After first rejecting a bill that would ban all mining in Maine, the House approved a bill that would allow mining in the state with what supporters call strict environmental protections.
Without the bill, supporters worry mining could be allowed under an older law that conflicts with rules developed by the Board of Environmental Protection.
"In my opinion, even a bad lawyer could exploit that conflict between current statue and rule, forcing a permit under rules that are older than some members of this body," says Rep. Bob Duchesne, a Democrat from Hudson.
Opponents of the version passed by the House are not convinced the protections go far enough. They say the bill allows open-pit mining on sites of up to 3 acres and permits groundwater pollution limited to a mining area.
“We’re to believe because we have put it into a proposed bill before us that we can change the laws of physics and not let the groundwater that has been contaminated continue on its way," says Democratic Rep. Ralph Chapman of Brooksville, who opposed the bill.
The bill faces further votes.