Anti-ethanol bills move through Maine state legislature

By Holly Jessen | May 14, 2013

Two anti-ethanol bills that previously passed the Maine House of Representatives are now in the Senate, with the majority agreeing with an “ought not pass” report on one bill and the second bill tabled awaiting further action.

On May 8, members of the Maine House gave initial approval to a bill (LD 105) that would allow Maine retailers to sell E5, a decrease from the current E10 requirement. The Environment and Natural Resources committee gave the bill a 9 to 4 recommendation not to pass, but the minority opinion was approved and it was sent to the Senate, according to a House press release. The second bill (LD 115) would ban the sale of corn-based ethanol in all Maine gasoline, provided two other New England states (including Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island or Vermont) pass similar legislation. The committee was divided, voting 7 to 6 in favor of the bill.

LD 105 is a “stepping stone” bill to banning ethanol altogether, said David Sorensen, communications director for the Maine House Republicans. If it became law in Maine, LD 115 wouldn’t be acted upon unless other New England states passed similar laws. In the meantime, going from E10 to E5 would be immediate, if LD 105 became law. Unless it’s extended, the Maine legislative session ends June 19, Sorensen said, adding that he expects the two bills will be acted upon in the next few weeks.

The bill to ban ethanol blended with gasoline was tabled in the Senate on May 9, said Darek Grant, secretary of the Maine Senate. That means it’s in the unfinished business category and could be taken up at any time. On the other hand, the Senate is in non-concurrence (doesn’t agree with the House) on the bill to lower ethanol content to 5 percent. The majority of the Senate voted that the “ought not pass” report from the committee be accepted.

Rep. Jeffrey Timberlake sponsored both bills in the House. "The ethanol additive, which is a derivative of corn, amounts to us burning our food in our fuel tanks," Timberlake said in a press release. "And with the rising numbers of Americans going hungry, this just seems like a poor use of farmland and its product."