A seven-month Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram investigation has found Patricia Aho, a former industrial and corporate lobbyist who became commissioner of the state's Department of Environmental Protection in 2011, has scuttled programs and fought against laws that were opposed by many of her former clients in the chemical, drug, oil, and real estate development industries. Under Aho, the DEP has:Frozen the Kid Safe Products Act – a 2008 law to protect fetuses, babies and children from potentially damaging chemicals – by blocking efforts to bring more chemicals under the law's jurisdiction, chemicals produced by Aho's former lobbying clients. Reduced enforcement actions by 49 percent against large developers and landowners. Aho had unsuccessfully fought to weaken many of the laws at issue as the longtime lobbyist of the Maine Real Estate and Development Association. Fought to roll back recycling programs that are strongly opposed by former clients of Aho and a still-active lobbyist, Ann Robinson, the governor's regulatory reform adviser. Overseen a purge of information from the DEP's website and a clampdown on its personnel, restricting their ability to communicate relevant information to lawmakers, the public, policy staff and one another.
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Published June 16, 2013 The lobbyist in the henhouse: Whose interests is Maine's DEP commissioner serving? For two years, public servant Patricia Aho has overseen Maine's environmental protection. But whom does she really serve? A seven-month investigation by the Telegram points to her former corporate clients.
Published June 16, 2013 Sources describe a department under duress Scrutiny intensifies, transparency falters, and there's new pressure, DEP insiders say, to tell 'one side of the story: the client's side.'
Published June 16, 2013 'They're just not doing enforcement' Whatever the cause, the stark decline in violations against commercial-scale developers and landowners under DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho likely pleases the real estate group that once hired her as a lobbyist.
Published June 17, 2013 Efforts to reduce risks to kids run into a powerful foe Overseen by a former chemical industry lobbyist, Maine's Department of Environmental Protection resists regulations on substances that may be harmful to children and fetuses.
Published June 18, 2013 Maine leaders try and fail to dilute recycling's success 'Product stewardship' regulations – even those with industry and bipartisan support – meet staunch resistance from, among others, a commissioner with former ties to corporate interests.
Published June 18, 2013 Political parties split in response to newspaper series Democratic leaders contemplate investigative action, while their Republican counterparts say Maine DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho was 'balancing the needs of our economy.'
From lobbyist to DEP commissioner
Please click to enlargeRelated stories: LePage issues new policy: No more talking to 3 newspapers The policy comes after a series of articles about the Department of Environmental Protection. Maine Sierra Club calls for Aho's resignation The Maine chapter cites the DEP commissioner's lax enforcement of state environmental laws. Group calls for probe of Maine environmental chief Aho Two citizen groups cite a Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram series as the basis for an investigation. Maine lawmakers postpone consideration of investigation of DEP The sponsor of a request for a state probe says he wants more time to fine tune the questions to raise about Commissioner Aho's management of the agency.