AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills issued her first veto on Thursday, rejecting a bill that passed the Maine Legislature without roll-call votes and would ban the sale of gasoline containing more than 10 percent ethanol that likely isn’t being sold in the state right now.
The Democratic governor has largely gotten along with a Legislature controlled by her party during a tenure that began in January. Her first veto aims to thwart a bill sponsored by Rep. Beth O’Connor, R-Berwick. It comes after Mills has signed 102 other bills into law.
O’Connor’s bill was an uncontroversial one. A mixture known by the nickname E10 — 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent ethanol, a grain-based alcohol — accounts for 95 percent of gasoline sold in the U.S., according to the federal government. A mixture with 15 percent ethanol is allowed to be used in vehicles with model years of 2001 and newer.
In testimony on the bill, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection said it was not aware of E15 being sold in the state, but a group that lobbies for the ethanol industry said Cumberland Farms, a Massachusetts-based regional chain of convenience stores with more than 40 locations in Maine, is planning to introduce it in some locations.
O’Connor didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but her testimony deemed ethanol a “wasteful use of resources” and cited potential health and environmental impacts related to it. In 2009, the Environmental Working Group found that higher-ethanol blends could increase health risks from emissions and damage emission control systems.
Ethanol has long been the subject of a crusade for O’Connor. In 2015, former Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, vetoed her bill that would have studied fuel additives. However, he issued an executive order in 2016 to review the health effects of ethanol.
Mills cited that review in her veto message on Thursday, saying it concluded “there does not appear to be any significant health impacts” from the use of E10 and that higher-ethanol blends have not been well studied. The governor said she wouldn’t support a ban because of that, but she said she would reconsider if “new and reputable scientific evidence emerges that higher levels of ethanol in fuel do in fact adversely impact health.”
Mills’ veto can be overridden with two-thirds votes in both legislative chambers. Legislators are likely to take up the veto next week.