After Maine’s beleaguered far-right governor, Paul LePage (R), announced last month that he would seek a second term, I more or less assumed the often-buffoonish Republican would at least pretend to shift towards the mainstream. After all, Maine is a pretty moderate state, and if LePage made a point to be less extreme, he’d probably stand a better chance of winning.
But that doesn’t seem to be happening. This week, for example, LePage’s Department of Environmental Protection pushed to weaken Maine’s anti-smog regulations.
The proposed changes would exempt major new or newly upgraded industrial polluters in Maine from several measures that aim to reduce ground-level ozone in accordance with the federal Clean Air Act.
Critics say the changes would effectively remove Maine from a 13-state regional effort to control cross-border ozone pollution, undermining a project that has reduced smog in Maine.
“This is an attempt by the LePage administration to weaken clean air health standards from the biggest polluters in the state and it just doesn’t make sense,” said Glen Brand, director of the Sierra Club’s Maine chapter. “It’s moving Maine in the wrong direction.”
Ron Severance, who served as a top official in the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for 15 years, told the Portland Press Herald, “From a practical point of view, it’s going to mean a worsening of public health.”
Adding insult to injury – in this case, the phrase applies almost literally – the LePage administration buried the proposed changes on a website, apparently in the hopes the public wouldn’t notice.
But not everyone is disappointed. Lobbyists for the pulp and paper industry said this week that they see this as a great idea.