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.