AUGUSTA — On Friday, Gov. Janet Mills vetoed legislation from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, that would have banned the aerial spraying of toxic chemicals, including glyphosate, for the purposes of forestry in the northern Maine woods. LD 125, “An Act To Prohibit the Aerial Spraying of Glyphosate and Other Synthetic Herbicides for the Purpose of Silviculture,” sought to protect Maine workers, families, forests and streams from the adverse effects of these harmful chemicals. The bill earned strong bipartisan support in both the Senate and House.
The veto from Gov. Mills comes in the middle of hearings on the controversial practice in the neighboring Canadian province of New Brunswick.
“To say this news is disappointing would be an understatement. How much longer are we going to allow large landowners to get away with spraying poison in our forests so they can grow their bottom-line? The science is clear — the aerial spraying of glyphosate and other harmful chemicals has a devastating effect on our rivers and streams, plants and wildlife, and the health and well-being of people in the surrounding area. It’s also detrimental to hunting and fishing and the businesses that depend on outdoor recreation, and sets Maine back on our climate goals,” said President Jackson. “Although the chances of overriding the governor’s veto are slim, Maine lawmakers will have one final opportunity to ban this practice once and for all. I’m hoping that we can come together as Democrats, Republicans and Independents to override this veto and put an end to this alarming practice.”
Aerial herbicide spraying is used in the forestry industry by landowners to kill off less favorable trees to facilitate the growth of more profitable trees. This practice has continued despite the adverse effects these chemicals have on the local ecosystem, wildlife, neighboring lands, drinking water and the health of the people working in the Maine woods.
“Governor Mills shouldn’t let Irving make its own rules. Only big companies like Irving defend this practice because they make more money when they clearcut, plant trees, and spray. Area residents are rightly concerned about public health and harm to the environment. Spraying herbicide on our forests is not good for Maine. It’s not healthy. It doesn’t help us meet our climate goals. Big companies like Irving certainly aren’t passing benefits along to Maine workers,” said Rep. Maggie O’Neil, D-Saco, House Chair of the Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee. “To address climate change, everyone needs to make adjustments and help, especially large corporations. It’s a team effort, and each of us has a role to play to avoid extreme costs and catastrophe down the road. My generation and younger are going to pay for everything that our leaders don’t do to mitigate the climate crisis. Big companies like Irving have to do their part.”
Glyphosate, the central ingredient in many herbicides, has been banned in several towns, cities, states and countries over the past few years due to links to cancer. The World Health Organization’s International Agency on the Research of Cancer has declared the chemical “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Germany is the most recent country to move in this direction. The use of aerial herbicides has been banned locally in some areas of the state, including President Jackson’s hometown of Allagash.
Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against the company Bayer, which develops, manufactures and sells the prominent weed killer Roundup. The lawsuits allege Bayer failed to warn consumers about the dangers of their products, specifically the patented synthetic herbicide glyphosate.
President Jackson’s bill has the support of loggers, farmers and advocates, including the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Maine Public Health Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility – Maine Chapter, Defend Our Health, Maine Wilderness Guides Organization and the Environmental Priorities Coalition. Maine’s Environmental Priorities Coalition is a partnership of 32 environmental, conservation and public health organizations representing more than 100,000 members who want to protect the good health, good jobs and quality of life that our environment provides.
LD 125 will return to the Maine Senate for a veto override vote. In order to override a gubernatorial veto, a bill must earn the support of two-thirds of the lawmakers in either chamber. The Maine Legislature is set to convene on Wednesday, June 30 to wrap up all outstanding legislative business, including gubernatorial vetoes.