Based a consultant's recent study laying out the economic impact of such a park, says Didisheim, "we are enthusiastic about the potential benefits for the region and for Maine as a whole." Neither the NRCM nor Audubon, however, has taken a formal position yet on the Quimby gift.
Even though, presumably, millions of people nationally would enjoy a national park for non-economic reasons, the economic argument is, locally, the important one.
SIDEBAR: The Issues
• How are Maine's major environmental issues playing out in the legislative session now in progress? As Audubon's Jennifer Gray puts it, there won't be a "big leap forward this year." LePage and his veto power still occupy the governor's office. But with supportive Democratic leadership it's possible that some reforms can be enacted and anti-environmental legislation beaten back.
Activists are behind seven, largely overlapping anti-highway bills. Although Cianbro is still pushing for the highway, it did not show up at the hearings. Anti-highway troops showed up in droves, including representatives of businesses on existing East-West roads who fear a diversion of traffic onto a superhighway. The Transportation Committee will probably combine the bills into one. Certain to be in it: rescinding the $300,000 for the study of the 220-mile, private toll road's feasibility. Not even the governor supports the study now.
LD 1302, sponsored by assistant Democratic House floor leader Jeff McCabe, is supported by the mainstream environmental organizations. It would put many restrictions on mining — perhaps making open-pit mining impossible. At the Environment and Natural Resources Committee hearing on it and other mining bills, anti-mining speakers greatly outnumbered those who said let the rule-making take its course on last year's loosening of restrictions. Irving has not announced definite plans to mine at Bald Mountain.
At the hearing, Democratic Representative Ralph Chapman of Brooksville told horror stories of past mining in his district that saw few jobs provided and huge, still-ongoing pollution costs. The NRCM's Pete Didisheim thinks "some elements" of 1302 may pass. LD 1059, which would fully repeal last year's law giving the green light to mining, is supported by grass-roots activists, but might have little chance to get by the governor's veto.
The pipeline corporations trying to get permission to send tar-sands oil from Alberta through pipelines west, south (see: Keystone XL controversy), and east, have not announced whether they want to pump oil to Portland through the existing Montreal-Portland pipeline. But the Portland pipeline company, controlled by ExxonMobil, has expressed interest in that use, and one Canadian company, Enbridge, is asking for permission to send the oil to Montreal.
LD 1362, sponsored by Representative Ben Chipman, the Portland independent, would establish a two-year moratorium on tar-sands-oil use and require the Department of Environmental Protection to study the potential effects on Maine. The NRCM supports the bill, but, since pipelines are regulated by the feds, it also wants the Environment and Natural Resources Committee to get involved in making sure a proper federal permitting process is followed.
Several bills before the Energy and Utilities Committee promote the use of renewable energy, including LD 1085, An Act to Establish the Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff, which has strong support from 350 Maine and the Sierra Club. It would give individuals the right to "feed in" to the electricity grid energy produced by their solar panels or a windmill and get paid for it.