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The LePage Files, Volume I

Maine Governor Paul LePage's regulatory reform agenda was created by lifting entire passages from memos received by favored lobbyists and industry groups, confidential administration dossiers reveal, suggesting he and his staff made little attempt to shape policies themselves.

The dossiers, obtained via a Freedom of Access Act request, also indicate some of the governor's priorities going forward, including measures targeting striking workers and Maine's participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Who wanted to weaken air quality standards? Who inserted language to reduce all environmental laws to the weaker federal standards? Who wants the same done with civil rights and restaurant tip sharing laws? These answers and many more are in my feature in this week's Portland Phoenix.

I requested the documents back in March, after the governor's then-communications director, Dan Demeritt, refused to answer questions about the origins of controversial elements of the governor's infamous "Phase I" regulatory reform agenda, much of which was subsequently rejected by the Republican-controlled legislature. They provide a detailed look into how LePage formulates policy and whom he sees himself as representing, issues I've written about in two previous Phoenix stories, "LePage's Secret Bankers" and "LePage's Secret Puppeteers."
Read more »

Maine Gov. LePage vs. The Environment

The current conversation around political campfires here in Maine focuses on whether Gov. Paul LePage's star has already set, less than four months after taking office. I've argued here that he's certainly taken a hit, while Portland Press Herald columnist and editorial writer Greg Kesich has gone so far as to declare "the LePage era is over."

Murals aside, one of the principal causes of Mr. LePage's loss of influence has been his ill-considered assault on Maine's environmental and product safety laws, which has featured a range of proposed regulatory rollbacks that appear to benefit only the out-of-state chemical, toy, and pharmaceutical companies whose lobbyists wrote much of the governor's reform agenda. In this month's Down East, I explore the origins of and political reaction to the governor's rollback plan, much of which has been stricken from the relevant bills by the Republican-controlled legislature. Read more »

Grow a Virtual Little Beard

The sovereign nation of Facebook has declared tomorrow to be Little Beard Day, which means that at noon all Mainers, but especially women, are encouraged to construct and wear fake beards in response to Governor LePage's deplorable comments about the toxic effects of BPA.

If you'd rather celebrate this holiday in a virtual way, feel free to use this app to add a fake beard to your facebook or twitter profile photo.

Sippy Cups vs. Jobs - A False Choice

While many Mainers were enjoying a romantic and chocolate-laden Valentine's Day, hundreds of their neighbors spent the day at the State House, where the Regulatory Fairness & Reform Committee met from 9 am until nearly 7 pm taking testimony on LD 1 and the Governor's Phase 1 regulatory reform plan, including a 48-page amendment that was handed to the Committee during the public hearing. The testimony was overwhelmingly in opposition to the Governor's plan, echoing what we heard at 7 regional hearings over the past 3 weeks - watch the videos here.

On Monday, the Committee heard from the Governor's legal counsel, Dan Billings, who made it clear that while several of the most controversial rollbacks in in Phase 1 were left out of the amendment (for example, the Kids-Safe Products Act, banning Bis-A from sippy cups, clean air protections, eliminating LURC and zoning 3 million acres for development), Governor LePage has NOT backed away from these rollbacks and will be supporting legislation to implement them as we go forward. Read more »

Fixing Your Feedback Loops

Last week, I was (and still am) as upset and concerned about Governor LePage’s attack on our environmental regulations as most readers of this blog. Unfortunately, I must share that there was something much more disturbing that happened to me THIS week: the realization that many of my well-read acquaintances and neighbors still did not comprehend the magnitude of Governor LePage’s attacks, and, moreover, completely misunderstood what he was up to in future "deregulation" bids.

As most of you know, Governor LePage has proposed the destruction of years of environmental legislation that has protected the health and well-being of Mainers. He likes to call this Phase one. Phase two, as the Governor has proposed, will be the deregulation of other industries including, but probably not limited to, labor and agriculture. Read more »

Real Backers of LePage's Anti-Environment Agenda

Some great reporting from Susan Sharon at MPBN yesterday caught the LePage administration making another false statement. Spokesman Dan Demeritt claimed that opposition to the Kid-Safe Products Act came from the Maine Grocers Association, when in fact the organization has no position on the law.

As the piece explains, and I've also mentioned, the real force behind the attacks on Maine's environmental and public health protections is coming from out-of-state interests like the American Chemistry Council, which represents large chemical and plastic manufacturing companies.

The End of Maine's Environmental Legacy

Today in the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, I discuss Maine's history of environment stewardship and the unprecedented attack launched by the LePage administration on a wide range of environmental and public health protections.

I also make brief mention of some of the money that out-of-state chemical companies Chemtura Corporation of Connecticut and Albermarle Corporation of Virginia have given to PACs and politicians in Maine. As I noted in another recent column, corporations with similar aims have also contributed money to Governor LePage's transition.

LePage Begins Assault on Environment

At Down East, I take a quick first look at the drastic changes to environmental protections proposed by governor LePage in his first list of recommendations to the Legislature's Joint Select Committee on Regulatory Fairness and Reform.

Basically, it's an unprecedented attack on virtually every aspect of Maine's system of environmental and consumer health protections.

The entire list is now available online thanks to the Kennebec Journal.

PAC Attack

Colin Woodard is continuing his investigation into Maine campaign finance contributions and has today posted a list of PACs with exceptionally Orwellian names.

One example:

Sound Science for Maine PAC was not, as it sounds, a group advocating for science-based policy solutions. Rather, it was the shell through which two out-of-state chemical companies -- Albermarle Corporation and Chemtura Corporation -- funnelled $20,000 to various candidates, PACs and other entities associated with both parties. Makes one curious what business they may have before lawmakers next year.

I wonder if these companies have a stake in BPA or some of the other chemicals that could be banned under Maine's Kid Safe Products Act.

Maine Legislature Graded on Environmental Issues

The Natural Resource Council of Maine has released their end-of-session report card on the Maine Legislature's work on environmental issues.