Maine's new governor vetoes bill limiting ethanol blending

Maine's new governor vetoes bill limiting ethanol blending

Maine was one of the states the Democrats managed to flip in terms of the Governor’s Mansion and they also control the state legislature. Paul LePage was replaced by Janet Mills in January, and now she’s broken out the veto pen for the first time. She shot down (for now) a bill that would have restricted ethanol blending in gasoline to the current 10% level, forbidding the sale of E-15 or higher. This has been a goal of some Republicans in the state for several years now and with good reason. But for the moment, it’s hanging on the brink of defeat. (Bangor Daily News)

Gov. Janet Mills issued her first veto on Thursday, rejecting a bill that passed the Maine Legislature without roll-call votes and would ban the sale of gasoline containing more than 10 percent ethanol that likely isn’t being sold in the state right now.

The Democratic governor has largely gotten along with a Legislature controlled by her party during a tenure that began in January. Her first veto aims to thwart a bill sponsored by Rep. Beth O’Connor, R-Berwick. It comes after Mills has signed 102 other bills into law.

O’Connor’s bill was an uncontroversial one. A mixture known by the nickname E10 — 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent ethanol, a grain-based alcohol — accounts for 95 percent of gasoline sold in the U.S., according to the federal government. A mixture with 15 percent ethanol is allowed to be used in vehicles with model years of 2001 and newer.

The legislature is expected to take up the issue of the veto this week. It’s tough to say whether there’s enough support to override Mills on this matter because the bill passed on a voice vote. But if there was that much opposition to it, you’d think someone would have called for a roll call. We’ll know soon enough.

Maine is another one of those states with a lot of fishing, hunting, and outdoor sports. As such, they have a lot of boats. And as we discussed here previously, boat owners (as well as people with other small engine equipment) have a negative view of high ethanol blends because of the damage it does to engines. In fact, Maine has the fourth highest per capita boat ownership in the country, with more than 8% of households owning at least one boat. Also, a fair amount of Maine’s tourism traffic comes from hunting and fishing.

Will the residents of the state be happy if their legislators and their new governor open the door to E-15? There’s none currently being sold in Maine, but Cumberland Farms is reportedly planning to introduce it at multiple locations soon. Ethanol free gas is available (if you know where to look) but it always costs more. This is certainly not going to be the number one driving issue for the next elections, but it is a pocketbook issue that affects a significant percentage of the population.

It doesn’t help that Donald Trump’s EPA is still pushing for increased levels of ethanol blending all through the year, but that’s a battle to be fought in Washington. In the meantime, it would be nice to see some of the states fighting back a bit against King Corn. Or perhaps, in this case, Queen Corn.

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