Advocates share praise, support for Pine Tree Amendment sponsored by Sen. Maxmin

Posted: March 08, 2021 | Environment and Natural Resources, Senator Maxmin

AUGUSTA — On Monday, Sen. Chloe Maxmin, D-Nobleboro, presented LD 489, “RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Establish a Right to a Healthy Environment,” at a public hearing before the Legislature’s Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. This bill, better known as the Pine Tree Amendment, would ensure all Mainers have the right to a healthy and clean environment for generations to come. Here is what supporters are saying:

“Our way of life in Maine demands recognition and protection as a right of the people. Sadly, our government has shown that it cannot always be trusted. Sometimes its policies are swayed unduly by centers of influence, such as globe-straddling corporations that may think of Maine as a market, as a means to an end, rather than as the unique place it is, where there is a special interconnectedness between the people and the lands and waters on which we live, play, work, and find sustenance. Thus, the Pine Tree Amendment will help safeguard the harmonizing elements of our way of life, our shared values and our common culture,” said Sen. Richard Bennett, R-Oxford, in written testimony.

“The Pine Tree Amendment is about preserving our rights as Mainers to clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment. As an organic farmer, I understand how important these resources are to the very foundation of Maine’s economy, yet we have no guarantee that our government

will protect the environment that keeps Maine going. The PTA holds our government accountable and protects these fundamental rights,” said Rep. Bill Pluecker, I-Warren, in written testimony.

“The Wabanaki Nations have been stewards of the lands and waters now called Maine since time immemorial. The environment is not a separate issue for us, it is woven into our culture, values, life ways, and how we view our place in the world. This speaks to the deep ancestral connection we have to our homelands but also to the modern day work we do in our natural resources departments and policy

making in every level of tribal government,” said Maulian Dana, Penobscot Nation Tribal Ambassador. “The proposed amendment to the Constitution of Maine would ease in part the place in our spirit that aches when we see desecration and polluting of Mother Earth.”

“Fifty years of environmental risk assessment has excused the contamination of Earth and all its life forms,” said Heather Spalding, deputy director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. “There is no justification for continued industrial poisoning of our water, air, soil and bodies. The Pine Tree Amendment is a catalyst for a precautionary approach to production of consumer goods and technologies, and a just and rapid transition to organic land management.”

“The right to breathe clean air and drink clean water should be as fundamental as our right to vote. The Pine Tree Amendment further instills trust in our government to protect Maine’s natural resources for generations to come,” said Maureen Drouin, Executive Director of Maine Conservation Voters.

“Here in Maine, a healthy natural environment is one of the things that distinguishes us, but it is out of reach for many of our residents. In one of our most densely-populated city, South Portland, residents have raised alarms about emissions  from the industrial tank farms that exist next to schools and residential neighborhoods. Penobscot Nation residents have raised serious concerns about the Juniper Ridge landfill,” said Zachary Heiden, chief counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine. “A healthy natural environment sustains our lives, our families, our businesses, and our communities. And once it is gone, it is impossible to get back. We are moved to offer our support to this proposal because we regard the Constitution as the bedrock protection for the most fundamental rights, and because enshrining protection for the right to a healthy environment in the Constitution is the strongest way of safeguarding against political fickleness.” 

“The proposed environmental rights amendment will ensure that as industry, development, business and economic growth advance in Maine, that they do so in a way that is protective of the state’s natural resources, including the water, air and environments essential for the people to thrive. Ensuring environmentally protective business operations will not only strengthen the Maine economy, but it will avoid the economic costs and job loss that environmental degradation causes. For example, an environmental rights amendment could have helped avoid, or more quickly redress, the human health, farming and other harms caused by PFAS contamination, which was largely the result of a lack of environmental protection laws, regulations and standards,” said Maya van Rossum, an attorney, and founder of Green Amendments for The Generations, advancing a national movement to secure constitutional protection of environmental rights. She is also the author of an award winning book on the subject, titled “The Green Amendment.”

“The economy of the future is one centered in local communities while also in harmony with all beings and the natural world. The Pine Tree Amendment provides an important step toward adapting to a changing climate, which demands a recognition of policies and laws rooted in sustainability,” said Alex Jackimovicz, co-founder of The Alliance for Economic Democracy.

“Existing laws and regulations do not adequately protect our natural resources or way of life in the face of these expanding threats,” said Tim Trumbauer with Midcoast Conservancy. “Our 1700 members deserve a right to a healthy environment. The 13,000 acres of land we have conserved for the public good deserve to be protected. The Sheepscot River, Medomak River, Megunticook River, Damariscotta Lake, and all the other watersheds in which we work and live, deserve to be free flowing, clean, accessible, fishable, swimmable and drinkable.” 

Rev. Richard Killmer, representing Defend Our Health, said, “A great deal of the environmental degradation which exists, hurts people. This proposed amendment to the Maine Constitution would guarantee that people have the right to pure water, clean air and healthy ecosystems. The state of Maine has the responsibility to conserve, protect and maintain the natural resources of the state, so that people are protected from environmental degradation.”

“Because of Maine’s reliance on the environment, we must be leaders in pushing other states to take aggressive action on climate change and minimizing environmental harm,” said Hallie Arno with Maine Youth for Climate Justice. “Through inaction, the state our children would inherit could look like one of the many states that have been overtaken by industrialization, with polluted air, lack of drinking water, few open spaces, and communities suffering. Maine can, should and must be better.”

“Maine needs to lead; we need to focus our action in our state and begin to assert our rights. We have no chance to ensure a livable planet without solidifying these rights in our Constitution. Why now? We want to know that we did everything we can for our own lives and that of future generations. To save this planet, we need to move quickly and boldly,” said Matthew Cannon, campaign and policy associate director for Sierra Club – Maine Chapter.

“The Maine Unitarian Universalist State Advocacy Network has endorsed LD 489 because the right to a healthy environment is essential to one of our faith’s basic principles, that we ‘respect the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part,’” said Jill Linzee, co-chair of the Climate Change Issue Group, of the Unitarian Universalist State Advocacy Network.