LePage Off Cliff; Fox Into Hen House

After spending eight days perched on an imaginary cliff of his own making, Paul LePage stepped down from that cliff yesterday when he announced he was calling off his beef with Democrats over the tracker issue.

LePage again demonstrated an aptitude for throwing people under the bus at the same time he is proportedly trying to make peace with them by stating he will meet with Democrats “any time they have something worthwhile to say.”

There is no word on whether he will accept Senate President Justin Alfond’s dinner invitation, although the Democratic senator probably shouldn’t put the soup on yet

In other news, the Natural Resources Council of Maine has brought to public attention that the North Jackson Company of Michigan, a company with “entrenched” interests in mining, has been contracted by the LePage administration to help Maine rewrite its mineral mining regulations. The NRCP is criticizing the selection as giving mining interests too much clout in writing the rules that will govern mining companies, rather than involving more stakeholders and  taking a more balanced approach.

In addition to criticizing this as fox guarding the hen house kind of move, some have observed that LePage’s debt to Michigan Chamber of Commerce for its foul-smelling $225,000 contribution to LePage’s 2010 election campaign is now being repaid.  Contributions to the Michigan Chamber of Commerce are anonymous, but it seems safe to bet that those donors included the mining industry and in particular the North Jackson Company.

It’s bad enough when the fox is left to guard the hen house.  When you hear the farmer got a payoff from the fox, it gets that much worse.

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.