December 13, 2013

OUR OPINION: LePage should sign anti-smog petition

Maine’s governor is siding with out-of-state power companies while our air quality suffers.

Some East Coast governors sent a petition to Washington this week calling for tougher regulation of coal-burning power plant emissions that blow in from the Rust Belt and foul the air in places like Maine. Unfortunately, Maine’s governor was not one of them.

Gov. Paul LePage is choosing to sit on the sidelines while the federal Environmental Protection Agency is trying to tackle one of our state’s long-term problems. Although we are responsible for cleaning up our own air under the Clean Air Act, much of the pollution in Maine comes from other states to the west and south.

If those plants don’t install anti-pollution devices or shut down, Maine will continue to fight air quality and health problems that are damaging our economy and the quality of life for our residents. The administration is choosing to side with out-of-state utility companies and not the downwind Maine residents who bear the cost.

LePage has not explained his position, but a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection said Maine did not choose to join the effort because it already meets Clean Air Act standards and most of our state’s air pollution comes from “mobile sources.”

A considerable part of our air pollution, however, comes from out-of-state power plants. This led in 2011 to the EPA’s restricting the emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide, major contributors to smog, through the cross-state pollution rule. The upwind states went to court, claiming that the rule interfered with their right to control their own air quality.

That’s why it’s important for the leaders of downwind states such as Maine to stand up for our interests. The pollution may be made in the Midwest, but people breathe it Down East, and the governor of Maine should be concerned with our health and economy.

In addition to lowering our air quality, coal-producing states use their low power rates to compete with Maine for manufacturing jobs. All of the states that would be affected by the so-called “good neighbor” rule have lower electric rates than Maine, and most of them have rates below the national average. Why should Mainers pay more for power, and breathe the pollution produced in states that charge less?

Maine’s governor ought to side with Maine people and not with out-of-state power companies. LePage should sign the petition and support this overdue protection.

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