LePage — Miserably Wrong on Environment

Despite our dependence on tourism, Maine’s #1 industry, LePage refuses to admit that quality of place is something that deserves attention.

That shouldn’t be a surprise considering that LePage appointed a former industrial and corporate lobbyist to became commissioner of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.  As documented by Colin Woodard in his PPH series, “The lobbyist in the henhouse: Whose interests is Maine’s DEP commissioner serving?”  the LePage administration has consistently and repeatedly disregarded environmental safeguards in order to safeguard the profits of the chemical, drug, oil, and real estate development industries.

Maine’s lakes generate $3.5 billion in economic activity, yet LePage couldn’t bring himself to support a bipartisan bill to protect them. The League of Conservation Voters supports Mike Michaud, Angus King now supports Mike Michaud. We support Mike Michaud too.lepage_wrong3

LePage and Jobs — A Maine Parable

Paul LePage presides over the installation of a new sign that encapsulates his administration’s priority of putting politics before people and pandering to the wealthy. LePage states the new sign is a response to critics who have challenged him to provide more specifics on just what kind of business he will create.

Once upon a time, there was a place called Maine — a beautiful land of lakes, mountains, and coastline.  It was never an easy place to live, but people worked hard, and even in the worst of times, the wood and produce from the public orchard helped everyone to get by.

In the midst of one of the bad times, a certain candidate for pooh bah came before the people.  “Jobs,” shouted the people.

Jobs!” he shouted back — and so they elected him.

On the day after the election, the people stood before him and said, “Excuse us sir, but we would like to have jobs.”

“You will have jobs, but first we need to help the job creators,” said the pooh bah.

“How can we do that?” asked the people.

“They need half of the trees in the public orchard,” the pooh bah replied.

Gasps filled the arena.  The people loved the orchard — and depended on  it.  But they also needed jobs, so they agreed to the pooh bah’s request.  Men came in and cut the trees and sent them up the distant hill to the job creators who lived there.

On the  next day, the people again stood before the pooh bah and said, “Excuse us sir, we would very much like to  have jobs.”

The pooh bah smiled at them his widest smile.  “We will have plenty of jobs,” he said.  “Only first we must get rid of the regulations that kill jobs”
“What regulations?” the people asked.

“Regulations like, ‘No building roads in the public orchard,’” the pooh bah said.

Many were skeptical.  But then again, the  public orchard was already half cut over.  What harm would there be in widening the dirt track into a road?  The next morning, they woke to find a 4-lane highway, complete with median strip and guard rails, running through the orchard and on up the hill toward the houses of the job creators.

Most were aghast, but what could they do?   Nothing would make the highway back into a forest again.  They stood before the pooh bah and said, “We thought by now, sir, that we would have some jobs.”

“You don’t have jobs because our energy costs are too high,” the pooh bah said.  “We need to  lower them.”

By now, more of them had doubts, but they believed it when he said this. They knew it was true   Energy costs were too high.  Few of them could still afford to heat their homes.  “What will it cost?”  they asked.

“Half the remaining trees in the orchard,” said he pooh bah.

Once more the people agreed to the pooh bah’s request.  Once more, trees were cut from the orchard and trundled up the hill toward the houses of the job creators.

On the  next day, the people again stood before the pooh bah and said even more stridently this time, “Sir, you said you would create jobs.”

“Surely you misunderstood me,” the pooh bah said.  “Pooh bahs cannot create jobs.  They only create the conditions in which jobs occur.”

The people grumbled.  If they had misinterpreted him, it was because he had willed them to do so. . They now had less than before — and beyond that, the orchard had been decimated. They stood and waited and muttered to each other. This made the pooh bah nervous.

“The job creators, they tell me there  are plenty of jobs,” he finally stammered.  “They say you people just don’t have the right skills.”

A cold silence filled the arena. Did the pooh bah take them for fools?. “Did they say anything else,” asked one man in the back.  “No.” said the pooh bah.  “But they have been working hard.  We need to make sure things go good for them in their retirement.

Fortunately or unfortunately, this is where the written part of the story ends.  It is up to you, dear reader, and your fellow citizens to decide what happens next.

Maine’s Biggest Asset — Quality of Place

Amidst the annual parade of state rankings, many of which — for Maine — seem to be negative economic ones, comes a ranking of Northern Maine as #7 on the Lonely Planet List, “Top 10 Travel Destinations for 2013.”

This kind of positive ranking is an opportunity for Maine, the LePage administration, and state government as a whole to press a re-set button.  Maine has a lot going for it.  Maine has a quality of place that many other states can only dream about.  Maine has what many, many tourists want — and more of them will come here and spend their money if we provide the needed infrastructure, promote the opportunities, and preserve the uniqueness and natural beauty of our state.

Thus far, the LePage administration’s stance has been to rail against any form of regulation and to refuse to recognize that quality of place enhances the state economy.

In the past year, LePage and the Republicans passed legislation that weakened LURC, the regulatory body which traditionally has been responsible for preserving the character of and presiding over any development of the northern Maine woods.  As part of that legislation, in keeping with the Republican belief that regulation is inherently bad, the Land Use Regulation Commission was renamed the “Land Use Planning Commission.”  More than a few have expressed concerns that the new commission will lead to more haphazard development of the Northern Maine Woods.

We encourage Paul LePage to celebrate Lonely Planet’s recognition of Maine as being in the national top 10.  We also encourage the LePage administration to celebrate the quality of place that we do have in Maine — and to work to preserve this all-important physical and economic asset that is such a big part of the heritage of our state.

The MPBN story on the Lonely Planet ranking is here.


LePage Administration in Denial about Climate, Rising Seas

Several recent opinion pieces have pointed out that, when it comes to the issue of climate change, the LePage administration strategy basically amounts to gag it and put it in the back seat.

Most notably, a recent Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting Sun-Journal opinion piece states that  the LePage administration has removed a major climate change report from the state website.  Paul LePage came to office.  Then, poof, it was gone.

For us, there are echoes of the mural here.  If you don’t like something, label it as unfriendly to business.  Then make it disappear.

The  68-page report, three years in the writing, involved  the work of 75 stakeholders, including Hannaford markets, the Maine Audubon Society, the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine and 13 state agencies.  The report, which makes 60 recommendations, was put up on the state website and presented to the legislature in 2010.

As the subsequent Sun-Journal editorial suggests, the report reflects a significant investment by individuals and groups and has the potential to help facilitate and coordinate the efforts of communities to prepare for the reality of rising sea levels.

Asked about the disappearance of the report, LePage’s DEP Commissioner (and former American Petroleum Institute lobbyist) Patricia Aho stated “We had to make a choice because we had thousands of documents and we needed to reduce our website.”  (More here about how oil-industry interests are fighting the facts on climate change).

The Sun-Journal echoed our thoughts when it stated, “That explanation has bogus written all over it. If computer storage space was so tight, the state could have asked any of a dozen organizations to host the report and linked to it from the state’s site.”

Indeed, the document is already hosted online and it would be simple matter for the LePage administration to link to it.

Not that the size of the document is an actual impediment, of course.  In pdf format, the report is only 260 kb kilobytes or about the size of a single medium resolution photograph.

At AppalledbyLePage, we also work under budgetary and bandwidth restrictions, but we’re willing to help out.  We’d like to announce that we are now hosting a copy of  the report, Adapting to a Changing Climate: Charting Maine’s Course, right here on our own server.

In his own explanation of the removal, Darryl Brown, LePage’s first DEP commissioner was more forthcoming when he stated “We made a conscious decision that (climate change) would take a back seat,”  Brown went on to explain that Maine would be better served by making environmental regulations more friendly to business.

There is nothing business friendly, however, about rising sea levels.  Just ask the folks who took the brunt of superstorm Sandy.