A Recap Of The BDN Editorial Board’s Take On November’s Referendums

The BDN Editorial Board operates independently from the newsroom, and does not set policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.

No on 1

The primary aim of Question 1 is to stop the New England Clean Energy Connect, a transmission line that would run for 145 miles across western Maine to bring hydro-electricity from Quebec to Massachusetts. Some of this cleaner power will flow to Maine, along with a package of benefits, including investments in broadband, heat pumps and education.

This initiative is the wrong way to address objections to the corridor and, if passed, its language could have far-reaching implications beyond this transmission line project.

A “yes” vote on Question 1 has the potential to largely lock Maine into our current energy mix, which is heavily reliant on fossil fuels, and could hamper efforts to combat climate change.

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We first supported construction of the New England Clean Energy Connect, a spinoff of Central Maine Power Co., in 2019 because we think it can be part of Maine’s and the region’s necessary work to diversify our energy supply to combat climate change.

The language in the legislation that would be enacted if Question 1 passes would ban high-impact transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec region, which could hamper future efforts to bring hydro-electricity to Maine. It would also expand the language of the Maine Constitution to require two-thirds legislative approval for a variety of projects, including transmission lines, landing stips, pipelines and railroad tracks, on public lands.

It would also add a provision to state law requiring a majority vote in the Legislature to approve high-impact transmission line projects anywhere in Maine, even if they are not on public land.

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The three provisions in Question 1, especially the new legislative approval requirement, are an overreach that could hamper future projects and investment in Maine.

Many Mainers are troubled that CMP, which is owned by the Spanish company Iberdrola, and Hydro-Quebec, which is owned by the province of Quebec, will make a lot of money from this project. Energy companies, most of which are not headquartered in Maine, are financially backing a “yes” vote on Question 1 and will continue to make a lot of money if the measure passes. This decision shouldn’t be about rewarding or penalizing companies — it’s about assessing an energy opportunity for Maine.

The corridor has received approval from seven federal and state agencies and more than a dozen municipal approvals, which in most instances, included opportunities for public comment or hearings. We fear that passage of Question 1 would send a worrying message to those who may want to invest in and develop major projects in Maine that the state’s regulatory environment is too uncertain, and that an opportunity to make the energy supply in New England and Maine a little cleaner will be lost.

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Yes on 2

For the seventh year in a row, Maine voters are being asked to support a bond of about $100 million to pay for needed upgrades and maintenance of the state’s transportation infrastructure, mostly our roads.

Voters should approve this bond, but they should also expect their elected leaders to agree on additional and better ways of paying for the big backlog of construction projects instead of turning to them to approve a $100 million bond every year.

This year, as in other recent transportation borrowing requests, the bulk of the money — $85 million will go toward roads and bridges. The remaining money – $15 million – will be spent on other modes of transportation, including railroads, airports and marine transportation. The bond will leverage $253 million in federal funds.

Maine has a backlog of transportation work and not enough money to pay for it. This bond money is helpful, but it is not the full solution.

Raising the state’s gas tax – and examining other ways to collect transportation user fees, such as a fee per miles driven, which would capture electric vehicles – also need to be considered as part of the solution

In the meantime, a “yes” vote on Question 2 will pay for needed maintenance and upgrades to Maine’s transportation system.

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No on 3

The concept of building more independent, self-sustainable local food systems — where people can feed themselves and their families rather than relying on large-scale agriculture, international grocery store chains or the government —  is a good one. The supply chain disruptions and empty shelves seen during the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrate that plainly and painfully.

Question 3 on the Nov. 2 ballot, however, does more than ask voters to sign off on this idea. This referendum is not simply an up or down vote on self-sufficiency or locally grown food. It asks people to approve a new amendment to the Maine Constitution, enshrining a right to “grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume” food of their choosing. For us, it also raises a host of questions about what this language would mean for existing laws and regulations spanning from food safety and animal welfare to environmental protection.

Backers of the referendum are confident that such questions and potential unintended consequences have been addressed in the amendment language. They believe this is simple and straightforward. We simply disagree.

Even with the understanding that no right is absolute, we have a hard time seeing how creating this new, ambiguous constitutional right won’t lead to court challenges where judges, rather than the Legislature, will decide what this language really means.

We’ll also point out that the constitutional amendment proposed in Question 3 does not expressly mention hunger. That’s not for lack of trying, as an earlier version did include language that would have explicitly established a right “to be free from hunger, malnutrition, starvation and the endangerment of life from the scarcity of or lack of access to nourishing food.”

As we understand it, that language was removed for pragmatic reasons, in order for the measure to gain enough support in the Legislature. We understand the calculus of compromise, but frankly find that language more compelling than what ended up on the ballot.

No matter how you vote, don’t forget to turn in your absentee ballot if you have one or go to the polls on Tuesday.

Source : https://bangordailynews.com/2021/10/29/opinion/editorials/a-recap-of-the-bdn-editorial-boards-take-on-novembers-referendums/

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