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.