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Category: Oil Spills

Three decades of success – the impact of Friends of Casco Bay

Friends of Casco Bay has a long history of success. Since our founding in 1989, our work-with, science-based approach has moved the needle toward a healthier, more protected Bay.

  • We championed a halt to cruise ship pollution and won a No Discharge Area designation for Casco Bay, the first in Maine.
  • We have secured better long-term protection through Clean Water Act classification upgrades for three areas of Casco Bay, ensuring stricter, permanent pollution restrictions.
  • Our water quality data are sent to Congress every two years; the Maine Department of Environmental Protection uses our data in its Clean Water Act biennial reporting to Congress and would not be in compliance without it.
  • We advocated for Portland to get back on track—and we continue to push to keep efforts on track— to fulfill its court-ordered agreement to clean up and eliminate dozens of combined sewer overflows, reducing the amount of raw sewage flowing into the Bay.
  • We are leading the call to reduce nitrogen discharges into our coastal waters. We forged an agreement with Portland Water District, which set a goal of reducing nitrogen coming out of the East End Wastewater Treatment Facility. During the summer of 2018, they reduced nitrogen levels by 70%, on average.
  • Our data and advocacy inspired South Portland and Portland to pass the strictest ordinances in the state to reduce pollution from pesticides. Harpswell also passed a pesticide ordinance with our input, and other communities are considering similar restrictions.
  • We convinced the legislature to form an Ocean Acidification Commission to investigate and make policy recommendations to address our acidifying waters.
  • We helped form the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership (MOCA) to coordinate the work of researchers, government officials, and advocates to reduce acidification and address climate change. Our Casco Baykeeper currently serves as the coordinator of MOCA.
  • We successfully advocated for Portland to pass an ordinance designed to discourage single-use bags in favor of reusable ones. The bag ordinance, in turn, inspired Brunswick, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Freeport, South Portland, and eight other towns in the state to pass similar laws. We also won a polystyrene (e.g. Styrofoam) ban in Portland.
  • Our BayScaping Program is teaching thousands of residents and landscaping professionals to grow green lawns that keep Casco Bay blue; this is the model for the state of Maine’s YardScaping Program.
  • Our Casco Bay Curriculum has reached an estimated 17,500 students. We help teachers incorporate our monitoring data into their classroom activities. We have provided professional development courses for more than 700 teachers.
  • We fought to improve the S.D.Warren (now SAPPI) paper mill’s Clean Water Act discharge permit, significantly cutting the pollution released into our waters.
  • We helped lead the response to the largest oil spill in Maine history, the Julie N, and assisted responders in recovering an unprecedented 78% of the spilled oil (a 15-20% recovery is considered a success).
  • We were a founding member of Waterkeeper Alliance in 1999, a network that has grown to include over 300 Baykeepers, Riverkeepers, and other Waterkeepers

Defending Maine’s Oil Spill Cleanup law

Ivy Frignoca, on behalf of Friends of Casco Bay, worked closely with Nick Bennett of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, to explain to members of the Maine Legislature why three previous attempts to weaken Maine’s Oil Discharge Prevention and Pollution Control law had failed, for good reason. This year’s bill initially proposed to exempt individuals and companies from reporting spills of 10 gallons or less, which constitute about 75% of all oil spills in Casco Bay. Further, it would have eliminated the ability of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to levy fines or penalties for those spills.

 

The Environment and Natural Resources Committee initially voted 8-5 in favor of the bill. As the bill then underwent a series of amendments, Ivy met with many legislators to explain its various defects. She helped make the bill an “Environmental Priority” of the Environmental Priorities Coalition, a group of 31 environmental and public health organizations representing 100,000 members. A few weeks later, the Environment and Natural Resources Committee took a second vote, and the bill was defeated!

 

“We are so happy with the result,” said Ivy. “The existing law rewards good behavior. People who voluntarily report a spill are exempt from any fines and penalties. A simple phone call to the DEP ensures that trained responders can clean up spills quickly using proper equipment and procedures. In addition, DEP maintains maps of locations of spills and uses that information to protect sensitive areas.”