A multi-generational team of Mainers is campaigning for an amendment that would enshrine environmental rights in the Maine Constitution’s Declaration of Rights. The Pine Tree Amendment (PTA) is a proposed amendment to the Maine State Constitution that would secure the right to clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment for all people in Maine, including future generations. This amendment would create a robust legal pathway for protecting Maine’s ecosystems.
On Friday, January 27, at a virtual lunch and learn event, Maine’s Environmental Priorities Coalition (EPC) announced the Pine Tree Amendment is again on their list of environmental priorities for this legislative session. The EPC is a partnership of 37 environmental, conservation, and public health organizations that “works together to identify important legislation and votes to determine their Common Agenda for each legislative session.” The EPC’s decision to include the Pine Tree Amendment among their legislative priorities for the second time suggests that this issue is important to Mainers and that the PTA has the capacity to make a significant impact in protecting Maine’s environment.
“The Pine Tree Amendment will encourage sustainable and forward-thinking development, industry, and business growth. It will also incentivize government officials to make decisions that will accomplish economic and business objectives while also protecting water, air, soils, food, forests, wetlands, climate, and other natural resources,” said Representative Maggie O’Neil, the House sponsor for the bill. “Our environment is critical to sustaining healthy, safe, and successful lives and economies, and Maine’s constitution should be reflective of that fact.”
In the 2022 legislative session, a bipartisan PTA bill (LD 489), with strong community-based grassroots support, and the endorsement of the Environmental Priorities Coalition and many Maine businesses, received strong support in the Senate but fell short of a two-thirds majority in the House. The Pine Tree Amendment will require a 2/3 majority vote in both chambers to be placed on the ballot in November as a statewide referendum.
“All people in Maine deserve the right to clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment, and they deserve it now,” said Cole Cochrane, the Legislative Director for Maine Youth Action, a youth-led organization advocating for environmental justice in Maine. “This is truly the bare minimum in terms of what people in Maine should have for rights, and yet these rights are not stated or protected by Maine’s Constitution. The Pine Tree Amendment would change that, ensuring that these constitutionally protected rights are upheld by Maine state and local governments.”