December 8, 2013

Bill Nemitz: A convenient truth about global warming dawns on LePage

Maine’s governor gets religion about global warming.

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Gov. Paul LePage

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“One of the things that’s come out of (Irene) is that state government departments are spending a lot more time talking to each other,” said Justin Johnson, deputy secretary of Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources, when I called him Friday. “If you know things are getting worse and you don’t do anything, it’s not a great service that you’re providing to the voters and citizens who put you there.”

Say what, Governor? Vermonters are a bunch of namby-pamby liberals who’d be a lot better off if they’d elected your buddy Randy Brock?

Easy, Big Guy. Not every state can have a governor who’s supported by only 38 percent of its people.

But enough with singing Vermont’s praises. (Did I mention the public-private Vermont Climate Collaborative?)

Instead, let’s log onto the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s website and see what Commissioner Patricia Aho is doing to prepare Maine for the fast-approaching fallout from an ever-warming planet.

Hmmm ... can’t seem to find anything. Maybe we should go to the search box and type in “climate change.”

Here’s something: A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency progress report for Maine, dated September 2012, that lists 49 action items under the heading “Taking Action on Climate Change and Improving Air Quality.” Each action item includes two boxes – one for the status of the item as of Sept. 30, 2012, the other for “comments or highlights.”

Every single box is blank.

Wait, here’s something else: A two-page “report” by Commissioner Aho to the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee way back in January of 2012. It was supposed to follow up on a resolve passed by the Legislature in 2009 “To Continue Evaluating Climate Change Adaptation Options for the State.”

If I recall, Governor, that’s the initiative lawmakers passed the year before you took office. Oh, right – you told your Cabinet from Day One you had zero interest in pursuing it.

But hold on. Here’s a ray of hope in that paper-thin report by Aho. Under the heading “Implementation,” she alludes to a “Planning for Climate Change” website maintained by the Maine State Planning Office.

Call me a nitpicker, but that website would be a heckuva lot more accessible if you hadn’t eliminated the entire State Planning Office back in the summer of 2012.

I’ve got to tell you, Governor, my enthusiasm for your embrace of global warming is beginning to evaporate.

In fact, the more I dig through these bureaucratic weeds looking for some hint of genuine concern about climate change, the more I understand why Brent Littlefield, your political mouthpiece, was so quick last week to throw cold water on your rapture over the melting Arctic ice cap.

Littlefield’s spin: It’s all about your quest, come hell or high water, to miraculously transform Maine’s economic landscape. Global warming, once a liberal fairy tale, has suddenly become Maine’s newfound economic development tool.

“Certainly,” Littlefield added, “the governor was not making a statement here about environmental policy.”

Nor will you anytime soon, right, Big Guy?

You’re too busy tilting at icebergs.

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:

Twitter: @billnemitz

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