The Equity Subcommittee of Maine Governor Janet Mills’ (D) Climate Council is recommending a plan to pay “disadvantaged” and “overburdened” state residents to attend its meetings because, according to its ideology, victims of systemic discrimination suffer greater impact from climate change than average Maine residents.
The Equity Subcommittee’s report, released in February, claims that some individuals in Maine, particularly those who are victims of “historical and systemic discrimination, underrepresentation, and isolation” are “more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than others.”
According to the report:
Low-income populations, people of color and indigenous communities, rural and geographically isolated communities, and other marginalized or disadvantaged Mainers face the “first and worst” impacts from climate change and may be least able to adapt.
The subcommittee later describes “other marginalized or disadvantaged Mainers” as “older adults, LGBTQ+ people, differently abled populations, immigrants, seasonal workers.”
“Equitable climate action, then, requires the thoughtful distribution of climate benefits and mitigation of climate burdens, so that policy intended to help does not instead cause further marginalization and harm,” the Equity Subcommittee states.
“Essential to delivering these equitable outcomes is participation,” the report reads. “To understand the needs of Maine’s impacted and frontline communities, these very same communities must have a role in creating the plans and policies that will affect their current and future well-being.”
To encourage more lower-income and minority Mainers to attend climate meetings, the Equity Subcommittee believes the government “must partner with disadvantaged communities” and correct the “uneven playing field” in order to “advance climate goals and contribute to righting historical and ongoing manifestations of social inequity.”
The subcommittee’s “procedural equity” recommendations include providing “stipends” to “disadvantaged” Mainers to enable them to take off from work to attend climate meetings, and offer “transportation and childcare” to “overburdened” Mainers to enable them to attend climate meetings.
The Climate Council’s Energy Working Group met Thursday to discuss the recommendations, reported Fox News Tuesday.
“Each strategy here is designed to address barriers, including, for example, providing transportation and child care,” Jason Parent, the CEO of Aroostook County Action Program and a member of the Equity Subcommittee, said during the meeting. “That’s a consideration that customers that our agency works with every day [say] often become an impediment and a barrier.”
In addition, Steve Clemmer, a research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists and a member of the climate council’s Industrial Innovation Task Force, said a law signed by Mills last year that prioritizes “intervenor compensation” for disadvantaged individuals to attend Public Utility Commission meetings should apply to climate council meetings as well.
While such “intervenor compensation” policies that provide reimbursement for citizens to attend state utility regulatory proceedings have existed in several states, as well as in Maine, Fox News reported Harry Lanphear, administrative director of the Maine Public Utilities Commission, said in 2021 no one in Maine has requested reimbursement “in at least the last 10 years.”
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