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Chellie Pingree never anticipated a life in politics. Living on the offshore island of North Haven, Maine, she raised her kids and ran a small business. She served on the school board and as the local tax assessor, a job no one else in town wanted. But in 1991, when she was approached about running for State Senate, she jumped at the chance.
She scored a remarkable upset, defeating a popular Republican, and went on to serve four terms in the Maine Senate. But throughout her political career, from Augusta to Washington and beyond, the lessons she learned on North Haven have always been her guide: Be accountable to your neighbors, and always use your common sense.
Chellie Johnson (she has legally changed her name from “Rochelle”) was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1955, the youngest of four children. Her father, Harry, worked in advertising and her mother, Dorothy, was a nurse. Chellie moved to Maine as a teenager, attended the University of Southern Maine, and graduated from the College of the Atlantic, in Bar Harbor. After college, she moved to North Haven, an island town of 350 people twelve miles off the coast of Rockland, to raise her family and make a living.
Farmer & Small-Business Owner Turned State Senator
Chellie has worked hard throughout her life - as a mother, as a farmer, as a small business owner, and in politics. She knows how difficult it can be to meet payroll and run a business in a small, rural community. Right after college, Chellie and her husband, Charlie, spent several years running a small farm and selling produce locally. In 1981, she started North Island Yarn, a cottage industry of local knitters, with a retail store on the island. The business expanded quickly, becoming North Island Designs, and employed as many as ten local workers in peak seasons. The business sold knitting kits and pattern books nationwide through 500 retail stores and 100,000 mail order catalogues. She sold the business in 1993.Today, in addition to her political life, Chellie co-owns and helps manage Nebo Lodge, a bed & breakfast and restaurant on North Haven, which she started with several partners in 2006.
Chellie was elected to the Maine State Senate in 1992, representing Knox County. In 1996, Chellie was chosen by her peers to be the Maine Senate Majority Leader. She helped lead the Senate for four more years, until leaving office due to term limits. As a Senator, she fought for economic and social justice, taking on powerful adversaries - most notably the pharmaceutical lobby. In her last session, Pingree sponsored one of the nation’s first prescription drug pricing bills, MaineRX. After a legal fight that led all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the bill became law, and has since been a model for states around the country working to lower prescription drug prices.
Chellie also sponsored the successful “Parents as Scholars” program, a national model for welfare reform, which continues to help working Maine parents gain access to education to help them achieve a better life for their families. She led successful efforts to protect Maine’s environment, for corporate accountability, to protect workers, to promote a women’s right to choose, and in support of Maine’s small businesses. As a state Senator, Chellie was also a founding member of the Maine Economic Growth Council.Pingree’s leadership in Maine politics led to numerous international appointments. She traveled to Hungary as an Eisenhower Exchange Fellow, served as a member of the White House delegation to observe elections in Bosnia, and was a member of a U.S. delegation to Northern Ireland, working with women political leaders there.
After being term-limited from the Maine Senate in 2000, Pingree challenged incumbent U.S. Senator Susan Collins in 2002. As one of the few outspoken opponents of the Iraq War running for U.S. Senate, Chellie mounted a strong, but ultimately unsuccessful campaign.
From 2003 to 2007, Chellie served as the National President and CEO of Common Cause, a non-partisan citizen activist group with nearly 300,000 members and 35 state chapters. Common Cause’s mission is to help citizens make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest. Under Chellie’s leadership, Common Cause increased its membership and diversified its agenda to include limiting media concentration and consolidation, promoting Net Neutrality, and election reform, while continuing to pursue its traditional goals of campaign finance reform and oversight of government ethics and accountability.
A Fighter in Congress
In 2008, Chellie was elected to Congress from Maine’s 1st Congressional District—the first woman elected to Congress from that District. She has previously served on the House Rules Committee and Armed Services Committee. She currently sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, chairing the Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment, the Subcommittee on Agriculture, and Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. She also sits on the House Agriculture Committee.
Among other issues important to Mainers, Chellie has been an advocate in Congress for reforming federal policy to better support the diverse range of American agriculture—including sustainable, organic, and locally focused farming—as well as to reduce food waste. Many provisions from comprehensive legislation she introduced to make these reforms were passed in both the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills. She received a 2017 James Beard Leadership Award for her national leadership in food system reform.
Chellie has also been recognized for her leadership on a number of other issues, including assisting survivors of military sexual trauma, strengthening the creative and arts economy, and helping coastal communities address threats to their future.
Chellie has three grown children–Asa, Cecily, and Hannah, former Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives.
Maine’s Opioid Epidemic
As Maine loses one person a day on average to drug-related overdoses, I’m working to make that our state has the federal resources it needs to address the crisis.
Ever since being elected to Congress, I’ve been proud to advocate for the best shipbuilders in the world at Bath Iron Works and to keep them working–first as a member of the House Armed Services Committee and now as a member of the House Appropriations Committee. What they say is absolutely true: “Bath Built Is Best Built.”
Cleaning Up Forever Chemicals
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are dangerous man-made “forever chemicals” that pose serious risks to every Mainer, appearing at our former military installations, farms, and water systems. This is an urgent public health and environmental threat, and it’s growing at an alarming rate—in Maine, there have been more than 30,000 records of PFAS at close to 250 sites across the state, including the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, the former Loring Air Force Base in Aroostook County, and the Kennebunkport, Kennebunk, and Wells Water District.
PFAS chemicals are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic. These chemicals have been linked to harmful human health effects, including cancer, reproductive and developmental harms, and weakened immune systems.
My Work to Clean Up Forever Chemicals
On the Congressional PFAS Task Force, I work with my Democratic and Republican colleagues in the House to more urgently address the public health threat of PFAS to better protect communities from the harmful effects of these dangerous chemicals.
As Chair of the House Appropriations Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, I oversee the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and work to secure funding for EPA to develop regulatory standards for drinking water and site cleanups as well as conduct additional research to understand the health effects of PFAS.
As Vice Chair of the House Appropriations Agriculture, Rural Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee and a member of the House Agriculture Committee, I have worked to secure additional U.S. Department of Agriculture support for dairy farmers whose livelihoods have been jeopardized by PFAS contamination.
In July 2021, I cosponsored the No PFAS in Cosmetics Act, which would require the Department of Health and Human Services to issue and finalize a rule to ban the use of intentionally added perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances in cosmetics.
In November 2021, I was proud to vote for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which invests $55 billion in water infrastructure, including $10 billion in dedicated funding to clean up dangerous PFAS.
In December 2021, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2022 which creates a Department of Defense PFAS Task Force, provides an additional $500 million for clean-up of military communities impacted by PFAS contamination, and requires DoD to publish to the public results of drinking and ground water testing for PFAS conducted on or near military installations, formerly used defense sites, and national guard sites.
In March 2022, Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, Congressman Jared Golden and I urged U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to swiftly and fully utilize all USDA resources and authorities that can assist in responding to PFAS contamination, which is increasingly impacting Maine famers and rural communities.
In June 2022, I introduced the bipartisan Healthy Drinking Water Affordability Act, or The Healthy H2O Act, to provide grants for water testing and treatment technology directly to individuals, non-profits, and local governments in rural communities. Water quality improvement systems installed at the faucet or within a building can provide immediate and ongoing protections from known and emerging water contaminants, like PFAS, lead, and nitrates.
Energy and Environment
The climate crisis isn’t some far off problem—it’s already at our door, rearing its ugly head. Maine has already been acutely effected by the climate crisis, and the natural resources we value are under massive threat without a global effort to change course. The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99% of other bodies of water on the planet. Rates of asthma and Lyme disease have grown exponentially. Acidifying waters are hurting Maine’s shellfish industry. Coastal flooding and sea level rise are increasing floods. The natural resources we’re so proud of are under massive threat. We need a whole-of-government approach to tackle this emergency head on.
We don’t have to choose between a healthy environment and a healthy economy. We can have both, and Maine is poised to benefit from green jobs. . Here in Maine, our natural resources are closely linked to our jobs and our way of life, and prioritizing the needs of the environment and protecting these resources is essential in our future economic recovery efforts. We can drive a transformational economic investment that puts our state’s economy back on track, gets people back into the workforce, and serves as a way to usher in a sweeping green economic recovery. The result will be a healthier, more equitable, and more resilient economy for us all.
As the Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment, I’m proud to be a leader in Congress’ fight to ensure clean air and water, preserve our natural resources, biodiversity, and endangered species, and confront the climate crisis. I know we have the momentum to pass sweeping environmental and energy reform in the 117th Congress.
Below you will find recent news about my work to protect the environment and support policies to promote a clean energy economy.
Fighting Climate Change
Climate change is real, caused by human activity, and an urgent threat to our way of life. For too long, scientific warnings were ignored and now we’re at a crisis point. To avoid a major, irreversible catastrophe, we must take bold action to become carbon neutral by 2050.
Fisheries are an incredibly important issue for Maine. From fighting to ensure our fishermen have access to working waterfronts to supporting the scientific research and stock assessments necessary to ensure the accurate setting of quotas, I am working in Maine and DC to make our fisheries and coastal communities more sustainable.
Food and Agriculture
On both the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and the House Agriculture Committee, longtime organic farmer Congresswoman Chellie Pingree is fighting for a food system that works better for farmers, consumers, and the environment. Her work on the issue has earned her national praise, but the real wins have been the successful reforms she made in the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills. Stay tuned to this page for updates on all issues food and agriculture.
Forests and Wood Innovations
Innovative forest products are a critical part of the climate solution and the Maine economy. As Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior & Environment, I’ve pushed for resources and funding to support the ever-changing needs of the forest product and wood innovation industries.
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As immigration patterns change over time, Congress must review our immigration policies to ensure that they meet our evolving needs as a nation, allow us to regulate traffic across our borders, and add to the rich diversity of our nation.
I strongly believe we should streamline legal immigration and promote naturalization for those who qualify, including parents of U.S. citizens, young people who have been in the U.S. for at least five years, and students and entrepreneurs, while also keeping families together who have lived in the United States for years.
It is well past time that we re-examine our immigration process to ensure that those who want to immigrate legally have the opportunity to do so, while protecting the rights of American workers, defending our national security, and enforcing the laws that are already in place.
Jobs and Economic Development
Doing what I can in Congress to protect and create Maine jobs, and to support our key industries, remains a top priority. Below are just a few of the issues I’ve focused on in this regard.
Investing in Our Infrastructure
Maine needs a strong infrastructure to compete on a national and global scale. I’ve been a strong supporter of fixing our infrastructure while expanding our technology, like bringing broadband Internet to rural areas of the state. I also believe we need a strong transportation network, which is why I have supported extending the Downeaster line to Brunswick and expanding options for alternative transportation.
Supporting Small Businesses
Small businesses truly are the backbone of Maine’s economy and one thing I hear most from them is the need for capital. As a small business owner myself, I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I’ve supported expanding Small Business Administration loan programs, cutting unnecessary regulations, and have worked to connect our small businesses with larger federal contractors.
Strengthening the Creative Economy
The arts aren’t just entertainment–they’re being used in Maine to drive economic activity and bring people back into our downtowns. Learn more about my work to advocate for federal support for the arts here.
Bath Iron Works and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard
Shipbuilding is in Maine’s blood, and it represents the livelihood of thousands of Mainers. Learn about my advocacy for Bath Iron Works here and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard here.
Brunswick Naval Air Station
The closing of Brunswick Naval Air Station marked the end of an era. But redevelopment of the site has presented an excellent opportunity to create new jobs for the area. I helped the local redevelopment authority acquire the site for no cost from the Navy, and have been happy to see new businesses use the facilities, including Resilient Communications, Molnlycke Health Care, the Brunswick Executive Airport, and a new campus of Southern Maine Community College.
Maine is working to become a leader in clean energy, including offshore wind power and tidal power.
I am strong supporter of Maine’s efforts to support local foods and local farms because there’s no need to buy food from across the globe or country when our neighbors are already producing fresh, healthy produce. As member of the House Agriculture Committee, I’m working for federal policy that better supports creation of these local jobs.
Maine’s 20 miles of working waterfronts support 30,000 jobs, but are vulnerable to development. Communities need more resources to protect these critical places so generations of Mainers can continue making their living from the water.
Looking Out for Consumers
If we found out one thing from the financial crisis, it’s that no one was looking out to protect consumers or keep Wall Street’s irresponsible practices in check. We need to make the right changes to prevent another meltdown from happening and have someone to fight for the interests of the consumer.
With the number of cases rising steadily in recent years, Lyme disease is a growing problem in Maine and other states. As a member of the bipartisan House Lyme Disease Caucus, I’m working to educate Members of Congress about Lyme disease and to help ensure support for programs dedicated to prevention and effective treatments. I’m working to make sure we’re doing everything we can to confront it on the federal level, but we all need to take steps to limit our risk.
Military Sexual Trauma
One of my top priorities is making sure that we are doing everything we can to help and support our men and women in uniform who were sexually assaulted during their service.
My Work as House Interior Appropriations Chair
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In January 2021, I was elected to serve as House Appropriations Committee Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chair. I’m honored to lead the House Appropriations Interior and Environment Subcommittee at this critical moment. As Chair, I will fight to undo the harmful policies enacted by the last administration and provide the resources needed to preserve the long-term health of our environment. As a member of the Subcommittee for the past seven years, I have secured significant funding for Maine’s tribes, environmental preservation programs, our cultural economy, and our forests, and as Chair I will have the opportunity to put these priorities at the top of the Committee’s agenda.
The U.S Constitution specifies that “Congress—and in particular, the House of Representatives—is invested with the ‘power of the purse,’ the ability to tax and spend public money for the national government,” which falls to the Appropriations Committee. The House Appropriations Committee has jurisdiction over all discretionary spending but does not have jurisdiction over mandatory federal spending (i.e., Social Security, Medicare). The House Appropriations Committee, led by Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), is responsible for investments in families and communities across America, providing funding to create jobs, grow our economy, keep our country safe and secure, and build for the future.
A full list of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee’s jurisdiction can be found below:
- Department of the Interior (except Bureau of Reclamation and Central Utah Project)
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Related Agencies
- Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (HHS)
- Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board
- Commission of Fine Arts
- Council on Environmental Quality and Office of Environmental Quality
- Forest Service (USDA)
- Indian Health Service
- Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture and Arts Development
- John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
- National Capital Planning Commission
- National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities (except Institute of Museum and Library Services)
- National Gallery of Art
- National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (HHS, formerly EPA/Superfund)
- Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation
- Presidio Trust
- Smithsonian Institution
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- Eisenhower Memorial Commission
- Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
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I’m proud to report that the Maine Delegation’s years of work has been successful in pushing through a long delayed, and much needed, expansion of the Portland VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic. This project will enable veterans in Southern Maine to access a wider range of services. Look below for details on my work and keep posted for future updates.
I strongly believe that the Internet should remain a free and open exchange of information, which is what has made it such a success. That is why I have supported strong net neutrality policies and will continue to fight against efforts of big broadband providers to set up slow and fast lanes on the Internet.
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard performs an incredible service to our country in maintaining and upgrading the Navy’s submarine fleet, while being a critical pillar to Southern Maine’s economy. As a former member of the House Armed Services Committee and current member of the House Appropriations Committee, supporting this critical installation and the thousands of Maine jobs it offers will always be a top priority for me in Congress.
Preventing Gun Violence
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Since the beginning of my tenure in Congress, I’ve heard from countless students who feel unsafe at school, parents who fear for their children, and families who’ve suffered devastating losses due to firearms. Gun violence is preventable, and it’s shameful that Republicans in Congress have blocked any legislation that would end this uniquely American crisis.
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I fought to include the first funding for CDC and NIH to research gun violence research in two decades and continue to request every year.
Protecting Working Waterfronts
It’s hard to imagine a place like Maine without its working waterfronts. They’re not only an iconic part of our state’s history and landscape, but an irreplaceable resource for 30,000 thousand Mainers who make their living from marine-related industries.
But as valuable as they are to our communities, they make up only 20 miles of our 3,300-mile coastline. That makes them extremely vulnerable, since a development here or a few condos there can swallow a large percentage of what working land remains. Other emerging threats include climate change and ocean acidification.
We need tools to protect these valuable spots and ensure that Mainers can continue to make their living from the sea.
Protecting Reproductive Rights
In Maine, we have laws that explicitly protect reproductive rights and we’re fortunate that Governor Mills is committed to upholding Roe v. Wade. But in June, a deeply partisan U.S. Supreme Court overturned nearly 50 years of an established right to body autonomy.
The murder of George Floyd was not an isolated incident of police brutality against Black people. Since 2013, police officers have shot and killed nearly 1,000 people every year, and Black men are nearly three times more likely to be killed by police than their white peers. After endless reports documenting excessive use of force, it is more important now than ever for Congress to step up to condemn racial profiling and police brutality and work to dismantle unjust systems that harm and kill Black people in this country. For George Floyd and too Black Americans many before him who’ve had their lives cut short at the hands of police, I have signed onto the following legislative initiatives that would help address the well documented problem of police brutality toward Black Americans and begin to dismantle systems that contribute to racial inequities in the first place. You can read more about these pieces of legislation below.
However, the racial injustices that permeate our country aren’t limited to issues of police brutality. Systemic racism has perpetuated longstanding disparities in education, employment, housing, health care, the justice system, environmental issues, and more. Below you will find a list of some of the bills I support that would help to dismantle these inequities.
Supporting Maine’s Cannabis Economy
Maine faces unique challenges as the legalized recreational sale of marijuana inches closer and closer. Cannabidiol (CBD) and medical marijuana are already legal, with many businesses in the industry growing rapidly.
I’m proud to be able to advocate for Maine’s citizens and businesses as a legalization state. Please follow the links below for more information on the bills I support to modernize our cannabis economy and promote the rights of citizens to use this product where it has been made legal.
Save The Post Office
All Americans, particularly those in rural states like Maine, rely on USPS for mail and essential supplies. Since 1918, USPS has dedicated itself to deliver no matter snow nor rain nor heat.
Trump-appointed USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has used his time in the position to sabotage USPS—he has made sweeping cuts to the Post Office, including the removal and destruction of mail sorting machines in Maine and across the country. USPS has more than 600,000 career employees, including 100,000 veterans and more than 3,300 Mainers, and has 31,000 locations nationwide; however, the Postal Service receives effectively no support from the federal budget, and is subject to a cumbersome pre-funding mandate for its employee’s healthcare services.
In his brief time as Postmaster General, Mr. DeJoy has implemented policies that have slowed delivery times to unacceptable levels and resulted in undelivered mail. Since becoming Postmaster General, he has also invested tens of thousands of dollars in stock options in another USPS contractor and competitor. Both investments represent a tremendous conflict of interest.
I’m fighting to make sure the Post Office can survive and thrive in future years. I’ve voted three times since February 2020 to protect the Postal Service. Below you can find more information about my work to protect one of our country’s essential services.
Medicare and Social Security work to keep thousands of Mainers out of poverty. But they’ve become targets for those who’d rather cut benefits than having the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share. We need to protect these critical benefits and make sure they are there for the next generation.
Don’t Touch Medicare
For 60 years, Medicare has given millions of seniors the health care they need and kept them out of poverty. It’s a benefit our seniors have worked hard to earn. Still, some see it as a way to balance a deficit that our seniors to cause. I’m against any cutting for Medicare benefits and medical care for our retirees and I vow to fight any proposals to do so.
Strengthening Social Security
Social Security is another important benefit that seniors worked hard to earn. But some want to change the program by scaring people into thinking it won’t be around for the future. That’s simply not true. There are ways to strengthen Social Security without cutting benefits.
Supporting the Arts
The arts have incredible value for our state as a positive tool for economic development, education, and community building. I am proud to advocate for federal investments in the arts and humanties that support important work here in Maine in several ways–as a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment (which oversees funding for the National Endowments of the Arts and Humanities), an ex-officio member of the National Council on the Arts, and co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Arts Caucus.
- Congressional Delegation to Eastern Europe
As Russia continues its unprovoked attack on the people of Ukraine, I am working at home and abroad to support Ukraine and our allies through this humanitarian crisis.
I joined a bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives on a weeklong trip to bordering allied nations to get a firsthand look at humanitarian efforts and to learn what more can be done to help the millions of refugees and what more we can do to support Ukraine in their fight against autocracy.
The terror President Putin has rained down on Ukrainians—on innocent mothers and children, on the sick and elderly—is horrifying. As President Zelenskyy said in his address to Congress last week, we must do more to help Ukrainians defend their country against Putin’s unjust war.
What we’ve seen in Poland, Romania, and Moldova has been truly heart wrenching. Millions of Ukrainian refugees have fled to bordering Eastern European countries seeking safety and shelter in the weeks since Putin’s violent invasion began.