The Legislature’s Transportation Committee Chairman, Dennis Damon of Trenton, says he doesn’t “see how we’ve undermined the work of the [Sears Island Joint Use Planning Committee], and I don’t see how we’ve made the agreement inoperable. … We did not change a single period or comma or capital letter in the agreement” (BDN, Nov. 21).
Let me help Sen. Damon: When residents devote hundreds of hours of arduous work over a period of years to hammer out an agreement that eluded the state for decades, their work is undermined when a legislative committee decides not to accept it. By not signing off on it until the committee’s further demands are met, it is not being accepted.
Also, when environmental activists signed off on the agreement, they did so knowing a cargo port would go through a rigorous permitting process. This shows good faith in the legislative process, that once their own work was done, procedures would be followed to review environmental impacts.
The agreement says part of the island will be preserved and part will be left open for a cargo port, should the need arise and the project win environmental permits.
By refusing to endorse the conservation easement on Sears Island until a cargo port is permitted, the agreement has been made inoperable. So, no, Damon didn’t change any of the punctuation, just the entire spirit of the compromise.
In effect, the Transportation Committee has nullified years of work on a compromise that would have moved the state forward. Perhaps the tactics will backfire. Perhaps when the good faith of environmentalists is met with the bad faith of legislators, it’s time for a citizen’s initiative. How would Maine voters, most of whom consider themselves environmentalists, cast their ballots? They might even up the ante – to say, preserving the entire island.