What just happened on Goose Rocks Beach? Maine puts public trust doctrine on trial.

Jan 9, 2015 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Last month, Maine’s State Supreme Court issued a new decision regarding the public’s right to use Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport. In Maine, under an arcane legal doctrine, the people who own the land adjacent to a beach also own the beach itself down to the low water mark, subject to limited public rights under the public trust doctrine. (For more information on this doctrine, see my prior blog.) In the ongoing Goose Rocks Beach case, prior to last month’s ruling, the State Supreme Court had issued a decision in favor of homeowners, who want to limit the public’s use of what they consider to be their beach property. The Court found that the public – despite extensive evidence provided by the Town of Kennebunkport – had failed to prove it had an easement to use the beach for recreation. With its decision last month, the Court has granted the Town a second chance to prove a prescriptive easement (in other words, that the public’s historic use of Goose Rocks Beach gives it the right to keep using the beach). The caveat? The Town must offer evidence of how the public uses each of the 101 privately owned parcels of beach, rather than simply having witnesses testify that they use the entire beach for recreation, as they did in the first trial.

photo credit: jvdalton via photopin cc

The latest Maine State Supreme Court decision leaves the future of public access at Goose Rocks Beach in limbo. photo credit: jvdalton via photopin cc

That first trial was long and costly, and the trial judge implied that he did not need such specific evidence; he understood that if a witness testified to using the entire beach for recreation, then that necessarily included the 101 parcels at issue.

And, remember that arcane public trust doctrine? The State Supreme Court has continued to rule that the public trust doctrine issue was not properly tried during the first trial, because the State Attorney General’s Office did not file a claim against the property owners who had originally filed suit against the Town.

Confused yet? I know I am – especially about this last part of their ruling. I reviewed parts of the trial record and listened to the arguments before the State Supreme Court. The public trust doctrine was raised in numerous pleadings. In addition, every attorney who appeared before the State Supreme Court stated that the public trust doctrine issue had been tried and decided. In fact, the trial judge issued an order finding facts and deciding the scope of the public trust doctrine. Nonetheless the Court has sent the case back to the trial court with instructions to “conduct proceedings and issue a decision on the remaining pending causes of action, … , as well as any public trust doctrine claim.”

So our State Supreme Court has sent the case back to the trial court for a second, nearly identical, and potentially very expensive trial – this time linked to those 101 specific parcels of beach and with the mandate to retry the public trust doctrine. I understand the Court’s reluctance to find that private landowners who let the public use their beach for recreation give up some property rights in the form of a prescriptive easement, because of the precedent it could set for all private landowners. But the fact is the public’s use of beaches is very different from their use of private inland parcels. Inland, a generous landowner may open her land for public recreation, with a presumption that she has granted permission for the public to recreate on her land without creating an easement. In contrast, no private landowner in Maine has EVER owned the intertidal zone absolutely. It has ALWAYS been open for public use under the public trust doctrine.

I hope the parties to the Goose Rocks case take the procedural steps needed to bring the public trust doctrine question back to the State Supreme Court later this year. The Court should find that the public trust doctrine includes the public’s right to engage in customary recreation – for sunbathing and walking, for example, but not for building bonfires or hosting weddings without landowner permission.

Study Commission Nears Final Recommendations to Counter Ocean Acidification

Dec 11, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Richard Nelson

Richard Nelson, Lobsterman in Friendship, Maine

The sixteen member commission empowered by the Maine legislature to conduct a brief, six month investigation into the effects of coastal and ocean acidification on fish and shellfish commercially harvested in Maine nears the end of its term and recommends further study and other measures to immediately begin to address the impacts of ocean acidification.

As noted in prior blogs here and here, offshore ocean acidification occurs when carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, gets deposited in the ocean, and mixes with water to form carbonic acid. Near shore coastal acidification occurs when runoff from storms carries nitrogen, acidic fresh water, and other pollutants to the ocean. The nitrogen and other nutrient rich pollutants cause algal blooms, which die and release carbon dioxide into the ocean. Both forms of acidification dissolve shells of larval shellfish and possibly stunt growth of lobsters and crabs by causing them to form extra hard outer shells.

The study commission did an impressive job. Its members were appointed by the legislature and by the Commissioner of Maine’s Department of Marine Resources. They worked with a practically non-existent budget and largely volunteered their time away from their jobs as lobstermen, shellfish harvesters, shellfish farmers, marine researchers, scientists and more. During meetings and on various subcommittees, the members generously shared their expertise and commitment to working together.

The result of their efforts will be seen soon, when the Commission releases its final report. The near final draft contains a complete listing of all research regarding the effects of ocean acidification on Maine marine life and recommends actions we can take to prevent ocean acidification from destroying our commercial shellfisheries, including lobsters which account for 80% of commercial landings in Maine. The report also appends proposed new legislation that would establish a long term study commission to coordinate further research into the many areas where we lack data and further measures to combat ocean acidification.

Here are some things that we all can do to protect our shellfish from ocean acidification:

  • Reduce carbon emissions- drive less, switch from oil to cleaner heat sources, explore ways to be more energy efficient
  • Reduce or eliminate use of lawn fertilizers or time their spread to eliminate runoff of fertilizers into coastal marine waters
  • Do not dump pet waste or other waste down sewers
  • Support legislation that reduces carbon emissions on a national and local level
  • Support the proposed law to establish a more permanent ocean acidification study commission

For more information about the study, read these stories from Portland Press Herold and MPBN.

Dedication and Talent Obvious Among Commission Members Studying Ocean Acidification

Aug 7, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Did you know that climate change has made the Gulf of Maine 500% less productive at producing marine life? How much of that reduced productivity is a result of ocean acidification is a question that might be answered by Maine’s Ocean Acidification Study Commission, which met for the first time on August 1. The Commission, the second in the nation of its kind, is tasked with understanding the science behind ocean acidification, determining what we still need to learn to fully understand the problem, and recommending potential solutions.


Rep. Mick Devin shucks oysters during the first Maine Study Commission meeting, highlighting research done on ocean acidification at the University of Maine’s Darling Center.

The Commission is composed of an impressive array of legislators, fishermen and scientists, most of whom are volunteering their time. At the August 1 meeting, which was open to the public, Commission members asked tough and detailed questions to a team of scientists who shared their knowledge about this problem. Here are some of the facts that I learned at the meeting:

  • Ocean acidification is like acid rain, in that carbon dioxide combines with water to form carbonic acid. Its impacts differ, however, because the ocean can absorb more carbonic acid than freshwater lakes (which were most affected by acid rain). The acid nonetheless eats away at the shells of mollusks like clams and oysters and affects crustaceans like lobsters by impacting the calcium carbonate that they use to make shells. Scientists are still studying and discovering exactly how harmful ocean acidification is to shellfish.
  • The major cause of ocean acidification is carbon from fossil fuel emissions. We must find local, regional, and national ways to reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere from sources like power plants and cars.
  • We must also reduce coastal sources of acidification, such as stormwater runoff and insufficient sewage treatment. This can be done mostly by passing laws and taking actions that drastically reduce the amount of nutrients that flow into the ocean from these controllable sources.
  • We have to find ways to help marine life adapt to the changes already caused by ocean acidification and those further changes that we cannot stop. Scientists are looking at whether we can recycle mollusk shells and add them to bays to act like an antacid, the ability of plants like seaweed and sea grass to absorb carbon, and ocean planning to perhaps start seaweed farms (which could reduce carbon) near shellfish farms (which are harmed by carbon).
  • Some shellfish farmers in Maine have already begun storing sea water to use during times when stormwater runoff makes the water unsafe for developing oysters.

In a state where 75% of our fisheries income is derived from shellfish, the Commission has a large task in front of it. The sincerity, expertise and dedication of the Commission members inspired confidence that they will find ways to help reduce the causes of acidification and lessen its impacts on our fisheries. CLF is especially grateful to Representative Mick Devin for introducing the legislation and working so hard to bring scientists and others to the first meeting. Senator Chris Johnson and Representative Wayne Perry also played active roles at the meeting, asking thoughtful questions and helping to shape the work ahead.

The Commission has set up working committees and will meet three more times as a whole. After that, they will write a report to be presented to the state legislature by December 5. If you want to learn more about the Commission, or attend any of their meetings, check out their website.

CLF will assist the Commission using our legal and policy expertise. On a state and regional level, we will continue to work for clean energy sources to replace fossil fuels, and for laws and permits that reduce or eliminate sources of nutrient pollution to our ocean.

Breaking News: NESCOE Suspends Votes on Tariff Proposals

Aug 1, 2014 by  | Bio |  9 Comment »

The New England States Committee on Electricity (“NESCOE”), an entity created to carry out the policy directives of the New England governors, had been hurtling down the track towards forcing electric customers to pay for a massive, new natural gas pipeline as well as new transmission projects to import large-scale Canadian hydropower. This morning at the monthly meeting of the voting participants in the New England Power Pool (“NEPOOL”), NESCOE signaled that the train is going to slow down.

In a surprising and welcome move, NESCOE announced at the meeting that it is delaying action on both the gas and electric proposals that it has been pursuing–proposals that have the potential to put billions of customer dollars at risk. NESCOE formally requested that all of the votes that had been scheduled for the proposals be taken off the calendar to allow for a delay of  “at least a month.”

For months now, CLF has been calling upon NESCOE and the New England Governors to bring these flawed proposals and the reasoning behind them out into the open. Until now, the formulation of and negotiations around these proposals have been conducted almost completely behind closed doors.  With this delay, NESCOE and the officials who direct its actions have a real opportunity to address procedural and substantive concerns — raised by CLF and other stakeholders —  by embracing a transparent, open process that includes a meaningful assessment of alternatives, including: efficiency, better utilization of existing infrastructure, and more renewable distributed generation. After all, the initial studies for NESCOE indicated that under a “low demand” scenario there would be no need for additional infrastructure at all.

This time around, CLF urges the Governors to require NESCOE to include an evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of all alternatives, as well as an assessment of which solutions are actually consistent with achieving the long-range energy and climate objectives of the New England states.

The NESCOE announcement also followed a compelling argument by CLF at the last Transmission Committee meeting on July 22, regarding the need for these proposals to be properly vetted through ISO-NE’s “Major Initiatives” process. These proposals carry with them the power to shape New England’s energy system for the next 40-50 years, so an open, public process is imperative. CLF will continue to provide the public with up-to-date information as it becomes available.

Maine is Ground Zero for Determining the Role of Natural Gas in New England’s Energy Future

Jun 10, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

One of the greatest energy and climate challenges facing Maine and the nation is making sure we get right the role of natural gas in our energy – and climate – future.

Right now, Maine is ground zero for this challenge. The Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has opened a proceeding that could result in Maine electric customers paying up to $1.5 billion and three to four times their fair share of an interstate natural gas pipeline. Advocates for the plan say that those costs to Maine customers would ultimately be recovered through future savings on energy bills. Such a financing scheme for new infrastructure would mark an unprecedented and risky entry into the private energy markets by Maine and the other New England states. At the same time, even though natural gas is considered cleaner than coal and oil, it still releases significant greenhouse gas emissions, making the PUC’s proposal one that will have long-term impacts on our efforts to address climate change and to reform the energy markets.

CLF has taken the lead in this case to ensure a transparent, fair, and thorough assessment of this speculative gambit to manipulate private gas markets, as it represents a significant financial risk to electric customers. What’s more, we believe that a new interstate natural gas pipeline will overbuild our capacity and will result in an over-commitment to and over-reliance on natural gas, a fossil fuel with a history of price volatility that presents a reliability risk to our electrical system.

Most significantly, state and regional goals of reducing our emissions of greenhouse gasses by 80% by 2050 will be thrown out the window if this strategy is approved by the PUC, along with any hope of mitigating the harmful effects of climate change. CLF will argue that before any new pipeline capacity is added, we must maximize efficient use of our existing pipeline system, make market changes that allow for more efficient and flexible use of existing gas supplies, fully utilize existing LNG and gas storage capabilities, and expand pipelines incrementally and only if and when market-driven need calls for it.

While Maine is ground zero on this issue today, similar proposals to expand natural gas infrastructure are cropping up across New England. CLF will be vigilant in ensuring that New England does not rely on natural gas as the sole answer to our energy supply issues, but rather as a bridge to a cleaner-energy future for the entire region.

Act Now to Support Maine Farms and Food!

Apr 8, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

The Maine legislature is considering a bill that would help Maine farms bring more of their food to our tables. “An Act To Support School Nutrition and Expand the Local Foods Economy” (LD 1431) supports Maine in producing and consuming more of its own food. Under a two-pronged approach, the bill gives crucial start-up capital to emerging food hubs that meet certain criteria and incentivizes public schools to source Maine-grown or -harvested foods. It’s a win-win for Maine. (You can read more about this bill in my previous blog post.)

Please act now! The Maine legislature will vote on this bill any day.
Please show your support for Maine farmers and fresh local food by calling members of Maine’s Appropriations Committee, Senate President Justin Alfond, and House Speaker Mark Eves, asking them to fund this bill. Then, call your legislator, asking him or her to vote in favor of LD 1431. If you cannot call, please send an e-mail urging support. You can find your legislator here.

How Does This Bill Help Maine?
In Maine, we import the majority of the food we eat. But our state boasts the second highest concentration of Farm-to-School programs and direct-to-consumer farms and food businesses in the country (just a hair behind Vermont). Why, then, are we importing so much of our food? The answer lies partly with geography, partly with the marketplace, and partly with policy.

Let’s look at the easy one first—geography. If Mainers want large quantities of oranges, pineapples, or avocados, they must either move much farther south or import those foods from away. Unless we adopt a diet rooted more strongly in locality and seasonality, we are stuck hauling in food from out of state.

The marketplace is a little more complicated. Because of economies of scale, shipping in food from away can sometimes be cheaper for grocers, restaurants, institutional markets, and, ultimately, consumers. But the price of food does not always reflect its true cost. Several negative aspects of industrial-scale food production are not factored into the price of the end product. The producers of that food, in other words, do not absorb all the actual production costs.

Who does? We do. For example, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) increase the incidence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, cause air-quality problems for neighboring communities, contaminate watersheds with concentrated animal waste, and shift the social structure and economy of farming regions. Eventually, we will all pay the price if the true cost of production is not factored into our food.

As for policy, it can either hinder or help local food production. For example, subsidies in the federal farm bill have historically favored industrial-scale farms, making it harder for smaller, diversified farms to compete. CLF’s new regional food policy report offers many suggestions for eliminating policy barriers and filling in policy gaps.

LD 1431 is an example of sound policy that would help Maine’s farms, food businesses, and consumers. How can food hubs help Maine? A food hub is a business that collects, distributes, or markets food products from mostly local or regional producers and strengthens their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demand. Food hubs value and work closely with producers to ensure they receive a premium price for their products. Food hubs maintain a triple bottom line, focusing on economic, social, and environmental goals. These businesses offer a way to work with farmers and fishermen to get their products into the hands of more Mainers. Existing food hubs in Maine like Crown O’ Maine and Northern Girl are already doing just that. A national food hub conference a few weeks ago brought together food hub operators from around the country who have added tremendous value to their states by bringing fresh, locally sourced food to in-state communities that otherwise would not have access to those tasty and healthful products.

What’s the Status of the Bill?
Initially, new appropriations to the Departments of Education and Agriculture would have funded implementation of LD 1431. Unfortunately, those dollars have been cut from the amended bill. Funding to the Department of Education for public schools to receive local foods training and to source local food must now come from federal grants. The good news is that, in the near term, there are sufficient funds within Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry to give food hubs grants and loans as directed by the bill.

Last week, the House and Senate unanimously passed this amended version of LD 1431. Now it sits with the Appropriations Committee. Because all funding was stripped from the bill, its price tag is under $5,000, mostly covering rulemaking costs. This paltry sum threatens a bill that would bring more fresh, local food to your table.

Please call your legislator to urge support for this important bill.
With your help, we can support Maine farmers, boost Maine’s economy, foster greater public health, and bring Maine-grown and -harvested foods to more Maine tables.

If you have questions about this bill, please contact Ben Tettlebaum at btettlebaum@clf.org.

Transportation Matters for Maine

Apr 3, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment


The Downeaster Boston–Portland service has exceeded its growth expectations every year.

Let’s face it, Maine is a big rural state (larger than the five remaining New England states taken together), where lowering greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles has been and will be a continuing challenge. CLF’s Maine office is actively engaged in three different projects with a wide range of partners who are determined to find practical solutions while improving the quality and sustainability of transportation services.

For more than two decades, as the Portland area has grown and expanded, there has been talk of creating a transit district in southern Maine that could improve and expand customer service across the diversity of travel modes, including fixed-route and on-demand bus services, ferries, and passenger rail. CLF has a seat on the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System transit committee, and Public Policy Advisor Malcolm Burson is playing a key role in facilitating conversations among public officials and transit operations managers.

In February, the first draft of a Transit Consolidation Feasibility Study was presented by outside consultants. A number of options are on the table, awaiting cost-benefit analysis, but it’s clear that a strong preference exists for a merger of three fixed-route providers. This would be the first step toward the eventual inclusion of other providers in a district that could serve approximately 40% of Maine’s population.

Senior Attorney Greg Cunningham, meanwhile, has led the effort to develop a pilot project designed to expand awareness and availability of electric vehicles (EVs), including their related charging infrastructure in Maine. CLF developed a straw proposal for a Greater Portland–based pilot that will provide grants for EVs and charging stations, look to create partnerships with businesses and municipalities to further EV technology use and awareness, and to collect data related to EV usage. The proposal was largely adopted by a working group comprised of EV advocates and representatives from Central Maine Power and was approved by the Public Utilities Commission. The pilot was initiated in March. “EVs have the potential to drastically reduce air pollution, including significant carbon emissions, from the transportation sector,” said Cunningham. “We hope that this pilot puts more EVs on the road and helps to demonstrate to Mainers just how convenient and cost effective this technology has become.”

Maine has been a great success story for the expansion of passenger rail in northern New England. The Downeaster Boston–Portland service has exceeded its growth expectations every year and recently expanded service to now serve Freeport (think L.L. Bean) and Brunswick, home of Bowdoin College. Once again, ridership exceeded projections from the first day of service, with greater numbers of passengers who were clearly using this as a commuter option. Now, the Maine Department of Transportation has convened a Passenger Rail Advisory Council to look at the opportunities and challenges for expanding passenger rail service in Maine. Executive Vice President and CLF Maine Director Sean Mahoney has been asked to serve on the Council as the representative from the public-interest sector. According to Sean, “the opportunity to increase transportation alternatives for Mainers and decrease dependence on cars has significant upside for Maine’s economy and environment, and I look forward to working with other members of the Council to capitalize on that opportunity.”

Research essay writers possess the uncanny ability to help students in their coursework. Essaylab.org is a reputed international essay writing service provider that believes in satisfaction, excellence, and quality.

Maine Legislature Takes First Step Towards Averting Disastrous Impacts of Ocean Acidification

Mar 12, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Maine’s legislature is taking early steps to address increasingly acidic ocean waters in the Gulf of Maine that threaten the state’s shellfisheries and marine ecosystem.

The Gulf of Maine has become increasingly more acidic as CO2 emissions from industrial sources and vehicles get deposited in the water, where the carbon mixes to form carbonic acid. This problem is aggravated by polluted stormwater runoff.  The more acidic seawater has been shown to dissolve juvenile clam shells, and larvae are avoiding the most acidic mudflats. Studies predict that the increasing acidity, if left unchecked, will also stunt the growth of lobsters, and cause them to develop thicker shells. Oyster production is also expected to drop dramatically.

Maine is more dependent on its marine resources for its economic health than any other state in the Northeast. Nearly 6,000 active harvesters work in our lobster and clam fisheries alone, while hundreds of other industries and communities support, and depend on, this vital source of revenue and livelihoods.

Last week, the Maine Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee took a giant first step towards addressing the problem when it voted unanimously to send a bill that authorizes a study of the issue to the house floor. The bill, introduced by Representative Mick Devin, would establish a 16-member panel to identify what further study is needed and what legislation can be introduced in the 2015 legislative session to address ocean acidification. The bill starts a critical process designed to counteract ocean acidification now, rather than waiting until it has rotted away our shellfish industry and irrevocably changed the fish that can survive in our waters.

CLF strongly supports this first but significant step in averting this potential economic and environmental crisis. We joined with other organizations and fishing interests to help ensure positive support for Representative Devin’s bill in the Marine Resources Committee. In the near future, the bill will go to the floor for a vote by the full legislature. Please contact your legislators and let them know of your support for this important bill. If you want to learn more, post a comment or email ifrignoca@clf.org.

Maine’s Most Lucrative Fishery Threatened by Pesticides?

Feb 26, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Last month, Maine legislator Walter Kumiega introduced a bill that would ban the use of two pesticides, methoprene and resmethrin, in any body of water or area in the state that drains into the Gulf of Maine. We’re all familiar with some of the negative consequences of certain pesticides – from DDT’s effect on birds described in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring to the more recent concerns about some chemicals’ role in crashing honeybee populations. But Kumiega’s bill is unusual in that it seeks to protect a marine species, not a terrestrial one – lobsters.

Lobsters are by far Maine’s most valuable fishery. In 2012, the state landed 126.6 million pounds of lobster with a value of more than $340 million, and around 80% of the state’s fishing revenues currently come from these tasty crustaceans. This heavy reliance on one species means that Maine’s fisheries are very vulnerable to any natural or human change that might harm the lobster population.

A crash in the currently abundant lobster population is a very real possibility, as fishermen in Long Island Sound know well. Connecticut and New York once had booming lobster fisheries. In 1998, for example, Connecticut landed over 3.7 million pounds of lobster, while New York landed nearly 7.9 million pounds. But that fishery collapsed rapidly over the past 15 years. In 2012, Connecticut caught just 241,000 pounds of lobster, and New York caught just 270,000 pounds.

This precipitous crash in the lobster fishery has been linked to two factors. First, climate change has led to warmer water temperatures in Long Island Sound. The area was already the southern edge of lobsters’ range, and areas that were once hospitable to lobsters quickly became too warm. A Massachusetts state biologist recently told a group of fishermen that he doubted lobsters would recover in waters south of Cape Cod any time soon, because water temperatures are simply so high that lobsters have moved north or farther offshore to lay their eggs. In addition, higher water temperatures may make conditions more favorable for the spread of a shell disease that makes lobsters unfit for sale. lobsters

Water temperatures aren’t the only thing linked to the lobster crash, however. During the 1990s, two pesticides were sprayed extensively in the New York area to control the mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus. These chemicals were later identified in the tissues of dead lobsters in Long Island Sound. Despite the claims of government scientists that there is not enough evidence to link pesticides to the lobster decline, in the mid-2000s, three chemical companies reached multimillion-dollar settlements with lobstermen for their role in the die-off. Pesticides have also been blamed in a smaller die-off in New Brunswick’s Passamaquoddy Bay.

This takes us back to Maine’s proposed bill. Methoprene and resmethrin are apparently used sparingly in Maine and have not been used by state agencies, but Kumiega says the legislation is a preventative measure to protect the state’s valuable lobster fishery. Some, however, are concerned the bill does not go far enough and might provide a “false sense of security.” The executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association told the Portland Press-Herald that lobstermen worry banning two pesticides could limit research into other environmental changes and pollutants that could harm the lobster fishery. They want a more thorough analysis of which pesticides might harm lobsters, and the state seems to agree—the Department of Marine Resources is considering a sediment survey of Casco Bay to assess the presence of pollutants.

With such a large portion of Maine’s fishing revenues dependent on lobsters, more research into what could deplete their population – whether it’s fishing pressure, climate change, or pesticides – will be critically important. Connecticut and New York have already lost a once-thriving fishery, and Maine’s marine ecosystems and coastal communities can’t afford to do the same.

Page 1 of 1112345...10...Last »
do my essay for me