AUGUSTA — Gov. Janet Mills won her first veto battle by a narrow margin Thursday when House Democrats backed her decision to kill a bill that would have banned the sale of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol or more.

Maine now allows the sale of 10 percent ethanol gasoline and Mills said in her veto message that there was no evidence that a higher mix of ethanol caused any additional health or environmental problems.

“Without sufficient study, and given this fuel is not currently sold in Maine, I am not prepared for the state to declare a ban,” Mills wrote in her veto message. “However, if new and reputable scientific evidence emerges that higher levels of ethanol do in fact adversely impact health, I will be happy to revisit and reconsider this legislation.”

A group of 89 lawmakers that included Republicans, Democrats and independents voted to override Mills, but 50 Democrats held the line and supported the governor, denying the two-thirds majority needed to override by just four votes.

The Republican sponsor of the bill, Rep. Beth O’Connor of Berwick, later blasted the 50 Democrats who initially supported the bill but changed their vote to back Mills.

“Gov. Mills and the corn-ethanol lobby put their interests ahead of Maine children and families,” O’Connor said in a prepared statement. “I am sickened that this pure display of backroom deals and greed was on display during the biggest environmental vote of this legislative session.”

So far, the veto is the only one issued by Mills, who took office in January.




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