August 1, 2013

Easing of Maine smog rules backed by paper mills

Their lobbyist agrees with a Maine DEP proposal, saying the law has no 'environmental justification.'

By Colin Woodard cwoodard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Today's poll: Smog rules

Should the DEP ease air pollution standards to help Maine’s pulp and paper industry?

Yes

No

View Results

click image to enlarge

The Sappi paper mill in Westbrook on Monday, July 29, 2013. Maine's pulp and paper industry is strongly supporting a proposal by the LePage administration to reduce certain anti-smog regulations affecting new and newly refitted industrial plants.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Gov. Paul LePage

Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer

"My administration will continue to both protect our environment and grow our economy," LePage wrote.

LePage's DEP commissioner, Patricia Aho, was a lobbyist for Pierce Atwood until she joined the administration in early 2011. She represented the pulp and paper association in 2006 and 2008, Sappi Fine Paper in 2006, and Verso Paper in 2008 and 2009, according to state disclosures.

Critics say the changes would endanger Maine by undermining a 13-state regional agreement that has reduced pollution in upwind states that otherwise would be falling on Maine.

The Ozone Transport Region was created by Congress in 1990 as part of a set of key revisions to the Clean Air Act. Maine agreed to tougher pollution standards within the state in an informal deal to get the densely populated upwind states responsible for much of our smog to do the same.

"The possible withdrawal by Maine from the regulations should not be taken lightly," said Dallas Burtraw, a national expert on incentive-based environmental protection at Resources for the Future, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C. "Withdrawal may give some economic advantages to some businesses in Maine, but the coalition among the states is delicate and, going forward, is balancing a lot of trade-offs between environmental costs and economic advantage.

"This is a short-run decision, but the relationship that exists among the states in the coalition is meant to be a long one," Burtraw said, adding that the effort has reduced costs while improving the environment.

 

Colin Woodard can be contacted at 791-6317 or at:

cwoodard@pressherald.com

 

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Today's poll: Smog rules

Should the DEP ease air pollution standards to help Maine’s pulp and paper industry?

Yes

No

View Results