Looking ahead

Letters to the Portland Phoenix editors, June 8, 2012


Lance Tapley's assessment of environmental protection efforts during the 125th Legislature (see "'Holding the Line,'" May 25) gives due credit to some like Senator Tom Saviello, but ignores integral efforts of important others, most notably Governor Paul LePage and our state's leading environmental authority, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, which I am honored to head.

In trying to explain "an environmental assault" that wasn't, Tapley and the environmental activist establishment he sourced for his story fail to recognize the full reality of what was. A lengthy list of accomplishments we provided to the Phoenix showcasing our environmental commitment was excluded (we were told due to space constraints), so I'll share our successes with your readers here instead.

Governor LePage and I have always maintained that the choice between the environment and the economy should never be "either or" but always "both." Our record reflects this.

Together, we issued the state's largest environmental penalty in more than two decades against what Tapley would consider "an out-of-state corporate interest" for a decades-long oil spill, showing our commitment to firm and fair enforcement against polluters. And we're currently negotiating another six-figure action against a Maine mill, making this Administration the first to hold that facility accountable for its long-standing air violations.

Speaking of firsts, the DEP with full support of the governor finally stepped up to confront the issue of out-of-state waste being brought into Maine with our issuance earlier this year of a scaled-back public benefit determination for the Juniper Ridge Landfill, which even that landfill's fiercest critics admitted was balanced. We also advocated successfully for a bill that put in place a new $2 per ton fee on construction demolition debris, which will allow the state to start paying back municipalities for their expenditures closing their landfills, and we supported the long-needed consolidation of solid waste management — including recycling — under one agency so we can approach waste management in Maine holistically and in accordance with our solid-waste hierarchy, which prioritizes reducing, reusing, and recycling and puts landfilling last.

We had a strong hand in shaping a bill to modernize Maine's mining regulations after it was initially introduced as a concept and over the next two years, will undertake a thorough review of the most effective environmental regulatory approaches to metal mining and commence a transparent, inclusive rulemaking process that establishes a permitting path for responsible mining that will create good-paying jobs for Mainers while upholding the quality of our valued North Woods and its pristine land and water.

We committed to raising recycling rates of mercury products like CFLs and thermostats; implemented the ban on BPA in reusable food and beverage containers fairly, responsibly, and consistently with both the spirit and letter of the law; relaunched a long-dormant environmental awards program to recognize entities that voluntarily initiate environmental improvements; crafted a compromise with the Natural Resources Council of Maine on streamlined permitting in inland wading bird and waterfowl habitat; and launched a highly transparent internal rulemaking process through which we've already undertaken about 40 rulemakings, including adoption of those that allow for beneficial reuse of wood ash and isopropyl alcohol. I could go on.

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