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.

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 >

Following Concerns Raised by CLF, Maine DEP Commissioner Darryl Brown Resigns

May 10, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

After weeks of debate regarding Darryl Brown’s eligibility to serve as the commissioner of Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection, on April 27 Attorney General William Schneider issued a letter stating that Brown was likely unqualified to serve in the position under Maine law. Following that announcement, Brown resigned.

CLF and others voiced their concerns about a potential conflict of interest that would affect Brown’s ability to continue serving in the post in the months following his appointment in February. Maine law states that anyone who has received at least 10 percent of their income over the past two years from work for clients under the Clean Water Act is ineligible to serve as DEP commissioner. Brown is the founder and sole shareholder of Main-Land Development Consultants, an engineering and land-use planning firm, and had originally stated at his confirmation hearing in January that between 25 and 35 percent of his firm’s work fell into that category, but later insisted that he did not exceed the 10 percent threshold. Schneider’s letter stated that if Brown couldn’t produce documents demonstrating that his income did not exceed the 10 percent threshold, he would be ineligible for the position. The Attorney General also made clear that any such documents submitted by Brown would be subject to Maine’s Freedom of Access Act.  Claiming that the potential release of documents could potentially hurt his business, Brown’s attorney had sought assurances that the documents would not be released.  Brown’s resignation followed shortly after the Attorney General’s letter was released.

Brown’s resignation must have been anticipated by the LePage Administration, which immediately announced that Brown would become the director of the State Planning Office, which LePage has previously indicated he intends to do away with by 2012.  Jim Brooks, currently the director of the DEP’s Bureau of Air Quality, will serve as acting DEP commissioner.

“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 >

Governor LePage’s “Reform” Proposals Stun Maine

Jan 27, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Any doubts that Maine’s new Governor Paul LePage is intent on rolling back decades of environmental protections were put to rest this week with the release of Phase 1 of the governor’s regulatory “reform” (rollback) proposals. The proposals are sweeping in nature, including:

  • Requiring at least  3 million acres in the North Woods be zoned for development without any of the current protections against sprawl;
  • Weakening the legal standard for reviewing decisions by agency professionals;
  • Repealing the requirement that used hypodermic needles be shredded before disposal.

CLF has decried the proposals, as have the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Environment Maine and the Maine League of Conservation Voters, who called them “reckless and appalling.” The Bangor Daily News summed it up well in the title of its January 25 editorial, “Moving Maine Backward.”

The proposals focus extensively on the Department of Environmental Protection and the laws and regulations it is responsible for implementing. For instance, the governor proposes to abolish sound recycling policies, reverse a ban on the toxic, cancer-causing chemical BPA, remove a minimum penalty amount for violators of environmental laws, allow construction in sensitive sand dunes, and weaken water quality measures.

As the Environmental Roundtable should have made clear to the governor last week, a healthy environment protected by science-based rules and regulation is treasured by the people of Maine and essential to the state’s economic future.  But apparently this governor has not yet figured out that he governs for all the people of Maine (and not just the 38% of the voting population who supported him) and that he certainly has not been given a mandate to dismantle four decades  of sound environmental regulations.  The proposals are clearly the wish list of a few select special interest groups that have dominated  this new administration.

The proposals will be the foundation for the series of public meetings being held by the Legislature’s Joint Select Committee on Regulatory Fairness and Reform, the first of which was held earlier this week in Presque Isle, and will be the basis for the first bill of the session, LD1, “An Act to Ensure Regulatory Fairness and Reform.”

People who care about Maine’s environment, who understand that a strong and healthy environment is necessary for a strong and healthy economy, need to stand up and make their voices heard by the governor.  Phone calls, letters, emails to the governor’s office and to legislative leaders are critical, as is a strong turnout at the remainder of the regulatory reform hearings.  Before this train leaves the station, we need to do all we can to try and keep it from going off the rails.

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Posted in: Maine