Thursday, December 5, 2013
The lasting impact of Paul LePage’s term as governor will not be just made-up “facts” and outrageous outbursts. Regrettably, his most enduring legacy will be the damage his administration has done to Maine’s environment and economy.
Consider just three examples: running Statoil out of Maine, delaying action on climate change and surrendering to the federal government state authority over dams on some of our most important waterways.
Statoil’s departure from Maine and the abandonment of its Hywind project off Boothbay Harbor is an economic and environmental tragedy for Maine. Our state had a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring together Statoil and the University of Maine to become the national leader in offshore wind.
Instead, our governor changed the rules in the middle of the game and sent packing one of the world’s foremost renewable energy companies. His parochial, insular and ham-handed handling of this matter sent all of the wrong signals to anyone thinking about investing here. It’s hard for Maine to be “open for business” when we have a governor whose mind appears closed to it.
A better course would have been for Maine’s governor to encourage — early on — a cooperative effort between Statoil and the University of Maine. A joint venture between the university consortium and Statoil could have and, in my view, should have, put at least two different designs into the Gulf of Maine to be tested.
Instead, LePage, motivated by personal animosity toward wind power and who knows what else, used his office to undo a deal already in place and destroyed an important relationship with a company that could have been a great ambassador for Maine around the world.
Whatever short-term political gains the governor’s actions have won him — and it’s hard to identify any — they have come at a certain long-term cost for the state of Maine.
The same can be said for the governor’s actions regarding climate change. Shortly after taking office, LePage shelved a report about how Maine should be adapting to climate change. His top environmental official at the time said the issue would be “taking a back seat.” In reality, these critical matters got tossed out of the car and were left by the side of the road.
Earlier this year, the Maine Legislature passed LD 825, which called for a new study about the effects of climate change on Maine. The bill was vetoed by the governor, further enhancing his reputation as a climate change denier and putting at risk Maine’s natural environment and some of our most vital industries — tourism, fishing, agriculture and forestry.
The next governor of Maine needs to acknowledge that climate change is real, that human activity is chiefly responsible for it, and that global warming is the greatest environmental challenge of our time.
We can’t solve climate change alone, but we can live up to our state motto, meet our commitments and set an important example for others in our state and local policies. I will do that.
We also must implement a statewide coordinated plan to reduce the risks posed by climate change and to help prepare Maine residents, communities and businesses to face those risks. The clock is ticking, and we have lost precious time.
Unfortunately, the people around Flagstaff Lake also have lost precious time – about a quarter of century to be exact. Either through incompetence or a deliberate act of bureaucratic sabotage, LePage’s Department of Environmental Protection some time ago missed a routine deadline to relicense Flagstaff dam, placing it totally out of state control for the next 25 years and undoing years of hard work by people in the Eustis area to ensure that the water levels in the lake remained higher in the summer and early fall.
Now we have learned that deadlines for filings for three other dams also have been missed. This isn’t just a matter of shuffling paperwork between Augusta and Washington. We now have ceded the state’s authority to establish water levels in reservoirs and rivers to the federal government for years to come, affecting recreation and tourism, fisheries and the value of waterfront property and the ability of its owners to enjoy it.
New leadership can undo much of the damage that LePage’s words have done. Given the extent of the damage his actions have caused, however, it won’t be as easy to undo the harm to Maine’s environment, economy and reputation. But I am confident that with a new vision, a real plan and experienced, skilled leadership in the Blaine House, we can begin that important work come January 2015.Eliot Cutler, independent candidate for governor, is a businessman, lawyer and former government official who has spent most of his career working on environmental issues.