July 31, 2013

Maine's pulp, paper industry supports DEP proposal to relax anti-smog regulations

By Colin Woodard cwoodard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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LePage’s DEP commissioner, Patricia Aho, represented the pulp and paper association in 2006 and 2008, SAAPI Fine Paper in 2006, and Verso Paper in 2008 and 2009, according to state disclosures. She was a lobbyist for Pierce Atwood until joining the administration in early 2011.

Critics say the changes endanger Maine because they will undermine a key 13-state regional agreement that has reduced pollution in upwind states that would otherwise be falling out on Maine.

The compact, the Ozone Transport Region, was created by Congress in 1990 as part of a set of key revisions to the Clean Air Act. Maine agreed to tougher pollution standards within the state as part of an informal deal to get the densely populated upwind states that were responsible for much of our smog to do the same.

“The possible withdrawal by Maine from thee regulations should not be taken lightly,” says Dallas Burtraw, a national expert on incentive-based environmental protection at Resources for the Future, a non-partisan think tank in Washington, D.C. “Withdrawal may give some economic advantages to some businesses in Maine, but the coalition among the states is delicate and going forward is balancing a lot of trade-offs between environmental costs and economic advantage.”

“This is a short-run decision, but the relationship that exists among the states in the coalition is meant to be a long one,” Burtraw said, adding the effort has delivered reduced costs while improving the environment.

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