While Question 1 to stop New England Clean Energy Connect project has engaged fervent partisans on both sides, the problem is that there are three different issues lumped together, and you can’t vote ‘Yes’ on one without also voting ‘Yes’ on the other two.

The first issue is whether to build the line or not. Environmentalists are divided between those who want to preserve the woods and those who are more concerned about climate warming and clean energy. Here, a “Yes” vote is for the woods, and a “No” is for clean energy and the climate.

The second issue has to do with whether referendums should retroactively change the rules of the game, in this case the existing environmental regulations that CMP met after extensive PUC and DEP hearings. Here, a “No” vote is for respecting established law, while a “Yes” is for changing the rules ex post facto, which is barred by the state Constitution.

And the third has to do with whether a law passed by a simple majority can mandate a two-thirds majority to counter it in the future, thus threatening fundamental democratic principles.

Regardless of how you feel about the line itself – whether you favor the woods or clean energy, whether you hate CMP or not, or whether it benefits Massachusetts more than Maine – the second and third issues threaten fundamental democratic principles.

Unfortunately, the referendum’s proponents have overreached, and thus one must vote “No” on the referendum as a whole.

Thomas Spear

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