THE ADS

With Paul LePage as governor, Maine’s environment would be open to pillaging by polluters and developers.

So say two recent television ads, one paid for by LePage’s opponent Libby Mitchell and the other by the Democratic Governors Association.

In Mitchell’s ad, a sailboat glides by in the background as Mitchell says her opponent will force Mainers “to choose between jobs and the environment.”

“What makes Maine unique is our natural beauty, but today it’s being threatened,” Mitchell says. “Paul LePage wants to eliminate our environmental protections that keep our waters clean and our air pure.”

The ad ends with a bucolic Maine harbor scene that includes three wind turbines turning silently in the background, a nod to Mitchell’s support for wind power.

The second spot goes further, opening with an aerial coastal scene that includes a stunning view of a lighthouse.

“Here in Maine, this is what’s key to our economy, our jobs, our quality of life,” intones an unidentified female narrator as the scene switches to another shot of the Maine coastline.

Suddenly, a nuclear power plant plops into the scene.

“How about adding a nuclear power plant to that picture?” the narrator says in a skeptical tone. “Paul LePage says we should.”

Next, the ad shows a scene of crashing surf. Wham — a burning oil rig slams down on the coastline.

“Offshore drilling along our coast?” the narrator continues. “LePage says he strongly supports it, even before cleaner alternatives like wind power. And he’d make the state Department of Environmental Protection friendlier to the developers and polluters.”

 

HOW TRUE ARE THESE CLAIMS?

Brent Littlefield, a LePage campaign strategist, said the ads are misleading. LePage enjoys the outdoors and has never argued that the state has to choose between jobs and the environment, he said.

“Paul LePage is not running for governor to harm the people of Maine,” Littlefield said. “He’s running for governor to improve the lives of the people of Maine.”

But LePage’s own words provide plenty of ammunition for his opponents.

In a profile of LePage April 22 on seacoastonline.com, LePage said that if he is elected governor, “Day one, I come down to Kittery and take down the sign ‘Maine, the way life should be’ and put up one that says ‘Maine, open for business,’ with the governor’s phone number underneath.”

In the same interview, Le Page said DEP regulations often “serve no purpose but to cost businesses money.”

LePage has said that he would like to ease DEP regulations and make the process less “one-sided” and adversarial. He wants to move the DEP to the Department of Agriculture.

On energy policy, LePage has said that he wants to look at all sources of energy, from wind power to liquefied natural gas, and that his priority will be to lower Mainers’ electricity bills.

At a public forum in Bangor in August, however, LePage said it is too early to be focusing on wind farms as an energy source.

“I favor nuclear. I favor hydro,” he said, in an article Aug. 26 in the Bangor Daily News. “I honestly believe at the present time that we need to keep studying wind to make it commercially viable, but I would much rather put my energies into hydro and nuclear power.”

In an interview earlier, with Maine Public Broadcasting, LePage said, “Quite frankly, I think Maine is ripe for a nuclear power plant.”

What about Mitchell’s claim that LePage strongly supports offshore oil drilling? In a debate on energy policy Sept. 23 at the University of Southern Maine, LePage said he would “never say never” to the idea of offshore drilling in state waters.

 

ANALYSIS

Mitchell ends her ad by saying, “Our environment is the engine of our economy, to be treasured and not exploited,” tying the environment to the economy. Mitchell is addressing a primary concern of voters: the lack of jobs in this struggling economy. Tourism and other sectors of Maine’s economy depend on the state’s reputation for clean air and water.

But when Mitchell says “Maine is about having a good job and a great environment. As governor, I’ll never sacrifice either,” she appears to be promising more than she can deliver.

All politicians eventually face a situation where they have to compromise.