January 26, 2022

Voters’ group rates hopefuls> Environmental record scrutinized

AUGUSTA — The Maine League of Conservation Voters has given failing marks to both of the Democratic candidates for Congress, based on how they voted on selected environmental bills while they were in the Legislature.

But state Sens. John E. Baldacci of Bangor and Dennis L. Dutremble of Biddeford say they have a strong commitment to protecting the environment and the group’s survey misrepresents that commitment.

Baldacci and Dutremble both got zeroes based on five environmental bills that came up in the last two years. They were among 13 senators and 21 representatives to get zero ratings from the league.

Rep. Richard A. Bennett of Norway, the Republican in the 2nd Congressional District, got a 30 percent rating, while Rep. John M. Michael of Auburn, an independent in the 2nd District, got a strong 80 percent.

A fourth candidate for Congress in the 2nd District, Charles Fitzgerald of Atkinson, did not serve in the Legislature and thus was not rated by the League of Conservation Voters.

“I have supported major pieces of legislation that cleaned up the air and water,” Baldacci said in a car-phone interview. “I don’t think this accurately represents my record.

“The biggest, most far-reaching bill we had was the cluster of regulations on the paper industry, giving tax credits to get pollution control equipment in, and that’s not even in there.”

Baldacci earned a 40 percent rating from the league in 1992 and a 33 percent rating in 1990.

Bennett, the Republican in the 2nd District, earned a 30 rating and a 60 rating in 1992.

Dan Billings, Bennett’s press secretary, said, “Rick spent yesterday and today hiking through Baxter State Park and climbing Mount Katahdin. When he’s got time off, that’s the kind of thing he does.

“In the Legislature, you’re trying to balance environmental concerns with economic concerns. A group like the League of Conservation Voters tends to put the environment ahead of the economy and Rick wants to balance the two. He’s not going to get 100 percent from a group like this.”

Michael had an 80 percent rating and a 100 percent rating two years ago.

“I think the environment is a people’s issue,” Michael said. “Maine people like to hunt, fish and camp.”

As for Baldacci and Bennett, Michael said, “When you’re taking a bunch of PAC money like those guys do, it’s pretty hard to vote for the people. I think they tend to kiss up to the paper companies.”

In the 1st Congressional District, Sen. Dutremble, the Senate president, received a zero rating this year, a 40 in 1992 and a 67 in 1990.

Greg Nadeau, a Dutremble spokesman, said, “If he ended up with a zero rating, I have to question the items they chose. Historically, he has a very good environmental record, whether it was cleaning up Maine rivers or toxic waste. These ratings are subject to interpretation.

“I think we can make a very strong case for Duke Dutremble’s commitment to the environment. These ratings come down to what specific bills are selected.”

Dutremble’s opponent in November is Republican James B. Longley Jr. of Falmouth.

Among the bills rated by the league were:

Allowing gravel pits of up to 30 acres to to be built without state review. The league opposed the bill. It was passed and signed into law.

Banning smoking in the enclosed areas of buildings in which the public is invited or permitted. The only exceptions are restaurants, lounges and smoke shops. The league favored the bill. It was passed and signed into law.

Repealing the ban on aseptic packaging in juice boxes. The group opposed the repeal, but it was passed and signed into law.

A bill to minimize electric rates by directing the Public Utilities Committee to put more emphasis on rates than on utility costs. The league opposed it because the group thought it would discourage energy conservation. The bill was enacted into law.

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