Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Rep. Gay Grant
ONE OF THE MOST important jobs of legislators is providing oversight that ensures government agencies are transparent, accountable and effective. Taxpayers and voters have a right to know whether government spending and programs provide the best possible return on their investment.
As a member of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, I am deeply concerned by the lack of transparency in the governor's administration and about the consequences of policy changes the administration has made.
I believe the administration should not make major policy changes that have profound impacts on the environment without first consulting the people of Maine and their elected officials.
The governor's administration has impeded the Legislature's attempts to shed light on recent changes in environmental policies.
It has even refused to allow its department officials to testify before, and share information with, legislative committees that deal with environmental issues.
A recent report by the Natural Resources Council of Maine found that under Gov. Paul LePage, Maine's lake protection efforts have eroded. This couldn't come at a worse time given that the quality of Maine's clean lake water has diminished.
If this trend continues it will hurt Maine's environment, the quality of life that Mainers enjoy, and our economy. It is estimated that Maine's lakes generate at least $3.5 billion in economic activity and help sustain 52,000 jobs.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has cut its lake protection staff, ended education and technical assistance programs, removed valuable public documents from its website and failed to enforce a Maine law intended to protect lake water quality.
The LePage administration also has proposed relaxing Maine's anti-smog protections and missed critical federal deadlines on dam licensing meant to protect water quality.
Earlier this year, Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a measure to protect pregnant women and children from toxic chemicals in certain products, after the measure passed the Legislature with bipartisan support.
The health of Maine's environment is critically important to the success of our state. Changes to important policies should result from a thorough legislative process where the administration, lawmakers and policy experts -- with public input -- decide together how to best address important issues.
Protecting our environment requires an open process that allows for thoughtful deliberation, proper oversight and an opportunity for Mainers to be heard.
Rep. Gay Grant, D-Gardiner, is serving her first term in the Maine House of Representatives. She represents Gardiner and Randolph and serves on the Joint Select Committee on Maine's Workforce and Economic Future and the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.