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on Governor Paul R. LePage, 2010–2012 Final Grade:
Grading Maine’s Governor
Maine’s clean air, water, land, and wildlife are the roots of our economy and our way of life. Our natural resources support good health, enjoyable recreation, and well-paying jobs in every corner of the state. They set Maine apart and are our biggest competitive advantage. Since 2006, Maine Conservation Voters (MCV) has graded the performance of Maine’s sitting Governor. Our biennial report card evaluates the Governor’s conservation record, including the administration’s overall commitment to Maine’s environment and the impacts of its actions on Maine’s local and state economies, the health of Maine people, and the transparency and fairness of our government and regulatory process. MCV sought opinions and information from a broad range of individuals and organizations that represent Maine’s environmental leadership. We also asked Governor Paul LePage and his administration to provide their input and assessment. While comments from the administration and others were all considered carefully in the drafting of the report, the opinions expressed herein are those of Maine Conservation Voters alone. This year’s report card is the first for Governor Paul LePage. We hope it answers some important questions, such as: How did the Governor approach the job of protecting and conserving Maine’s natural resources? What were his primary accomplishments and what were his failures? Did he affirm Maine’s tradition of safeguarding our clean air, water, land, and wildlife? Did the Governor pursue policies that would make Maine a better place? And most important, where should we go from here? As always, Maine Conservation Voters encourages the reader to learn more, get involved, and take appropriate political action. When we all work together to protect and conserve our environment, we help Maine families and businesses grow and thrive while planting the seeds of prosperity for our children and grandchildren.
Maureen Drouin Executive Director
Leslie Harroun Board President
Governor LePage’s Report Card for 2010–2012
OVERALL GRADE: D
Maine people have long understood a simple truth: our environment, our health, and our economic opportunities all go hand-in-hand. It is unwise and unnecessary to choose one over the others. Governor Paul LePage has made similar statements on occasion, but his actions and policy proposals have revealed a very different ideology. To the contrary, the Governor has broken a long and important tradition of bipartisan collaboration in crafting policies and programs that promote both environmental protection and economic development. A review of his record shows that rather than moving Maine forward, many of the Governor’s actions do not reflect Maine values and instead put our air, water, land, and wildlife at risk. While we appreciate some positive outcomes in the areas of land conservation, fisheries management and enforcement of existing environmental laws, most represent the ongoing responsibilities of government agencies. They are simply not enough to offset the many policies the Governor advanced that take Maine in the wrong direction.
Maine Conservation Voters believes Governor LePage has missed the mark in three important areas: conserving Maine’s natural resources, building the foundation for Maine’s future economic prosperity, and protecting the health of Maine people. We give Governor Paul R. LePage an overall grade of D for his first two years in office.
IMPACTS ON MAINE’S WATER, LAND, AND WILDLIFE ...................................................4
The Governor’s “regulatory reform” agenda has undermined protections for Maine’s water, land, and wildlife.
ECONOMIC IMPACT ..................................................... 6
Rather than build on Maine’s brand of livable communities, natural beauty, and great recreational opportunities, the Governor favored short-term exploitation of natural resources without attention to the creation of value for future generations.
IMPACT ON THE HEALTH OF MAINE PEOPLE ....................................................... 8
The Governor sought to derail or oppose several important health initiatives, many of which continue to have broad, bipartisan support.
IMPACTS ON MAINE’S WATER, LAND, AND WILDLIFE
WEAKENING OF CORE PROTECTIONS
The Governor did not wait long to reveal his natural resource and environmental health agenda. One of his first actions after taking office was to attack many of Maine’s long-standing environmental protections under the banner of “regulatory reform”. His original proposal contained more than 60 provisions to weaken or eliminate important environmental laws that had been forged during years of bipartisan effort. It included recommendations to: • Rezone three million acres of Maine’s unorganized territories for development • Ease standards for development near vernal pools and other significant wildlife habitat • Eliminate Maine’s successful product stewardship laws that remove toxins from municipal waste streams • Shorten the statute of limitations for the prosecution of environmental violations • Abolish the Kid-Safe Products Act—a popular and common-sense system for phasing out the most dangerous chemicals from consumer products In the months that followed, the Governor advanced other policies that threatened Maine’s water, land, and wildlife. In some cases, the Legislature ultimately revised his proposals with little damage done. This was the case for his recommendations on shoreland
zoning, vernal pools, and inland wading bird and waterfowl habitat. But in many others cases, including sand dune protections and stream crossings, the end result weakened environmental protections and will harm wildlife habitat, pressure threatened species, and diminish Maine’s traditional outdoor recreational activities like hunting, fishing and birding.
CORPORATE INTERESTS OVER MAINE PEOPLE AND MAINE’S ENVIRONMENT
Corporate interests were actively involved in advancing the Governor’s legislative agenda. Despite claims by Governor LePage that his list of “regulatory reform” rollbacks were generated from community feedback, his draft proposal included an internal tracking number used by a law firm that lobbies for pharmaceutical companies, oil dealers, and chemical manufacturers that stand to benefit from weaker environmental laws. Some developers wanted to weaken land use regulations; the chemical industry opposed pesticide and toxics regulations; the beverage industry wanted to repeal the “bottle bill”; and the drug companies were against a system for keeping pharmaceuticals out of the water supply. The result was a sea change in how Maine’s chief executive approached environmental and public health policymaking. The Governor missed a key deadline for regulating water on Flagstaff Lake and thus derailed years of effort to preserve Maine people’s interest in this important resource. The Department of Environmental Protection described the move as a mistake, but recently acquired internal documents confirm that the Department met with the dam owner prior to the decision, was aware of the deadline, and allowed the deadline to pass without taking action. As a result of this failure, Maine has relinquished to a federal agency its right to manage lake levels, water flows, recreational opportunities, and water quality on Flagstaff Lake and the Dead River for at least 25 years.
Several of the Governor’s cabinet appointments have come from industry, development, or lobbying backgrounds that have long opposed Maine’s most important environmental protections.
UNDERMINING STATE AGENCIES THAT OVERSEE CORE PROTECTIONS
A strong bipartisan pushback by the Maine Legislature mitigated a great deal of the environmental damage that many of the Governor’s proposals would have wrought. But a more insidious danger is the weakening of state agencies that oversee and enforce Maine’s environmental laws. The administration has reduced staffing capacity and terminated programs that protect the environment. In one instance, a DEP employee was demoted after testifying before a legislative committee on her own time about the dangers of the chemical bisphenol-A. Taken together, these actions by the administration have hamstrung the ability of Maine’s natural resource agencies to carry out their missions. Other examples include: • Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC): LURC has seen its funding slashed and its composition changed to favor county interests, posing the risk that sound planning decisions for Maine’s North Woods could be compromised. • State Planning Office (SPO): In the process of eliminating the SPO, the Governor has revealed a worrisome disregard for sound planning strategies.
Without excellent water quality, 2,000 Maine clammers are out of business.”
Chad Coffin, President, Maine Clammers Association, Portland Press Herald, 01/21/11
The DEP issued the state’s largest environmental penalty in 20 years against Chevron, a global corporation, for their decades-long discharge of thousands of gallons of oil into the Penobscot River. In an example of productive collaboration and education, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has worked with municipalities, beachfront landowners, beachgoers, advocacy organizations, as well as federal and state agencies, to continue a 25-year-old program to protect Maine’s piping plover population. The Department of Conservation (DOC) has supported the ongoing efforts of private land trusts to acquire conservation easements on approximately 500,000 acres of forestland from willing sellers including Plum Creek Timber Company. The DOC has supported applications for funding from the federal Forest Legacy Program totaling $15 million to sustain these conservation initiatives.
Governor LePage missed a remarkable opportunity to honor and praise a significant moment in the restoration of the Penobscot River and the Gulf of Maine fishery: removal of the Great Works Dam. The project, one of the most ambitious river restoration projects ever attempted, has been supported by two previous administrations, the Penobscot Indian Nation, federal and state agencies, every member of Maine’s congressional delegation, dam owners, and towns along the Penobscot. But rather than attend the Great Works Dam removal ceremony and champion this successful project, the Governor announced his opposition and said he thought we should be building more dams. The Governor made a campaign pledge to add ongoing General Fund budget support to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, but included no additional funding for the Department in his budget and threatened to veto a legislative proposal to do so.
Many of the positive outcomes from the LePage administration were the result of the ongoing business of government agencies, not proactive efforts to protect and conserve Maine’s air, land, water, and wildlife. We do note, however, several important accomplishments. The Department of Marine Resources has maintained an innovative program to establish permit banks, developed a rotational management plan for Maine’s scallop fishery, and initiated important oil spill preparedness efforts, including on-the-water testing of oil booming strategies. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which has always performed its permitting work efficiently (the DEP processes more than 4,000 permit applications annually), has become even more streamlined through a new Permit-by-Rule process that the Governor supported.
OUT OF STEP WITH MAINE VALUES
Governor LePage’s antagonistic approach to Maine’s environmental policies was evident well before he took office. Governor LePage expressed dislike for the agencies tasked with enforcing Maine’s environmental protections and stated unequivocally that he saw them as serious obstacles to business growth and economic development. With this point of view, it was no surprise the Governor’s first legislative proposal sought to weaken environmental protections. At community listening sessions, participants requested improved efficiency but not dismantling, and many shared the belief that a clean environment is critical to Maine’s economic success. Despite the mismatch between the Governor’s views about regulation and the actual feedback he received from Maine’s business community, Governor LePage moved forward with a “regulatory reform” bill that included a sweeping attack on core environmental protections. The Governor’s perception that business interests and environmental protections are in perpetual conflict has colored his policy agenda from day one. with measures to make it easier for developers and out-of-state industries to get access to Maine’s natural resources without creating value for future generations. The Governor’s action on the Land for Maine’s Future (LMF) Program offers a clear example of his short-term approach to economic development. LMF is a popular and successful program that has conserved lands in each of Maine’s 16 counties. LMF supports economic development by conserving working farms, forestlands, and waterfronts, and by guaranteeing public access to land, ponds, rivers, and ocean fronts. But the Governor eliminated the Director’s position in 2011 and advised voters to vote against the LMF bond that will come before them in the fall. If he follows through on his threat to not issue new LMF bonds, even if they are approved by voters, the Governor will be missing even more opportunities to invest in Maine’s natural resources. The Governor proposed revamping Maine’s definition of renewable power. This change could have flooded Maine’s electricity market with Canadian hydropower and hampered job growth in Maine’s renewable power industry.
Our governor should be a cheerleader for Maine, a proud promoter of all things Maine. He should be our top business recruiter, the guy who spreads the word worldwide about our awesome natural environment, our amazing, smart and hardworking people, our ‘life the way it should be.’”
George Smith, Kennebec Journal, 08/01/12 A SHORT-TERM APPROACH TO ENVIRONMENTAL ASSETS
Governor LePage’s policy agenda has embraced short-term exploitation of natural resources over long-term investments in value-added and sustainable production. Rather than build on the Maine brand and support traditional and new resource-based jobs, the Governor’s ”regulatory reform” proposal was filled Governor LePage’s approach to transportation policy is also short-sighted. He cancelled Gateway One—a regional transportation planning project involving 21 communities in the Midcoast area. The locally-driven planning project was viewed as contributing to the future economic vitality of the region by maintaining the character of the communities and establishing a regional development plan, including the creation of core-growth areas.
The Department of Transportation cancelled the popular Go Maine Van Pool Program, which allowed state and private sector commuters to ride van pools to work, thereby saving transportation costs and reducing vehicle emissions.
COSTS TO COMMUNITIES, FAMILIES, AND BUSINESSES
The Governor’s environmental policy agenda has paid little heed to the long-term cost implications for Maine communities, households, and businesses. The Governor opposed expansions to the e-waste recycling law, even though it has saved taxpayers more than $9.6 million and prevented more than 3.3 million pounds of lead and other toxic materials from entering Maine’s environment. His opposition to labeling non-flushable wipes also had financial consequences at the municipal level, because these products result in costly sewer clogs. The result in both cases is a higher financial burden on Maine property tax payers. Governor LePage also opposed efforts to limit children’s exposure to toxic chemicals, even though a University of Maine study shows toxin exposure results in at least $380 million in health costs every year in Maine. The Governor has refused to support Maine’s energy efficiency programs, despite the fact that every $1 invested in energy efficiency saves at least $3 in energy costs. In 2011 Efficiency Maine reduced energy bills by $450 million with a public investment of only $43 million. The Governor also supported a legislative effort that weakened Maine’s uniform building and energy efficiency code. The Governor’s lack of support for energy efficiency projects means Maine businesses and households will spend more money on energy and have less money available to purchase goods and services that would help our economy grow.
Maine’s environmental laws have protected the one single advantage that Maine has over other states in the Northeast in attracting people and business, namely, our environment and quality of life.”
Horace Hildreth, Chairman of Diversified Communications, Roundtable on Maine People and the Environment, 01/20/11
allow the state to begin reimbursing municipalities for the costs they incurred in closing landfills. This new approach should lower property taxes, increase rates of recycling and reuse, and decrease the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. Fishing is one of the drivers of Maine’s natural resourcebased economy. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has expanded Maine’s fish stocking program by partnering with private fish hatcheries in northern and southern Maine.
Voters passed bond packages in 2009 and 2010 that would finance municipal water improvement, downtown revitalization, and research and development projects. The Governor refused to issue all of these bonds, despite historically low interest rates. He has consequently missed an important opportunity to help municipalities improve water quality, promote economic development in environmentally sustainable ways, and support the good health and good jobs that Maine’s clean water and greener technologies can provide. Shellfish is a $50 million per year industry in Maine and an example of an industry reliant on Maine’s clean water. The Department of Environmental Protection has failed to issue new standards on coastal discharges of nitrogen pollution, despite ample evidence to support a final recommendation. Nitrogen pollution is a leading cause of oxygen depletion and plankton blooms that increase the acidity and reduce the productivity of coastal waters and put our shellfish industry at risk.
Governor LePage should be commended for including funding in his budget for the agricultural and forestry programs at the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences in Hinckley. And the Department of Agriculture continues to make it possible for people with licenses to sell raw milk at farm stands, farmers’ markets and retail outlets, which helps local farmers make a living and keep their land in farmland production. The Department of Environmental Protection has taken a comprehensive, statewide approach to solid waste management, including a new fee structure that will
IMPACT ON THE HEALTH OF MAINE PEOPLE
TOXIC CHEMICAL EXPOSURE
Governor LePage unsuccessfully sought to abolish several of Maine’s important environmental health initiatives in the first days of his administration. His targets included the Kid-Safe Products Act, a law that helps protect children from dangerous chemicals in everyday consumer products, and Maine’s Product Stewardship Program, which supports the reuse and recycling of hazardous materials, thereby keeping them out of the waste stream. The Governor took an early stand against the rule proposed by the Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) that would phase out the use of the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) in baby bottles, sippy cups, and other reusable food and beverage containers. He wrongly claimed that the science didn’t support such a rule, ignoring the dozens of peer-reviewed studies to the contrary that were the foundation for the BEP’s recommendation. The Legislature passed the BPA rule, despite the administration’s objections, but not before Governor LePage made national headlines for his remark about estrogen causing “little beards” on women. decades-long bipartisan effort to provide the public with good information about the pesticides to which they are being exposed. In addition, the Governor supported eliminating the requirement that two Board of Pesticides Control members have demonstrated interest in environmental protection.
ROADBLOCKS AND DELAYS
The Toxics Use Reduction Act required the Department of Environmental Protection to adopt rules to protect workers from toxic chemicals on the job. But the DEP missed the statutory deadline for these rules by almost a full year. The DEP also delayed enforcing the Kid-Safe Products Act, which creates a structured and methodical process for collecting information from manufacturers about the use of Priority Chemicals in their products. The Board of Environmental Protection named BPA Maine’s first Priority Chemical, triggering the information collection process. But the DEP initially failed to act in a timely manner to request or require submission of company compliance plans to meet the BPA phase-out, which ensures the use of safer alternatives to BPA in reusable food and beverage containers.
No child should be exposed to toxic chemicals like BPA at the dinner table, and no parent should have to worry that the food they give their children is unsafe. The science is clear—BPA is dangerous; our children are exposed; and safer alternatives are available. There’s absolutely no reason to delay.”
Jessica Graham, Waterville mother of two, testifying at a Public Hearing on BPA, 09/06/12
The administration supported the repeal of Maine’s Pesticide Notification Registry, a simple, low-cost system designed to allow neighbors to be notified before aerial and air-blaster spraying occurred near their property. The loss of the Registry is a tremendous setback in a
Despite a slow start, the DEP now enforces reporting requirements under the BPA rule. This will make it easier for families and businesses to get good information about the products they use and sell.
This enforcement effort is an example of the more collaborative approach the Department has recently been taking towards safer chemical policies. The administration has also established base-level pesticide safety training for small-scale growers.
Three product stewardship bills were introduced that would have removed more hazardous and toxic substances from community waste streams, including paint, medical sharps, and electronic waste. The Governor and the DEP opposed each proposal. The bills covering paint and medical sharps died, while the Governor allowed the e-waste expansion to become law without his signature. Governor LePage chose not to support several measures that would have improved Maine’s water quality, including a bill that would have made it easier to recycle pharmaceuticals rather than have them end up in landfills or be flushed into the water supply. The Governor also refused to issue bonds passed by the voters in 2009, which would help municipalities replace septic systems, upgrade wastewater treatment facilities, and remove overboard discharge systems—
all of which have a direct impact on water quality and human health. The Governor did not propose any new Priority Chemicals under the Kid-Safe Products Act, thus frustrating the intent of the law. This would have helped parents get better information about how these chemicals are used in children’s products, and it would have started the process of assessing whether those chemicals should be phased out in favor of safer alternatives.
GETTING BACK ON TRACK
Governor LePage’s approach to protecting and conserving Maine’s natural resources is out of step with Maine’s history of enacting environmental protections that support our economy, our communities, and our health. The Governor needs to make three important changes: stop weakening environmental protections; articulate his vision for environmental stewardship; and respect the environmental values of Maine people. We encourage the Governor to shift to a more productive policy agenda. We recommend five initiatives that will create sustainable jobs, attract new employers and entrepreneurs, keep Maine people healthy, lower costs for families and businesses, and keep young people living and working in the state. 1. INVEST IN FARMLAND, TIMBERLAND, AND COASTAL LAND. Governor LePage should support the $5 million Land for Maine’s Future Bond in November 2012, and after it is approved he should put the bond immediately to work for the people of Maine. This bond creates exciting opportunities to conserve lands with high recreational, ecological, and economic value, including working farms, forestlands and waterfronts. Investing in high-value land is essential to protecting and building Maine’s natural-resource based economy. while spurring innovation in new products and technology. Governor LePage should name new Priority Chemicals every year and support phasing them out of children’s products as safer alternatives become available and affordable. 4. SUPPORT RIVERS AND OCEANS. Supporting our rivers and oceans is critical to our health, our food supply, and our economic prosperity. Governor LePage should take four important steps to improve our water quality and restore strong populations of key forage fish: • Issue voter-approved bonds that will help communities reduce runoff and improve water quality • Support full restoration of alewives throughout the St. Croix River watershed • Strengthen Maine’s standard for new or replacement culverts • Issue nitrogen pollutions standards 5. BUILD LOCAL ECONOMIES. Food and farming, especially organic farming, is an emerging growth sector in Maine. The Farm and Fish to School Program turns school districts into new customers for local farmers and fishermen—a win-win for Maine communities. Governor LePage should dedicate the staff and financial resources needed to ensure that the pilot initiative succeeds and that the program can be implemented statewide. The first two years of the LePage administration have been marked by rollbacks in long-standing environmental protections. Maine Conservation Voters calls on Governor LePage to embrace the values and commitment of Maine people to protect and conserve our state’s natural resources and the good jobs, good health, and quality of life they sustain.
2. LOWER ENERGY COSTS. Investing in energy efficiency continues to be the easiest and least expensive means of lowering energy bills for Maine households and businesses. In the fall of 2012 Efficiency Maine will complete its second Energy Efficiency Plan, which will outline specific strategies, programs and investment levels that will help Maine achieve the most cost-effective energy savings. The Governor should support this plan, as well as recommendations from the Public Utilities Commission for the appropriate level of ratepayer investments in energy efficiency. 3. MAKE CHILDREN’S PRODUCTS SAFER. Maine’s Kid-Safe Products Act is a powerful tool for improving the health of Maine children
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MCV produces this biennial Governor’s Report Card, as well as a yearly Legislative Scorecard to help you stay informed about how your elected officials are acting on environmental issues. You can find both publications online, in addition to many other useful resources, at
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