It is now less than a month before voters go to the polls and vote on the ballot Question 1. The question itself is phrased in such a way that many citizens of Maine are asking for clarification.
Issue 1 is an attempt to stop the major power line corridor already under construction by Central Maine Power by banning the construction of power lines on approximately 43,300 acres of land in Somerset and counties Franklin, known as the Upper Kennebec area, and to require legislative approval for these future projects anywhere else in Maine.
This ban would be retroactive to 2020 and any project involving public lands would be retroactive to 2014, and would now require a two-thirds approval vote by members of the Legislative Assembly for projects already approved as well as for the future.
You can understand why so many people have asked for clarification on what exactly they are voting on. It’s a bit convoluted.
I have voters on both sides of the project and I respect their views. Concerned citizens in western Maine have voiced opposition to a corridor on environmental grounds and fear hydropower will only benefit Massachusetts. Others cite climate benefits and the potential to bring cheaper hydropower to our energy grid, which is operated by ISO New England. The main fuel used for generating electricity in the grid is natural gas, 72% at the time of writing. Natural gas and others have a vested interest in preventing more hydropower from entering the grid.
Naturalists see the 53 mile, fifty-four foot wide portion of the corridor as a destruction of Maine’s natural beauty and will have a negative impact on our wildlife. Outdoor enthusiasts see the same part as an additional area for outdoor recreation with little impact on our wildlife.
Both parties claim money from out-of-state is involved in the attempt to influence voters in Maine. According to Ballotpedia, by early September the two sides had already spent around $ 41.4 million to support or oppose the measure, and campaign fundraising reports back claims the money is coming from outside. of Maine, as well as competing energy sources.
If this project had just been proposed and tabled in the legislature, it would be a difficult decision, but it is not. This project has already gone through all the required approval and hearing processes. It has received all the necessary permits under two successive administrations, has made investments, hired people and is already underway.
What this question and some supporters are now asking is to allow the legislature to step in and make these permits null and void by retroactively changing the rules. It sets a precedent for all future legislatures, a body that changes composition every two years, to do so.
To compare what is attempted here when the legislature approves compliance with federal tax law, or when the legislature changes existing rules and regulations, is misleading. This will retroactively amend laws without granting exemptions for those who have followed the rules and regulations currently in place.
Any business wishing to invest in Maine must be confident in its business dealings when it follows and complies with all existing laws, rules, and ordinances.
In this case, it’s easy to vilify an energy company and use that as reasoning to support this ballot question, but it doesn’t just target CMP. It defines future policy, and dangerous policy.
Imagine you want to start a business. You go to your city, study all the existing laws, rules and ordinances required by the municipality and state. You then hire the right professionals to design and build your small business. You hire workers and contractors and invest in the necessary equipment and materials. You are very careful to make sure that you have obtained all the required permits and that you have followed the rules.
You open your business with great enthusiasm. You have made your dream come true.
Now imagine the heavy hand of the government rushing in and retroactively amending existing laws, rules and ordinances to declare your business illegal. Not only will you lose your investment of time and money, but you could potentially be fined for breaking rules that weren’t there when you started your trip.
Question 1 allows this to happen. You cannot deny the retroactive part of this question. It is clearly printed in black and white and will undoubtedly have future impacts on more than just CMP. Some financially supporting this issue have tried to deflect attention from this concern by alleging that elected officials supporting this project have been bought off by campaign contributions. It is unfortunate that they attack the integrity of public officials by implying that they could be influenced in such a way, all in an attempt to support their misguided orientation and reluctance to debate this part of the issue publicly.
I sincerely believe that people and businesses should know that if they choose to invest in Maine they follow the rules and do whatever is asked of them, the government can be trusted to keep their word and not retroactively cancel contracts and agreements.
We have all seen what can happen when excessive government efforts are left unchecked. As a member of the 130th Legislature in Maine, I do not support granting this power to lawmakers. Masters should be skeptical of this effort.
Note: This is a Maine Point of View (PoV) column. The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of The Maine Wire or the Maine Policy Institute.