Trump Slashes Endangered Species Act!

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The Trump administration finalized changes rolling back the Endangered Species Act Monday. Regulators will now be allowed to factor in economic considerations when granting “endangered” status, species classified as “threatened” will see their protections weakened, and scientists will be limited in setting climate change-related protections. Critics say the changes were made to clear the way for mining, drilling and development projects in areas populated by protected species. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is a former lobbyist for the oil and agribusiness industries. He is currently under investigation for possible ethics violations. The 46-year-old landmark Endangered Species Act has saved over 99% of classified animals, plants and insects since its inception. It’s credited with protecting the grizzly bear, the humpback whale and the bald eagle from extinction, among many others.

Environmental groups, Democratic lawmakers and attorneys general have vowed to fight the changes. The Sierra Club called the move the “Trump Extinction Plan.” The International Fund for Animal Welfare said in a statement, “The most comprehensive assessment of biodiversity ever completed was released earlier this year and shows that more than one million species are at risk of extinction. These species are inextricably linked to our own well-being, livelihoods, economies, food security, and overall survival. Gutting key protections of the Endangered Species Act is precisely the wrong action for the U.S. to be taking.”

Maine: Legislative Update from Senator Brownie Carson

Banning disposable Styrofoam dishware 

This week in Augusta, the Maine House and Senate voted unanimously to ban disposable cups, plates, and other products made of polystyrene, otherwise known as Styrofoam. On the Senate floor on Tuesday, I spoke in favor of the bill, LD 289 “An Act To Prohibit the Use of Certain Disposable Food Service Containers,” sponsored by Rep. Stanley Zeigler:

“I think we all know the perils of polystyrene, how it stays in the environment if not forever, for hundreds of years; how it can’t be recycled; and the other problems that it has. I want to report that I had a brief conversation with the plant manager of Huhtamaki, the former Keyes Fibre plant in Waterville yesterday. That plant has been in business putting Maine people to work since 1903. Huhtamaki makes recycled and recyclable paper products including single use food containers.

They buy newsprint on the open market, bring it to Maine, make pulp out of it, and make trays for multiple cups of coffee or other beverages. They make food trays that are both from recycled material and compostable, and importantly they make some, but not all, of the single use food containers such as paper plates. They are safe, they are made from recyclable material, they are recyclable themselves, and Huhtamaki in Waterville, Maine puts 500 men and women to work with good paying jobs. I urge you please to follow my light and vote ought to pass.” The bill faces a final vote in the Senate before it is sent to Governor Mills.

Expanding mental health education in Maine schools 

One of my top priorities this session is to ensure that health education in Maine schools includes lessons about mental health. A bill I sponsored, LD 1024 “An Act To Include Mental Health Education in Maine Schools,” was approved by the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee on April 8.

It is rare that we pick up a report on children’s health today that does not reference mental health.

Teaching our kids how to be more conversant about mental health will surely bring this subject out of the shadows. It will help kids who are experiencing mental health problems to recognize them and seek counseling or peer support more often. LD 1024 would require health education instruction in elementary, middle, junior high and high schools to include lessons in mental health and the relationship between physical and mental health. The bill now faces votes before the Maine House and Senate.

Lowering the cost of prescription drugs 

This week I also testified before the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee in support of legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs in Maine. Getting prescription drug prices under control is critically important because prescription costs drive up overall health care costs. In order to provide relief to Maine people, we must properly regulate pharmacy benefit managers — companies that are taking advantage of Maine people by manipulating the prices of drugs to their own benefit.

The cost of prescription drugs is one of the biggest drivers of rising health care costs in the country. In the U.S., one in four Americans struggles to pay for their prescription medication while one in ten Americansdoes not take their medicine as prescribed to stay afloat. According to the National Academy for State Health Policy, about 200 bills have been filed in 42 state legislatures to address the cost of prescription drugs. Of those bills, 88 have to do with pharmacy benefit managers, 25 are related to wholesale importation, and 13 are related to drug affordability review or rate setting.

Studying the proposed CMP Corridor 

On Wednesday, the Environment Committee voted in favor of my bill to require a study of the CMP Corridor’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions. The bill, LD 640, was approved by a 10-3 vote. It now heads to the House and Senate. I feel that this study is absolutely crucial as legislators, regulators, and the public consider whether this project should move forward or not.

Creating a paid family and medical leave program 

Finally, I testified as a cosponsor this morning on Speaker Sara Gideon’s paid family and medical leave legislation, LD 1410. I believe this legislation is important for many reasons. This program will provide employers with a higher likelihood of experienced employees returning after time off because of illness or family leave-making for a more stable and seasoned work force for that employer. Maine workers will also feel more valued and respected: paid family and medical leave will allow them to tend to important responsibilities without having to leave, or be fired from, a job because they need to care for a new child or an aging parent.

Some Maine workers have paid family and medical leave now through employer-designed programs or collective bargaining agreements. But many do not. All Maine workers should have this benefit.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, you can reach me at Brownie.Carson@legislature.maine.gov or (207) 287-1515. You can also follow me on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/BrownieForMaine/. I look forward to serving you in the coming year.

Best regards,

Trump Administration Approves Plan to Drill Off Alaska Coast

HEADLINEOCT 26, 2018

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In environmental news, the Trump administration announced Wednesday its approval of a plan to drill for oil off the Alaskan coast. Hilcorp Energy’s proposal to drill in the Beaufort Sea would be the first oil and gas production facility in federal waters off Alaska. Meanwhile, France has approved a plan by oil company Total to start drilling off the coast of French Guyana, which is located in the north Atlantic coast of South America. Environmental groups condemned the plan, raising concerns over threats to the region’s biodiversity.