Penobscot jail overcrowding
The March 8 BDN editorial highlighting jail overcrowding at the Penobscot County Jail accurately describes the challenges Sheriff Troy Morton faces. As a four-year volunteer at the jail, I couldn’t agree more that “jails have become the de facto holding cells for people who would be better served in hospitals or treatment centers.”
I urge the county to acquire the former YMCA building to provide adequate housing and programming for female inmates in a separate building.
Local food sovereignty
In his March 11 BDN column against the food sovereignty movement, Michael Cianchette is wasting his right to speak out by engaging in flawed argument. With his tongue tangled in the formation of modern Italy, he praises economy of scale, which is the opposite of what we are talking about. He claims that regulation means safety, and he worries that no one really knows what organic food means.
The farmers whose food we want to buy are small businesses, an economic model that is encouraged for a prosperous Maine. These businesses cannot benefit from economies of scale, but it is up to their customers to decide whether they want to pay the extra price, not the state.
It is true that our state regulations on the processing and sale of food could be improved, but in the meantime, many of us would like to eat tasty food produced close to home by people whose work we know. We know the farmers we buy from and their practices. We know the food is clean. Most importantly, they feed it to their own children. Sounds pretty safe to me.
And, finally, mocking the much-abused label of organic is a waste of breath. Most of the farmers who want to sell to their neighbors don’t even call their food organic; they just don’t use damaging chemicals and needless drugs.
Stand against methane rule rollback
The March 13 BDN editorial about the Republican-led effort to undo the a federal rule limiting the amount of natural gas that can be vented on public land shows the anti-environment agenda that some Republicans are pushing. That’s why I am so heartened to have senators like Susan Collins and Angus King who are standing up against this extreme agenda.
As the editorial explains, the Bureau of Land Management’s methane waste rule protects taxpayers and ensures cleaner air for everyone. This is accomplished by not wasting the natural gas, but rather capturing it for use. This is a win-win situation. The people gain because that is gas that can be used to supply 5 million homes a year, according to the bureau’s estimate. It also reduces the release of methane, which is a known greenhouse gas, contributing to global climate change.
Some conservatives want to repeal this rule, in addition to killing regulations that would have required coal companies to clean up toxic waste polluting our water, denying climate change and trying to sell off our public lands. These policies only benefit the fossil fuel industry. If the methane waste rule is eliminated, these practices will harm our health, threaten our natural resources, and threaten the future for our children and grandchildren.
I hope Collins and King continue to stand against the anti-environmental agenda of the fossil fuel industry to protect their constituents and our air, water and health. Our great state depends on these protections.
Don’t erect barriers to retirement planning
Nearly 235,000 Mainers work for private sector employers that don’t offer a retirement plan. Nationwide, more than 55 million workers have the same problem. States such as California, Illinois, Oregon and Maryland have stepped up to address this problem with pro-active legislation, but proposed rules in Congress up for a vote as early as March 20 would pull the rug out from under these states efforts.
Two resolutions pending in Congress, H.J. Res 66 and H.J. Res 67, would disallow U.S. Department of Labor rules involving retirement savings arrangements established by states and qualified political subdivisions. At issue are rules making it easier for small businesses to offer their workers access to a retirement savings plan. These rules give workers the opportunity to set aside their own money in low-fee, professionally managed savings accounts. The rules provide for a so-called “safe harbor” by removing Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 compliance issues for small businesses.
I applaud Maine State Treasurer Terry Hayes for asking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to vote “no” on these resolutions. While Maine has not yet moved forward with a private sector retirement savings initiative, successful efforts in Illinois and Oregon provide examples that could be replicated in Maine. Those states will be accepting contributions this year.
Please ask Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King to vote “no” on these bad resolutions.
Oppose methane rule rollback
It is encouraging to hear that Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King will oppose the methane waste rule rollback discussed in the March 13 BDN editorial, “Republicans want to undo a rule that protects taxpayers and the environment.” This rule requires companies to limit the amount of natural gas that is vented or flared on public lands, reducing unnecessary pollution and in turn providing benefits to taxpayers by reducing the waste of public resources.
The methane rule rollback is one of the many attempts to eliminate environmental safeguards we are likely to see this Congress. I am thankful that our senators have already put our environment over partisan politics by opposing Scott Pruitt’s nomination for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and urging Gov. LePage to drop his legally problematic appeal to the president to rescind executive order that created the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
Ensuring clean air, clean water, and a future when we can all enjoy the outdoors should transcend politics. It is clear, especially with the methane rule, that the only people who would benefit from rolling back these environmental protections are the companies who already profit from using our public lands. I hope Collins and King will continue to stand up for our environment and oppose the special interest politics in Washington.