Important vote will reopen the St. Croix River to Alewives

Apr 10, 2013 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

The bill passed today will restore alewives, a key forage fish, to the St. Croix River, pictured here. Photo: CanadaGood @ flickr

We at CLF applaud today’s vote by the Maine state legislature to restore Alewives to their native habitat in the St. Croix River.

Today, the legislature voted to pass a bill that will reopen the fish ladder at the Grand Falls Dam, allowing the key forage fish to reach 98% of the St. Croix. This vote caps a two-year effort by CLF advocates to restore a fishery that numbered close to 3 million until a state law closed the fish ladder and the number of alewives dwindled to less than 10,000. Last year CLF successfully filed suit against the EPA to enforce the Clean Water Act’s provision related to the state law and then filed suit against the State to invalidate that law.

This bill corrects a practice of fisheries mismanagement that has been allowed to stand for almost two decades. It properly places good science and the interest of many over the self interests of a few. While litigation is the principal tool of our trade, it is wonderful to see the Legislature right this wrong and we hope to be able to dismiss our case against the State soon.

Introduced in March 2013, the bill found strong support among a number of the groups invested and concerned with the restoration of the St. Croix River and its native fish. These groups include Maine fishermen, environmentalists, anglers, federal agencies, and the Passamaquoddy.

The alternative bill proposed by the LePage administration was a half-measure that would have still kept alewives from reaching most of their native habitat.

This vote ensures alewives will now return to the St. Croix River. It is exactly the result that our legal advocacy was aiming for, and we applaud it as an important step forward.

CLF has been blogging on this topic regularly. To read those posts, click here.

CLF Scoop’s Top 10 Blog Posts of 2011

Dec 30, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

It’s been a great year for CLF — and a great year on CLF Scoop. We’ve had lots of great posts by our advocates, staff and volunteers. See below for the most read 10 blog posts published in 2011.

1. Northern Pass: The 5 million ton elephant in Massachusetts’s climate plan 
By Christophe Courchesne

“The Northern Pass transmission project is being pitched by its developers as a clean energy proposal for New Hampshire. As I’ve pointed out before, Northern Pass is aregional proposal with dubious benefits in the Granite State. Unfortunately, the developers’ hollow promises have found an audience further south, in Massachusetts.”

2. RGGI results good for our climate, economy and consumers 
By N. Jonathan Peress

“If you listen to the word on street, or read the headlines, you’ll have heard that our times are hard times. Joblessness remains stubbornly high, markets remain volatile and credit is tight. Most people agree that what we need is a program to creates jobs, generates money, and reinvests each of those in our communities to make them stable, healthier and happier.”

3. My NY Times letter to editor 
By John Kassel 

“It would be hard to find “a tougher moment over the last 40 years to be a leader in the American environmental movement” only if your sole focus is the national debate. All the rest of us — at the local, state and regional levels — have known for years what the nationals are only now realizing: we’ve got to engage people closer to where they live.”

4. Countdown to Shark Week 2012
by Robin Just

“I really do love our New England sharks. But I also love to surf. And as the water temperature at my favorite break is going down, the great whites are heading south. One less thing to worry about as I struggle with frigid water, thick head-to-toe neoprene, and my own personal resolve to surf all year long.”

5. We Can Get There From Here: Maine Energy Efficiency Ballot Initiative 
by Sean Mahoney 

“Maine has a new motto: We can get there from here… As Washington has failed to advance clean energy legislation, and Governor LePage has expressed open hostility to the state’s renewable portfolio standards (RPS), I am reminded of that famous quip from Bert and I: “You can’t get they-ah from he-ah.” For Mainers concerned about Maine’s dependence on expensive, dirty fuels, and sincere in their interest in building a sustainable economy for the years to come, this quip has become a frustrating reality – a reality we can change, with your help.”

6. Love That Dirty Water: Massachusetts Lacks Money, Needs Clean Water 
By HHarnett 

“Massachusetts lacks money and needs clean water. This bind – one in which the state found itself following a June report – has forced a discussion policies that are raising the hackles of Massachusetts residents.”

7. Would Northern Pass Swamp the Regional Market for Renewable Projects? 
By Christophe Courchesne

“With the Northern Pass project on the table, as well as other looming projects andinitiatives to increase New England’s imports of Canadian hydroelectric power, the region’s energy future is coming to a crossroads. The choice to rely on new imports will have consequences that endure for decades, so it’s critical the region use the best possible data and analysis to weigh the public costs and benefits of going down this road. To date, there have been almost no objective, professional assessments of the ramifications.”

8. CLF Negotiates Cool Solution to Get Kendall Power Plant Out of Hot Water (And To Get Hot Water Out of Kendall Power Plant)
By Peter Shelley 

“Today marks a new milestone for CLF in our efforts to clean up the lower Charles River. Concluding a five-year negotiation, involving CLF and the other key stakeholders, the EPA issued a new water quality permit for the Kendall (formerly Mirant Kendall) Power Plant, a natural gas cogeneration facility owned by GenOn Energy. The plant is located on the Cambridge side of the Longfellow Bridge.”

9. What the Keystone XL decision should mean for Northern Pass
By Christophe Courchesne 

“Last week, a major disaster for our climate and our nation’s clean energy future was averted – at least for now – when the Obama administrationannounced that it won’t consider approving the Keystone XL pipeline’s border crossing permit before it reconsiders the Keystone XL pipeline’s environmental impacts and the potential alternatives to the proposal on the table.  For all the reasons that my colleague Melissa Hoffer articulated in her post last week, the Keystone XL victory was a resounding, if limited, triumph with important lessons for environmental and climate advocates across the country as we confront, one battle at a time, the seemingly overwhelming challenge of solving the climate crisis.”

10. When it comes to river restoration, haste makes waste
by Anthony Iarrapino

“In their rush to exploit recovery efforts from Tropical Storm Irene, ideologues who perpetually fight against regulation and science and who posture as the defenders of traditional “Yankee” values are forgetting two important rock-ribbed principles.”

We Can Get There From Here: Maine Energy Efficiency Ballot Initiative

Dec 5, 2011 by  | Bio |  4 Comment »

Maine has a new motto: We can get there from here.

As Washington has failed to advance clean energy legislation, and Governor LePage has expressed open hostility to the state’s renewable portfolio standards (RPS), I am reminded of that famous quip from Bert and I: “You can’t get they-ah from he-ah.” For Mainers concerned about Maine’s dependence on expensive, dirty fuels, and sincere in their interest in building a sustainable economy for the years to come, this quip has become a frustrating reality – a reality we can change, with your help.

CLF is a part of a coalition of groups from the private and nonprofit sectors, the Maine Citizens For Clean Energy, www.cleaneenergymaine.org,  that is working to enact a law by public referendum that would increase the amount of renewable energy generated in the state and increase our ability to implement energy efficiency measures that would reduce our reliance on oil and other fossil fuels, saving us money and helping our environment at the same time.

To do this, we need to get the referendum  on the ballot for state-wide vote in November 2012 by gathering more than 70,000 signatures from Maine voters by January 2012. The signs are strong: we have met with considerable early success, are ahead of our goals, and see evidence of strong support from Maine residents.

This year, on November 8th, 28,000 Maine voters registered their interest in putting a citizen’s initiative on next year’s ballot to expand clean energy in Maine. The coalition, as Environment Maine said in their press release, had set a goal of 20,000 only two weeks before. In our current effort to collect 70,000 signatures, we are well ahead of our goals.

This should not be surprising, as polls of Maine residents have consistently shown strong support for energy efficiency. One poll, conducted by NRDC, showed “Nearly 80% of voters back the use and expansion of energy efficiency technologies.” Another, conducted by Portland-based Critical Insights and discussed by NRCM, “shows that Maine voters overwhelming oppose specific environmental rollback proposals now before the Maine Legislature.”

Groups in Maine have heard and are working to promote the interest of Maine voters. Already, CLF is working with a coalition of Maine businesses, workers, health professionals, citizens and public interest groups. We are joined by – Reed & Reed, general contractor, NRCM, and the Maine Renewable Energy Association, among others.

The message Maine voters have delivered so far is clear: We can get there from here.  We need your help.  Please sign a petition supporting the referendum or better yet, volunteer to gather signatures in your community.

This ballot initiative comes at a crucial time and allows for a broad discussion by the people of Maine as to the value of renewable and energy efficiency. If successful, the ballot measure would require that the current RPS be increased by 20 percent by 2020 and would ensure adequate funding from utilities for all cost-effective efficiency measures.

If you’d like to help ensure the passage of this ballot initiative, you can do two things.

First, help us gather signatures. If you haven’t signed the petition, please do so now.

And, secondly, if you’re willing to volunteer – more than willing to provide you with all you’ll need. Simply get in touch with us here at our Portland, Maine, office.

Help us, and our broad coalition, to deliver to Maine what voters want: expanded energy efficiency and, with it, a clean, clear path forward.

CLF Calls for ME Attorney General to Determine Eligibility of DEP Commissioner Darryl Brown

Apr 6, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

ME DEP Commissioner Darryl Brown (Photo credit: maine.gov)

CLF is once again calling for increased transparency from the LePage Administration, this time with regard to whether or not Darryl Brown, who was confirmed by the Senate last month as Governor LePage’s appointment to be commissioner of Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), is eligible to stay in his current position according to State and federal law.

Brown is the founder and remains the sole shareholder of an engineering and land-use planning firm that assists developers and industry obtain permits from the DEP and EPA.   At his confirmation hearing in January, Brown said that between 25 and 35 percent of his firm’s work involved DEP permitting.  Under state law, (38 MRSA $ 341-A(3)(B)), anyone who has received at least 10 percent of their income in the last two years directly or indirectly from projects permitted under the Clean Water Act are not eligible to serve as DEP commissioner.

The question of Mr. Brown’s eligibility to serve as Commissioner was first raised by former CLF staff attorney Steve Hinchman on behalf of the Androscoggin River Alliance in a February 7 petition filed with the EPA under a CWA provision that is similar, although not as broad, as the Maine statute.  Importantly though, both provisions use the same 10 percent threshold test.  EPA has requested that Mr. Brown provide information by April 15 to determine whether that threshold has been crossed.  Maine’s Attorney General and the Governor’s office have refused to say whether they have even met to discuss the situation, never mind how they intend to resolve it.  As an independent Constitutional officer, CLF has called upon the Attorney General’s office to provide a formal opinion as to how the law applies to Commissioner Brown and whether he has crossed the 10 percent threshold in the last two years, a call formally echoed by the House Democrats on April 5.

CLF will continue to push for a fair and speedy resolution of the issue, whatever that resolution might be.  CLF is not pushing this issue in order to disqualify Commissioner Brown nor to make a statement as to his performance as Commissioner.  Rather, we’re pushing to make sure that the law is interpreted and applied correctly.

It is possible that even though 25-35 percent of Brown’s was related to DEP permitting work but only 10 percent of his work was related to Clean Water Act permits.  But there will be no confidence in such a conclusion until a transparent and thorough analysis is conducted by the lawyers for all of Maine’s people, the Attorney General.

50 Bad Bills And That’s Not the Half of It

Mar 2, 2011 by  | Bio |  2 Comment »

Photo courtesy of NRCM

At a press conference held yesterday, CLF and our colleagues at the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) shined a spotlight on 50 bad bills that are now working their way through the state Legislature. If passed, these bills could:

  • Open up the three million acres of the North Woods to development
  • Repeal the ban on BPA and flame retardant chemicals that are hazardous to our health
  • Allow big polluters to not be held accountable for cleaning up their own mess

A list of those bills is here, as are some media clips from Maine Public Broadcasting Network, the Portland Press Herald and the Lewiston Sun Journal related to yesterday’s conference.

The assault on Maine’s environmental protections continues, and we will continue to fight back—but we need your help. If you haven’t already, please add your voice to the effort by contacting your local legislator, submitting a letter to the editor to your local paper, or by becoming a member of CLF.

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.

What LePage’s “reforms” mean for Maine parents

Feb 1, 2011 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

There are many things about Governor LePage regulatory “reform” proposals that could impact the quality of my family’s life here in Maine, from developing the North Woods to loosening restrictions on dirty air emissions.  But a couple of proposals in particular really frustrated me as a parent.  LePage’s proposal to repeal the BPA ban and the toxic flame retardant ban. The BPA ban phased out the toxic chemical in consumer products such as baby bottles and sippy cups.  The bill had strong support and there wasn’t a single Maine based business that testified against the bill.  But it received plenty of opposition from deep pocketed chemical industries, such as Dow Chemical.

While Washington based groups like the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the American Chemistry Council have supported a repeal of the ban, local grocers, including the Maine Grocers Association have not taken an active role and have not taken a stance on the ban.

I am the mother of two young boys, ages 17 months and 2 and a half.

My boys on the shore of Moosehead Lake

I spend a considerable amount of time combing through labels on baby products to make sure that the materials aren’t toxic.  It is time consuming to ground truth the harmful effects of chemicals.  What are the hormone disrupting effects of Bispehnol-A (BPA)?  Will that stain resistant/flame resistant perfluorinated synthetic chemical (PFC) on that couch give my boys bladder cancer?  So my attitude is to err on the side of being safe by buying products with as few chemicals as possible.  You would be surprised at how challenging  it is to achieve even that tepid goal.  But last year, Maine lawmakers took considerable strides towards making my decision making easier and safer by enacting bans on known toxic chemicals in kids products, through the Kids Safe Products Law.

Why are we trying so hard to appease out-of-state chemical companies?  Dan Demeritt, LePage’s communication director, dryly pointed out that BPA-free products are available on the market, parents don’t have to choose to buy products that contain the chemical.  This is the “people before politics” response?  As a parent that is constantly pressed for time (aren’t we all?) who frequently does shopping with 2 kids piled into a shopping cart where 5 minutes too long can spell “melt-down”, I don’t have time to read through all the product disclaimers.  Why should any parent have to take that extra step to protect their children when a simple solution is already in place?

I was pleased to see that Republican Senator Dana Dow took a stand on this issue.  He works in the furniture industry and relayed a story of a simple blood test revealed soaring high toxicity levels for PFCs.  Take a look at the link, Senator Dow testifies at around 8 minutes in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qlc5urnzB50

This issue impacts all of us.  Will Maine choose to protect our children over out of state chemical companies?  Next time you are barreling down a grocery aisle trying to read the label, remember to call your representative and help them figure this one out.

Environmental Challenges under a LePage Administration

Nov 5, 2010 by  | Bio |  5 Comment »

Sea Change.  Tsunami. Maelstrom.  Take your pick but the results of the mid-term election from an environmental perspective will bring an even more extreme and hostile approach to restoring, protecting and preserving our natural resources.  The change in Maine will be staggering – not once since the first comprehensive environmental statutes were passed in the 1970’s has there been a Republican governor and a Republican controlled Legislature.  And unlike the past leaders of the Republican party in Maine like US Senators Margaret Chase Smith and Bill Cohen or State legislators Horace Hildreth and Harry Richardson, today’s leaders of the Republican party have attempted to revive the old and false dichotomy of “jobs vs. the environment.”  At stake is the work of 40 years to provide a framework that allows Maine’s people and communities to thrive and protects Maine’s natural resources. We are in unchartered territory.

Governor-elect Paul LePage’s rhetoric on the campaign trail was alarmingly anti-environmental.  Beyond staking his election on dismantling Maine’s agencies tasked with safeguarding our environment, he has bluntly expressed support for offshore oil drilling in the wake of the worst oil spill ever experienced by our country.  He supports building wildly expensive new nuclear power plants.  Rather mind-numbing is the fact that he considers climate change to be at the least, subject to scientific debate if not outright denying it.  And he opposes sustainable  wind development.  Even more problematic is a pervasive sense that he simply doesn’t “get it” – doesn’t get the concept of sustainability, doesn’t get the economic value of a strong and vibrant environment and doesn’t get Mainers abiding conviction that ours is a unique state that merits strong efforts to maintain.

Willful ignorance may be trending in Augusta, but thoughtfulness  has a firm place in Maine’s culture. Those who are committed to a sustainable approach to managing our resources to benefit our people must now put the election behind us and focus on holding the line.  Open and active collaboration among Maine’s environmental community will be necessary to that effort.  We need to recognize that a majority of Maine people voted for two candidates who have long and distinguished records as environmental leaders and stewards.  Just as a majority of voters supported additional funding for the Land for Maine’s Future program, a clear sign that we continue to be willing to invest in safeguarding our environment.

The Conservation Law Foundation has always believed that a thriving Maine is the result of strong environmental protections and sound economic principles.  That belief – and CLF’s unique ability to translate it into practical, effective and results-oriented advocacy – will be more important than ever as a new administration attempts to dismantle the environmental protections of the last four decades.  We hope you join us in our collaborative effort to tackle the challenges that lay ahead.