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Climate Monitor

A weekly roundup of Maine's most urgent environmental and energy-related news from The Maine Monitor.

September 2, 2022

An image from the Acadia hazecam on a clear day (above), with visibility of 199 miles, and on a polluted day (below), with visibility of 30 miles. Source: CAMNET.

Maine misses EPA deadline to submit pollution reduction plan

By Kate Cough

If you've lived here for any appreciable amount of time, you've probably heard Maine referred to as the "tailpipe of the nation." Prevailing winds carry pollutants up from the Midwest and the rest of New England, periodically resulting in smoggy, hazy days, particularly in the hot summer months. On the east coast, that haze comes from power plants, industrial boilers, industrial processes, and emissions from cars and trucks.

"Even if we had really great emission standards in Maine, the way that the air currents work in the country, we're getting so much from the Midwest anyway," Madeleine Fenderson, an organizer with Environment Maine Research and Policy Center, told Maine Public in 2018. "In order for us to really see the results in our air quality it needs to be a federal mandate."

Much of that smog settles in some of our most treasured natural places, where residents and visitors alike come to enjoy the dazzling scenery and abundant wildlife. In 1999, in an effort to preserve those views, the Environmental Protection Agency initiated a major effort to improve air quality in national parks and wilderness areas around the country, calling it the Regional Haze Rule.

This week, the EPA sent notices to Maine and 14 other states that missed a deadline to under that rule submit plans to reduce air pollution in Acadia National Park, Roosevelt Campobello International Park, and Moosehorn Wilderness Area.

The rule requires each state to submit a State Implementation Plan (SIP) every 10-years and a 5-year Progress Report after each SIP. Maine submitted its most recent progress report to the EPA in 2016; an updated SIP was due in July of 2021. Along with Maine, Alabama, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia also missed that deadline and another 6-month extended deadline that followed.

The notices issued to states are also the subject of a lawsuit filed by four environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club. The lawsuit argues that, by not issuing notices of violations to states that had missed the deadline, the EPA was neglecting to enforce its own rule. States issued violation notices now have two years to either submit a late plan or accept an EPA-written plan.

"It’s up to EPA, the agency charged with protecting human health and the environment, to hold these states accountable to the law and ensure our national parks, rangers, visitors, wildlife and surrounding communities have clear skies and clean air to breathe," said Stephanie Kodish, senior director and counsel for National Parks Conservation Association’s Clean Air and Climate programs, in a statement.

The Monitor was unable to reach the Maine Department of Environmental Protection by the time this newsletter was published. A draft of a comprehensive revision of the state's regional haze plan dated March 1, 2021, which indicates that air quality is improving and is expected to continue to improve over the next decades.

Air pollution may not always be the most visible of environmental hazards in Maine, but it still takes a toll on the health of all of us. The state has the third highest asthma rate in the nation, despite our small cities and hundreds of miles of wilderness. Thirty years of air quality monitoring have shown that Acadia receives some of the highest levels of pollution in the northeast, according to park literature, and pollution remains "one of the most important environmental issues facing the park."

A note: This will be my last installment of The Climate Monitor before I head out on maternity leave for the next couple of months. During that time you'll be in the hands of the eminently capable Annie Ropeik, a Portland-based journalist who writes about climate change, energy and the environment, and who has already written a few pieces for The Maine Monitor. Enjoy the last lingering days of summer and I'll see you in the fall (with a new budding journalist in tow). As always, thanks for reading. -Kate

A rendering of what would be the world's tallest flagpole. Courtesy: Flagpole of Freedom Park/Break the Ice Media.

DEP says developer of Washington County project built cabins without permits

By David Dahl

State environmental regulators issued a “Notice of Violation” against the developer of an ambitious, $1 billion project in Washington County, after inspectors found the company built several dozen cabins, a restaurant, roads and parking areas without obtaining necessary permits.

Worcester Holdings was issued the notice in July after an inspection found apparent violations at their Flagpole View Cabins. Worcester officials said they are working with the Department of Environmental Protection to “fully resolve the potential concern.”

“During the inspection, staff found 54 cabins, an office building, a take-out restaurant, parking areas and access roads that were either under construction or had been completed,” the state DEP said in a notice dated July 15. “An area in excess of three acres had been stripped, graded and not revegetated at the time of the inspection.” 

Read the rest here.

In other Maine news:


High court says Maine voters alone couldn’t stop CMP corridor.


The Mills Administration will not follow a California plan banning the sale of gas-powered vehicles by 2035.

Natural gas:

Summit Natural Gas customers will have two opportunities later this month to weigh in on a substantial proposed rate increase.


Beach behavior is changing as surveillance of white sharks increases.


An Arizona lobster roll chain buys processing plant and wharf in Maine in an effort to eliminate middlemen.

Meat processing:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded nearly $1 million to expand slaughterhouses and meat processing in Maine while potentially opening new markets for livestock farms.


The Appalachian Mountain Club purchases 27,000 acres of forestland in the 100-Mile Wilderness.


FEMA is eyeing up to 13 Owls Head waterfront homes that may be in violation of floodplain rules.


The new president of Maine Coast Heritage Trust settles into her role.


Invasive milfoil threatens Maine lakeside property values and recreation.


Most Maine bottled water companies aren’t testing for the forever chemicals.

More PFAS:

Maine advocates say the Environmental Protection Agency's designation of two PFAS substances as hazardous substances is a historic first step, but are looking for more action.


Park water at a Cumberland recreation area tests negative for toxic algae after dog deaths.


Efficiency Maine has launched a new weatherization grant opportunity for smaller municipalities with fewer than 5,000 residents to make town upgrades.


Local expert says Mainers should not have to worry about dwindling fuel supplies.

Oil spill:

60 gallons of oil, fuel spill into Songo River after boat fire in Naples.


Presque Isle will loan landlords money for energy improvements.


Bangor has been chosen for an Environmental Protection Agency revitalization program aimed at enhancing outdoor economies.

Thanks for reading. See you next week.

Kate Cough covers energy and the environment for The Maine Monitor. She's a graduate of Columbia University and an 8th generation Mainer born in Portland who's now decamped Downeast. You can reach her at or @kaitlincough.

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