Maine residents are justifiably charged fees for reaping public resources. My combination hunting and fishing license costs $43. Tagging a deer at a registration station costs an additional $5. If I hunt deer with a muzzleloader, that’s an extra $13 fee. A turkey hunting permit? Fork over another $20. I don’t object to these fees because adding game meat to my freezer requires compensating the state, which oversees public resources. Likewise, loggers are assessed stumpage fees for harvesting wood on state lands.

Poland Spring, on the other hand, gets a free pass for extracting a public resource. Why hasn’t the Legislature passed a law requiring Poland Spring to pay a few pennies for each of the millions of gallons of water it withdraws annually from Maine’s aquifers?

On May 6, during a Maine Public Broadcasting Network’s Maine Calling program, I directed this question to Maine Senate Majority Leader Nate Libby (D-Lewiston). He answered, “If we’re going to assess a fee on Poland Spring then should we also assess a fee on Maine’s brewers, and then I think you get into real unpopular conversations because who wants to hurt Maine’s craft brewing industry.” His statement is untrue. Shipyard Brewing Co. and other Maine craft brewers pay water usage fees. Poland Spring, however, does not.

Not requiring Poland Spring to pay its fair share fuels the narrative that government often gives large corporations special tax exemptions denied to citizens and small businesses. Forgive me for being cynical: Could opposition to a law requiring Poland Spring pay a water extraction fee be influenced by $250,000 the company has spent lobbying Maine legislators?

 

Ron Joseph

Sidney


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