Environmentalists and Youth Group Sue Maine for Failure to Act on Climate Change

Plaintiffs say the state is breaking the 2019 Climate Law

Maine Statehouse

April 22, 2024 (Portland, ME) – Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), Maine Youth Action (MYA), and Sierra Club are suing the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to force movement on cutting carbon emissions as required by the law. The suit follows the DEP’s failure to act even as climate change threatens livelihoods, coastal communities, and health.

“Climate change isn’t waiting, it’s rapidly warming our ocean, worsening our weather, killing our fisheries, and robbing us of winter,” said Emily K. Green, Senior Attorney for CLF Maine. “The state needs to follow its own laws and commit to cutting carbon pollution from cars, buildings and energy systems – which is why we’ve filed suit.”

Maine’s legislature and governor approved the Climate Law in 2019, requiring Maine to slash climate-damaging emissions 45% by 2030 and 80% by 2050 – reductions lawmakers and climate experts said were necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Since that time, the state has failed to enact emission regulations for buildings, has approved plans for more highway miles that will add to, not reduce, emissions from cars and trucks, and seen repeated delays in construction of offshore wind. But the failure in curbing emissions from cars and trucks – Maine’s biggest source of pollution – has been stark.

“Our generation will inherit a state overwhelmed by carbon emissions and climate change – with damage to the environment, to marine life, and to our own health – if we can’t start making these changes now,” said Cole Cochrane, Co-Founder and Policy Director of MYA. “Five years is too long without significant actions. Maine is breaking the law.”

The suit targets both the DEP and Maine’s Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) after the BEP last month rejected regulations requiring that clean electric vehicles make up the majority of new car sales by 2030. Similar rules have passed in neighboring states and would have resulted in dramatic cuts to emissions and better health for Mainers.

Instead, the DEP and BEP have failed to adopt a single policy to cut emissions from transportation, despite their own assertions that cutting transportation emissions is crucial to Maine’s climate future.

“Our leaders need to uphold their duty to protect Maine residents’ health, environment, and livelihoods from the worst effects of climate change,” said Matthew Cannon, State Conservation and Energy Director for Sierra Club’s Maine Chapter. “The law is clear – we need regulatory action to prevent climate change now.”

“Environmentalists, health advocates, concerned young people – all of us want to work with the state to cut these emissions, curb climate change, and improve respiratory and heart health. We shouldn’t have to sue to make that happen,” CLF’s Green said.