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Chloe Maxmin, a Democrat from Nobleboro, represents District 3 in the Maine Senate. Justin Fecteau, a Republican from Augusta, represents District 86 in the Maine House of Representatives.
As Mainers, we have a deep appreciation for the environment and all it can provide for us. Maine wouldn’t be the place we know and love without our scenic coastline, vast forests and snowy mountains. Our heritage industries and the workers who power them, from farmers to fishers and foresters, depend on healthy, thriving ecosystems. Protecting our land, air and water needs to be a priority if we want to keep our economy and our way of life strong for generations to come.
Right now, we don’t have all the tools we need to do this, and developing those tools needs to be a priority. That’s why, as a Democratic state senator and a Republican state representative, we stand together in proud support of the Pine Tree Amendment.
The Pine Tree Amendment would add an amendment to Maine’s Constitution to guarantee the right to a clean and healthy environment. This would guarantee that no Legislature, governor, law or permit can violate these rights, even as power and politics change over the years.
This is an important step in holding our government accountable to our health, our economy, our environment and our way of life in the years to come. There is too much at stake for our economy and environment to only rely on the whims of politics. Mainers deserve these basic rights enshrined in the Constitution.
We have consulted with multiple legal experts to ensure that this language will be interpreted to only hold government accountable. It was not written for a neighbor to sue a neighbor or a private business. The Pine Tree Amendments gives Mainers the right to stand up for themselves if and when the government infringes upon our basic rights.
We have a right to worship, to bear arms, to assemble — but we don’t have a right to a healthy environment. Every Mainer stands to benefit if this amendment passes if you breathe Maine’s air, drink its water, farm our land, fish our waters or work in the woods.
Maine’s unmatched natural beauty is why so many of us call this state home and it is the same reason millions of people from around the world leave their own homes to visit “Vacationland.” We don’t think of this as just an amendment to our founding document, but as an insurance policy protecting our most valuable asset.
Court cases in other states with similar language in their constitutions give us a window into how this amendment would be used. A legal challenge relying on the Pennsylvania Environmental Rights Amendment is currently advancing through the courts, given the state’s failure to put in place needed drinking water protections to address high levels of PFAS contamination. Just the filing of the lawsuit has sparked the state to act.
We know that this is an issue in Maine, too. In recent years, we’ve seen several news stories about wells and dairy farms in our state being contaminated with PFAS, or forever chemicals, which are used in many types of products. These chemicals don’t break down in the body, and their presence is linked to cancer, hormone disruptions, cholesterol problems and more. We need to be able to protect our environment and therefore our bodies from pollution that can harm us.
We agree on the importance of the Pine Tree Amendment despite our differences on other issues, so it’s no surprise that the amendment has a broad coalition of supporters. Mainers from all over the state submitted testimony in support of the bill, including scientists, farmers, students, business owners, activists, Democrats, Republicans and independents. Two other states, Pennsylvania and Montana, have passed similar amendments, and several other states are considering doing so. The consensus is growing: If we understand how central a healthy environment is to our health, our culture and our economy, we need to solidify our right to protect it.
There is still much work to be done. In order for this to appear on a statewide ballot for your approval, the Pine Tree Amendment will need broad support from legislators from all political parties. This is why we are asking for your help in reaching out to your state senator and representative and urge them to support the Pine Tree Amendment. You can follow the amendment’s progress through the Legislature at facebook.com/PineTreeAmendment and pinetreeamendment.org.