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Maine’s congressional delegation can lead on climate change and election integrity – Bangor Daily News

The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.

John M. Fitzgerald of Sedgwick is counsel to the nonprofit organization Methane Action. He also serves on the boards of directors of the Climate Protection and Restoration Initiative and the Environmental Investigation Agency.  

Climate change is causing unprecedented heat, drought, fires, floods and health effects.  Carbon dioxide and methane both reached record highs last year. Methane alone is responsible for at least 30 percent of global warming and its climate impact is many times greater than that of CO2. Methane levels are rising fast, and are higher today than at any time for which we have records (800,000 years).

The president is expected to sign into law the Inflation Reduction Act that includes massive support for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but the planet is warming so fast that we must find ways not just to add less pollution but to remove vast amounts of the most powerful greenhouse gases, like methane, to be able to restore a healthy climate. Our congressional delegation could make sure this happens.

Meanwhile, at least 18 states have enacted laws making it harder to vote. Some are giving their secretaries of state the power to change the results of elections without evidence of election fraud. These are also states whose congressional delegations generally oppose climate legislation.

Maine has led before. Rufus King, who was born in Scarborough, represented Massachusetts in the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention in 1787. He demanded an end date in the Constitution for the importation of slaves and prohibited slavery in new northern states in the Northwest Ordinance.  

Maine sent more men per capita than any other northern state to fight and die in the Civil War, to secure freedom and the right to vote for enslaved Americans.

Maine Sen. Edmund Muskie co-wrote our most powerful environmental laws.

Now the country needs Maine’s leadership again.

Sen. Susan Collins is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. It determines the amount and use of funding for federal agencies. She did not vote for the Inflation Reduction Act but she has introduced bills to protect the integrity of elections, the voters’ choice of electors and the CREST Act, S. 4422, to expedite several ways of removing carbon dioxide.

Sen. Angus King has co-sponsored S. 4422 and serves on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to which it was referred. He could strengthen the bill to require that it expedite methane removal as well as carbon dioxide, as many scientific and policy experts have recommended. They say we need to expedite research and development of specific methods of methane removal and governance for all climate interventions.

King also serves on the Committee on Rules and Administration with jurisdiction over most election law. He could offer provisions to help enforce the 14th Amendment, which bans office-holding insurrectionists and officials who gave them aid and comfort from holding office again. This might include the eight senators and 139 Members of the House of Representatives who voted for at least one of the resolutions to replace duly elected electors of Pennsylvania or Arizona as part of the effort to reinstate President Donald Trump.

The 14th Amendment also requires that congressional delegations of states that abridge voting rights in any state or federal election in any way be reduced in proportion to their discrimination. King could offer provisions enforcing this clause, too, by reducing the delegations of states abridging voting access.  

Rep. Chellie Pingree chairs the Interior and Environment Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. It directs the Environmental Protection Agency, Interior Department and Forest Service in everything they do including reducing and removing climate pollutants. It could expand and fund Collins’ climate bill, and direct EPA to require methane removal, as well as carbon dioxide removal, and to work with other countries to do the same. Methane removal would moderate global warming and also decrease ground level ozone, which damages human health and lowers crop yields.

Rep. Jared Golden is on the Armed Services and Small Business Committees. He could encourage the Navy, Naval Academy, Maine Maritime Academy and Bath Iron Works to work with EPA and Department of Energy to test and deploy methods of methane removal. Researchers at Stanford, Cambridge and Copenhagen universities are demonstrating methods to enhance the natural oxidation of methane to remove methane quickly at scale and cost effectively. But methane removal needs more funding to advance toward deployment.

Golden could encourage the Small Business Administration to help train technicians to install methane-removing filters near emissions sources. That technology is being developed for livestock barns, sewage treatment plants, landfills, coal, oil and gas infrastructure.  

Maine’s delegation members are in positions to advance solutions, and they need to act fast, before forces now at work tip our democracy and our climate over the edge.

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