September 27, 2011

Committee endorses LePage pick to run DEP

The Senate will vote today on confirming Patricia Aho and on Ann Robinson for a seat on the MPBN board.

By Rebekah Metzler rmetzler@mainetoday.com
MaineToday Media State House Writer

AUGUSTA -- Patricia Aho, the governor's nominee to be commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, won the unanimous endorsement of a legislative panel Monday.

Aho, a former State House lobbyist, has served in the DEP since Gov. Paul LePage took office in January. She was nominated by LePage after Darryl Brown was forced to step down as commissioner in April over an apparent conflict of interest.

"Ms. Aho appreciates the regulated community's desire for certainty and predictability in department activities and she also has a deep appreciation for Maine's environmental protection," said Carlisle McLean, a senior adviser to LePage, who presented Aho's nomination to the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

Ben Gilman of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce testified in support of Aho, who was a lobbyist with Pierce Atwood, a Portland law firm.

"She brought a balance that was needed to the department, looking at issues from the business perspective," he said.

Aho has represented various groups before the Legislature, including the American Chemistry Council, Casella Waste Systems and Verso Paper.

Steve Taylor of the Environmental Health Strategy Center testified neither for nor against Aho's nomination. He called Aho "professional, competent, honest, accessible and reasonable," even though he strongly disagreed with some positions of clients for which she worked as a lobbyist.

The committee voted 10-0 to endorse Aho, who would be the third woman in LePage's 15-member Cabinet.

Ann Robinson, another top State House lobbyist with ties to the LePage administration, won unanimous endorsement Monday to a four-year term on the Maine Public Broadcasting Corp. board of trustees.

Lawmakers on the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee voted 12-0 to endorse Robinson, who helped head LePage's transition team.

"I am a contributor," said Robinson, when asked by state Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, if she donates to MPBN.

Answering a question about funding for MPBN -- which LePage proposed eliminating from the state budget -- Robinson said, "In tough financial times, certainly every agency ... is going to be under scrutiny and going to have to justify its need for funding.

"I don't come at this with a particular agenda," said Robinson, who is a partner at Preti Flaherty, a Portland law firm.

The Senate is scheduled to vote today on both appointments, along with 89 others, during a special legislative session.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: rmetzler@mainetoday.com

 

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