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By Melissa Gates

After a local 2nd grade student successfully petitioned the Portland City Council in 2018 to mitigate plastic straw use in city-owned buildings, the Maine Chapter took it to the next level with Council interest to pass a citywide ordinance becoming the first municipality in Maine to ban single-use plastic straws, stirrers and splash sticks.

By Melissa Gates

After a local 2nd grade student successfully petitioned the Portland City Council in 2018 to mitigate plastic straw use in city-owned buildings, the Maine Chapter took it to the next level with Council interest to pass a citywide ordinance becoming the first municipality in Maine to ban single-use plastic straws, stirrers and splash sticks.


The proposed ordinance was strong, seeking to ban the sale and distribution of single-use plastic straws and institute an ask-first policy for straws composed of natural fibers (bamboo, hay, cardboard, etc). Through deliberations, however, the initial exemption for schools was removed and a phase-in approach added to allow for a transition period.

Surfrider attended all Council subcommittee meetings throughout the year to help guide the policy, answering questions regarding why compostable straws are not a good ask-first option, why a ban is so critical versus a non-binding approach, and policy policy mechanisms for accommodating persons identifying as living with disability.

Chapter activists leveraged our Ocean Friendly Restaurants program to visit food service establishments covering each Portland city district. Asking questions about current straw use and distribution policies in the City, as well as impressions of the proposed ordinance, Maine Chapter volunteers gathered important data that they then shared in public hearing to support the ban. Many restaurat and bar owners were stoked to learn about the big natural-made straw discounts provided to participants in our OFR program, and were happy to learn of the Council’s movement to green the City.

The first reading of the ban ordinance was held on October 7, 2019, with the 2nd reading, public hearing and vote held on October 21, 2019. Six Chapter volunteers attended the hearing, with four representatives speaking. We addressed an amendment proposed by Councilor Cook, which while well intentioned to make better accommodations for persons identifying as living with disability, would have rendered the ordinance an ask-first policy instead of a ban, which would have been a good step in the right direction but not be nearly as effective at curbing pollution as a ban.

Council debate ensued on the issue of accommodation for people requiring plastic type straws to drink and the desire not to retreat to an ask-first policy. A creative compromise was struck that both maintained the ban while also removing the need presented in the initial ordinance for people requiring plastic type straws to self-identify as someone living with “disability or other impairment.” The agreement achieved this solution by amending the exceptions section of the ordinance to clarify that anyone requiring a plastic straw to drink hot or cold liquids could ask for one, and that such a straw would then be provided with no additional questions asked- a true win-win.

The following language was also added to the preamble to help qualify the nature of the exception and the intents of the council:

The City Council recognizes the need to ensure that plastic beverage straws remain available to those who require them for consumption of hot and cold liquids and seeks to protect the privacy and dignity of those requesting a plastic beverage straw.

The council carried the amended ordinance unanimously to passage, banning all types of single-use plastic straws, stirrers and splash sticks.

The ordinance has a phase-in process, which takes effect on April 1, 2020, whereby all types of single-use straws, stirrers and splash sticks will be available on request by the customer only. The ban on plastics kicks in on January 1, 2021, coinciding with the statewide foam food packaging and plastic stirrer ban’s effective date. After January 2021, only naturally made single-use straws, stirrers and splash sticks will be available on request of the customer, except for those customers expressing an explicit need for a plastic straw to drink hot or cold beverages, which will then be available as a secondary default upon such request without further question.

Straws are one small piece of the larger plastic pollution crisis, and the Surfrider volunteer network is taking bold action across the nation to address this piece along with myriad others and concurrent with paradigm shifting change to usher forth extended producer responsibility. Together, we will gain strides toward a truly circular economy.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Surfrider.

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By Pete Stauffer

For those of us who love the coast, the negative impacts of offshore oil drilling are obvious. Offshore drilling has a proven track record of polluting the ocean, damaging coastal economies and threatening a way of life enjoyed by millions of people. Yet, the oil and gas industry—and the elected officials who prioritize them over the public interest—would like you to believe that offshore drilling is somehow a safe and necessary practice.

By Pete Stauffer

For those of us who love the coast, the negative impacts of offshore oil drilling are obvious. Offshore drilling has a proven track record of polluting the ocean, damaging coastal economies and threatening a way of life enjoyed by millions of people. Yet, the oil and gas industry—and the elected officials who prioritize them over the public interest—would like you to believe that offshore drilling is somehow a safe and necessary practice.


To help set the record straight, Surfrider has released a new short film with surf legend Rob Machado and surfer/comedian Tyler Allen, on the Trump administration’s plans for new offshore drilling and what this means for our ocean and coastal communities. Please check out the video and take action to stop new offshore drilling!

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/317114098 expand=1]

U.S. Coasts Are Under Threat

In early 2018, the Trump administration announced plans for new offshore drilling in over 90 percent of U.S. waters, igniting a firestorm of public opposition. During the 60-day comment period that followed, more than 1.3 million Americans submitted comments against the proposal and since then, public opposition has only grown. To date, more than 330 municipalities, 2,000 elected officials, 45,000 businesses and almost all coastal governors have formally opposed new offshore oil and gas development.

In the coming weeks, the Department of Interior is expected to release the next draft of the 5-Year Offshore Drilling Plan, which will indicate which areas are still under consideration for new oil and gas development. The agency will then open another comment period and host a series of public meetings in affected communities before making a final decision later this year.

New offshore drilling would threaten thousands of miles of coastline and billions in GDP, for a relatively small amount of oil. Ocean tourism and recreation provide 12 times the amount of jobs to the U.S. economy, compared to offshore oil production. Even under the best-case scenario, America’s offshore oil reserves in the Atlantic and Pacific would provide only about 758 days, or about two year’s worth of oil at the current rate of consumption, according to federal agency estimates.

Surfrider is determined to stop new offshore drilling off U.S. coasts, but we need your help! Please take action by contacting your federal representatives in support of anti-drilling legislation. We also urge everyone to participate in the Department of Interior’s upcoming public comment period of the proposed 5-year offshore drilling plan. Please stay tuned to Surfrider’s channels for the latest news and ways to take action!

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By Pete Stauffer

The partial shutdown of the federal government reached its 16th day on Monday with no immediate resolution in sight. With border security politics dominating the headlines, Republican and Democrat lawmakers remained locked in a stalemate while President Trump signaled a willingness to keep the government shut down for months or even years. The upshot is that dozens of federal agencies remain closed or operating at minimum capacity until the gridlock in DC is resolved.

By Pete Stauffer

The partial shutdown of the federal government reached its 16th day on Monday with no immediate resolution in sight. With border security politics dominating the headlines, Republican and Democrat lawmakers remained locked in a stalemate while President Trump signaled a willingness to keep the government shut down for months or even years. The upshot is that dozens of federal agencies remain closed or operating at minimum capacity until the gridlock in DC is resolved.


Among the government agencies impacted are those responsible for managing our nation’s coastal and ocean resources. These include the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Parks Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others. But what do these government closures really mean for our coasts and ocean, and the millions of people who use these resources? Here’s a list of some of the impacts:

1. Clean Water Programs

Numerous EPA programs that protect clean water and public health are currently suspended. The shutdown is disrupting everything from wastewater permitting to enforcement actions against polluters. The result is that the Clean Water Act—the landmark law that protects our nation’s rivers, lakes and oceans—is rendered dormant while the federal government is closed. Also affected is the BEACH grants program that monitors water quality at thousands of U.S. beaches and remains unfunded for 2019. Finally, only a single NOAA staff person is monitoring Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) such as the recent events off Florida that devastated marine life and coastal communities.

2) National Parks & Marine Sanctuaries

At least 70 national parks have closed across the country while others are understaffed and plagued with overflowing trash and toilets. Among the coastal parks impacted by the shutdown are Point Reyes (CA), Olympic (WA), Gulf Islands Seashore (FL), Assateague Island (MD), Acadia (ME) and many others. As National Geographic recently noted, damage is likely to extend well after the shutdown is resolved. On the ocean side, NOAA’s Office of Marine Sanctuaries, which manages 14 marine protected areas encompassing more than 783,000 square miles, is closed and unable to complete its mandate of protecting our nation’s most outstanding ocean ecosystems.

3) Coastal Management

States and communities depend on federal support to manage coastlines and keep these vital resources open for public use. Because of the shutdown, NOAA has suspended its national estuaries, coastal resilience, marine debris and Sea Grant programs. These programs not only protect beaches, rocky shores and wildlife, they also help communities plan for sea level rise and extreme weather events. In addition, NOAA’s Coastal Zone Management (CZM) program, which provides grants to 34 state coastal programs, remains unfunded for 2019. Lack of federal funding would be disastrous for many state programs and coastal communities that rely on this support.

4) Scientific Research

Agencies like NOAA, EPA and the National Science Foundation conduct research that’s critical to the sound management of coastal ecosystems. Many federal scientists have been forced to stop their work during the shutdown, causing delays and disruptions to ongoing research. Projects impacted range from coral reef studies in the Pacific to fisheries surveys in the Gulf of Mexico to sea ice monitoring in the Arctic. The shutdown has also suspended important climate change research programs. In response, the American Association for the Advancement of Science has issued a statement urging for a swift resolution to the federal budget.

Making Our Voice Heard

It’s notable (but not surprising) that impacts to the coast and ocean have received scant attention during the media’s breathless coverage of the government shutdown. That’s why Surfrider is working to elevate the voice of people who love the coast through our United States & Oceans of America campaign and federal advocacy efforts.

This winter, Surfrider and our partners will travel to Washington, DC for Coastal Recreation Hill Day to meet with congressional offices and federal agencies in support of coastal and ocean conservation. You can make your voice heard by calling your representatives in the House and Senate and urging them to support laws and funding to protect our coasts and ocean!

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