Maine’s commissioner of marine resources becomes third LePage cabinet member to resign

Jul 22, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Norm Olsen, Maine's now-former commissioner of marine resources.

As if the life and times in Augusta haven’t already been strange enough, the third of Governor Paul LePage’s cabinet members tendered his resignation to the Governor Wednesday. What makes the departure of Norm Olsen, the now-former commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources, more notable is the manner in which he left. While Philip Congdon was forced to resign as commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development after disparaging Mainers from Washington and Aroostook counties and Darryl Brown was forced to resign as commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection because of Maine’s conflicts of interest law, Olsen’s resignation caught many off guard- but not for long. Although his formal resignation was apparently conveyed to the Governor in a one-line, handwritten note delivered after a meeting with the Governor, Olsen made his reasons abundantly clear in a bomb dropped, er, document released yesterday. The document provides a view on how Maine’s chief executive conducts business by a man described at this past year’s Fishermen’s Forum as the man “in charge” of Maine’s marine affairs. The document also provides a few other nuggets, including the Governor’s determination that there would be:

  • No further collaboration with the City of Portland to develop measures to return our groundfish boats to Maine, despite the work already done to secure the support of visiting Commerce Department officials. Portland was against him, LePage said, and we will not work with that city. Rather than work with Portland, he said, we’ll build a new port somewhere.
  • No further collaboration with the Director of the federal National Marine Fisheries Service to secure emergency federal assistance that could help return the fleet to Maine.
  • No consideration of measures to properly and prudently manage the heavily overcapitalized shrimp fishery so that Maine could gain the most value-added from this resource.
  • No collaboration with the federal government to jointly manage resources in federal waters. Instead, he instructed his deputy legal counsel to find a way for Maine to supersede federal authority outside the three-mile limit.

The LePage administration is sure to rebut Mr. Olsen’s statement. But regardless of how this saga ends, it is, to say the least, another interesting chapter in the story of the LePage administration.  There is undoubtedly more to come.

In Portland, one local business sets an environmentally-conscious example

Jun 10, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

At a time when Maine’s new governor is trying to revive the false choice of business versus the environment, the Oakhurst Dairy company is proving that what’s good for the environment is also good for business.  As shown in this recent article, this family-owned business, based in Portland, ME, is not just talking the talk but walking the walk when it comes to environmentally-conscious businesses.  From committing to selling only artificial growth hormone-free milk to installing solar panels to heat water used to clean milk cases to its delivery fleet of trucks that use biodiesel and aerodynamic skirts to increase fuel efficiency, Oakhurst Dairy has significantly reduced the amount of oil and diesel fuel it otherwise would have used, and in doing so, reaped significant savings.  As one might expect of a company that started 90 years ago as a small dairy in Portland, Oakhurst takes the long view when it comes to how best to keep its niche in the market, and that’s good for Maine.

The real price of renewable energy in Maine

Jun 9, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Photo credit: CLF

For those of you following Maine Governor Paul LePage’s assault on the state’s environmental protections, check out this op-ed by CLF Maine Director Sean Mahoney, which appeared June 3 in the Bangor Daily News. Here, Mahoney rebuffs LePage’s claim that generating more energy from renewable sources in Maine, as required by the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, means higher energy prices for Maine consumers, and rejects his so-called “solution,” a bill entitled “Act to Reduce Energy Prices for Maine Consumers.” Want to hear four reasons why LePage’s Act and attitude are bad for Maine? Mahoney has them here. Read more >

What’s next for LD1? CLF Maine speaks out against LePage “reforms”

Feb 17, 2011 by  | Bio |  2 Comment »

This has been a busy week for CLF, as we continue to respond to the ongoing efforts of the LePage Administration to weaken Maine’s environmental protections. On Monday, February 14, immediately prior to the scheduled public hearing on the LePage proposals, the LePage Administration submitted an actual bill, LD1, that encompassed some but not all of the proposed “reforms.” The public hearing immediately following this announcement, held by the Legislature’s Regulatory Reform Committee, was attended by hundreds of opponents, including many members of CLF. At the hearing, CLF Maine Director Sean Mahoney submitted testimony to the Committee criticizing any attempts to drive a wedge between strong environmental protections and a vibrant economy. It is imperative that this Administration understands that much of Maine’s economy is built on its unique environment and quality of place.

At a separate press event at the State House on the same day, CLF Maine Board Member Hoddy Hildreth lent additional words to the CLF cause, stating his opposition to the rollbacks and calling the attempt to revive the false choice between pickerels and payrolls “hogwash.”

What now? CLF has filed additional requests to the Governor’s office and the Department of Environmental Protection under the Freedom of Access Act in connection with the new bill, LD1. Many of the original proposed “reforms” will now be the subject of separate bills that will be presented later in the session, and CLF will be providing updates as we get information.  An initial public hearing on LD1 is now scheduled for February 24 at the Cross Building at 10 a.m. We invite you to join CLF and our allies at this hearing, and show the Administration that the environment is important to the people of Maine.

LePage Administration Yields to CLF Call for Transparency, but with a Catch

Feb 12, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

In an ongoing battle between the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and the Administration of Governor Paul LePage over the release of public documents related to his regulatory reform proposals and “red tape audits,” the LePage Administration Thursday relented and agreed with CLF’s legal conclusion that Maine’s Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) requires the Governor’s office to disclose documents related to the development of his regulatory agenda and staffing that were generated during his post-election transition.

Naturally, I am pleased that the Governor’s office has agreed to comply with the law that allows citizens access to their government’s records; however, I remain concerned that the Administration’s first reaction was to fight disclosure, and that even this agreement to adhere to the law comes with strings attached.

The Governor’s Office takes the position that “the Transition Team was under no obligation to preserve such documents” and says that it will not turn over documents in the possession of Transition Team members. So what shade of transparency is this? Well, I construe this statement to mean that documents that formed the basis for the Governor’s sweeping regulatory reform proposal were either destroyed or are in the possession of the Transition Team, and though those documents are accessible to the Governor’s Office, they will be withheld from the public.

That’s right, it seems that when Governor LePage declared the “most transparent transition in Maine history,”  he forgot to mention that he wasn’t beyond secreting policy documents using legal technicalities. So why doesn’t the Governor want the people of Maine to know who was really behind this effort to reverse Maine’s progress in protecting natural resources that are vital to our economy and our way of life? Is it possible that we might learn that it was lobbyists, out-of-state corporations and some of those special interests by which the Governor claims he cannot be taken hostage?

To borrow your words, Governor–“the Maine people deserve to know.”

“Transparent” LePage Administration Not So Transparent

Feb 9, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

The LePage Administration appears to be failing its first formal test of what it claimed would be the most transparent administration in Maine’s history.

In response to a request we filed at the end of January under the Freedom of Access Act for documents related to Governor LePage’s so-called Regulatory “Reform” Proposals, the LePage Administration has stated that it would not provide any documents generated during the transition period for the new Administration, but only those documents generated after the January 5 inauguration. The announcement is in direct conflict with Maine’s Freedom of Access Act and relevant court decisions.

CLF seeks documents related not only to the proposals which threaten to eviscerate four decades of laws and regulations that benefit both the environment and economy of Maine, but also documents related to the “red tape” meetings organized by the Administration and business interest groups in December and January and the nomination of DEP Commissioner Darryl Brown.

“If they didn’t consult with Mr. Brown on these proposals, the vast majority of which are directed at the department he was to lead, then who did they consult with?” asked Sean Mahoney, director of CLF Maine. “It appears to us by the nature of many of these proposals and the document itself, that many of the proposals represent the wish list not from Maine residents or businesses, but out-of-state corporations and trade organizations.”

The Administration’s position is not only counter to its professed goals of transparency and putting people before politics but is legally unsupportable under the clear language of Maine’s Freedom of Access Act and as interpreted by the courts.  If they fail to change their position, CLF will take the fight for transparency and full disclosure to the courts. More >