inclusion of agricultural land where significant PFAS contamination, as identified by Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, prevents further agricultural production in the near-term. This bill would allow farmers to realize value from land that may need to be restricted from farming for years to come. By locating renewable energy development on developed, impacted or contaminated land, LD 1591 would also advance Maine’s clean energy goals without negatively impacting Maine’s working farmland and high-value agricultural soils.
More information about this bill
LD 1591 establishes a competitive procurement for renewable energy development located on previously developed or impacted land, including agricultural land where the discovery of PFAS contamination has prevented continued agricultural activity. When evaluating potential contracts for this procurement, the Public Utilities Commission must determine that the contract will provide financial benefits to ratepayers in addition to providing for the economic reuse of contaminated land. Conducting a procurement for renewable energy on contaminated lands will help Maine reach our renewable energy goals, save ratepayers money, and assist landowners with financial solvency while they grapple with the challenging impacts of land contamination.
A public hearing for LD 1591 is scheduled for Thursday April 20, 2023 at 1pm before the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology (EUT) committee.
Ways to Get Involved
- Testify at the pubic hearing (1pm on Thursday, April 20)
- In-person: The hearing is being held in Cross Building, Room 211. 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 EUT 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.
- Testify at the pubic hearing (1pm on Thursday, April 20)
- 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 Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, the date of the hearing (April 20, 1pm), and the bill title (LD 1591 – An Act to Promote Economic Reuse of Contaminated Land Through Clean Energy Development). 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 EUT Committee (listed below) to express your support for LD 1591 and providing farmers and other landowners the option to redevelop land with significant PFAS contamination for renewable energy.
Members of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee include:
Senator Mark Lawrence of York- Chair (D – Senate District 35) – Mark.Lawrence@Legislature.Maine.gov
Senator Nicole Grohoski of Hancock (D – Senate District 7) – Nicole.Grohoski@Legislature.Maine.gov
Senator Matthew Harrington of York (R – Senate District 33) – Matthew.Harrington@legislature.maine.gov
Representative S. Paige Zeigler of Montville- Chair (D – House District 40) – StanleyPaige.Zeigler@legislature.maine.gov
Representative Mark Babin of Fort Fairfield (R – House District 3) – Mark.Babin@Legislature.Maine.gov
Representative James Boyle of Gorham (D – House District 109) – firstname.lastname@example.org
Representative Larry Dunphy of Embden (R – House District 72) – Larry.Dunphy@legislature.maine.gov
Representative Steven Foster of Dexter (R – House District 32) – Steven.Foster@Legislature.Maine.gov
Representative Valli Geiger of Rockland (D – House District 42) – Valli.Geiger@Legislature.Maine.gov
Representative Christopher Kessler of South Portland (D – House District 121) – Christopher.Kessler@Legislature.Maine.gov
Representative Reagan Paul of Winterport (R – House District 37) – Reagan.Paul@Legislature.Maine.gov
Representative Walter Runte of York (D – House District 146) – Gerry.Runte@Legislature.Maine.gov
Representative Sophia Warren of Scarborough (D – House District 124) – Sophia.Warren@Legislature.Maine.gov