Governor signs Brenner, Vitelli proposal to help build solar energy project on contaminated farmland

Posted: July 19, 2023 | Senator Brenner, Senator Vitelli

AUGUSTA — Gov. Janet Mills has signed into law a joint proposal from Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, and Sen. Stacy Brenner, D-Scarborough, that would advance Maine’s energy independence by promoting building solar energy projects on farmland that has been contaminated by PFAS.

Sen. Brenner and Sen. Vitelli

The proposal is a combination of Sen. Brenner’s LD 1591, “An Act to Promote Economic Reuse of Contaminated Land Through Clean Energy Development,” and Sen. Vitelli’s LD 1830, “An Act to Advance Maine’s Clean Energy Goals.” The proposal is being carried on an amended version of Sen. Brenner’s bill.

“We know that PFAS contamination has already impacted more than 50 farms across the state. This new law will help make them whole, as we pursue remediation research and investment,” said Sen. Brenner. “I’m grateful to my colleagues in the Legislature who gave this bill such strong support, and to the Governor for signing this bill into law.”

“When we pursue innovative solutions, we can address more than one problem at once. This bill is a great example of that kind of opportunity. We’re investing in Maine farmers and our state’s energy independence,” said Sen. Vitelli. “I’m thankful to Sen. Brenner for her leadership on this bill, and I’m excited to see it signed into law.”

In the 129th Legislature, Sen. Vitelli sponsored LD 1494, which set in statute the requirement that 80% of Maine’s electricity come from renewable resources by 2030, with a goal of 100% by 2050. As highlighted by the Renewable Energy Goals Market Assessment, additional clean energy sources are required to meet these goals.

There are more than 700 sites across the state that were licensed for land application of Class B biosolids, which includes wastewater sludge and septage, meaning that PFAS contamination is likely widespread. There is currently no way to remediate PFAS contamination in soils.

LD 1591 has three intersecting goals: to advance Maine’s clean energy development; to ensure benefits to ratepayers; and to make use of PFAS-contaminated lands. The bill would promote the economic reuse of contaminated land, including farmland impacted by PFAS contamination, through renewable energy projects that guarantee ratepayer savings.

The procurement in LD 1591 would be open to all PFAS-contaminated land. This proposal leverages federal opportunities, such as the Inflation Reduction Act. These operations would also be eligible for storage.

In order to approve a contract for this procurement, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) must determine that the contract will provide financial benefits to ratepayers.

The proposal is also supported by the Governor’s Energy Office and the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

LD 1591 will go into effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns sine die.