Photo: A climate justice rally in Augusta | Courtesy of 350 Maine
Originally published in the Beacon, https://mainebeacon.com/
Maine Conservation Voters on Tuesday released its legislative scorecard for 2022, calling this year’s session “a banner year for Maine’s environment, climate and democracy” but acknowledging that “in the same moment, much of what we value is at risk.”
The group scored how Maine lawmakers voted on seven bills this year, including a measure to provide access to safe drinking water for the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Sipayik and a bill to close a loophole that allows out-of-state waste to end up in Juniper Ridge Landfill.
The group also scored a bill meant to increase accountability standards for utilities and facilitate grid planning, a measure to ban the application of PFAS-contaminated sludge in order to protect Maine farmlands, legislation to upgrade water quality standards for Maine rivers and streams, a bill to increase opportunities for climate education in schools, and legislation to ensure Maine elections are transparent and secure.
Each of those bills passed the legislature and became law with support from Gov. Janet Mills. The path to getting the measures approved wasn’t always smooth, though. Mills originally expressed opposition to the Passamaquoddy water rights bill before eventually negotiating a deal and signing the legislation. On the utility accountability measure, public power proponents had concerns that the legislation didn’t do enough to hold Central Maine Power and Versant accountable but ultimately reached an agreement that included further performance standards for the utility companies.
“Together with Governor Janet Mills, the Maine Legislature passed significant policies that equitably tackle climate change, invest in healthy communities, protect our environment and democracy, and advance environmental justice,” Maine Conservation Voters wrote as part of the scorecard.
In total, 84 lawmakers received a 100% score from the group, meaning they supported each of the bills Maine Conservation Voters pushed for. No Republicans received a perfect score from the organization. The highest mark for a GOP legislator was given to Sen. Rick Bennett (R-Oxford), who received a score of 86%. The only priority bill that Bennett opposed was the climate education measure.
To look up your legislators’ scores, click here.
Dozens of Democratic lawmakers received perfect marks, including Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook), Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli (D-Sagadahoc), and Assistant Majority Leader Mattie Daughtry (D-Cumberland). The party’s House leadership team — Speaker Ryan Fecteau (D-Biddeford), Majority Leader Michelle Dunphy (D-Old Town) and Assistant Majority Leader Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland) — also received 100% scores.
Five Republican lawmakers were given a score of zero, meaning they didn’t vote for any of Maine Conservation Voters’ priority bills. Those legislators were Richard Cebra (R-Naples), Josanne Dolloff (R-Milton Township), David Haggan (R-Hampden), Frances Head (R-Bethel) and Dwayne Prescott (R-Waterboro). These scores combined anti-environmental votes with absences, which the scorecard weighed the same as a vote against a priority bill.
Rep. Braden Sharpe (D-Durham) and Rep. Chad Grignon (R-Athens) also received scores of zero on account of being absent for each of the votes on the environmental measures included in the scorecard.
While the Maine Conservation Voters’ scorecard shows that environmental advocates got many of their priorities over the finish line in the 2022 session, some activists were disappointed by what they felt were missed opportunities to combat climate change and protect the state’s ecosystem during the first session of the 130th Legislature in 2021.
One area of frustration was Mills’ veto of a bill to replace CMP and Versant with a consumer-owned utility — a measure proponents argued would help spur Maine’s transition to clean electricity. Environmental advocates have also criticized the governor’s veto of a bill to ban aerial spraying of hazardous herbicides such as glyphosate and Mills’ opposition to a measure that would reinforce the sovereignty of the Wabanaki and affirm the tribes’ right to regulate natural resources and land use on their territory.
But while activists and green groups have had their disagreements with Mills — a Democrat — Maine Conservation Voters Action Fund warned that the progress made in the last couple of years would be put at risk if her Republican opponent, former governor Paul LePage, is elected this November.
Criticizing LePage’s anti-environment legacy when he was governor, the group recently endorsed Mills for reelection.
Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He then worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper before joining Beacon. Evan can be reached at email@example.com.