June 23, 2013

Letters to the editor: Aho industry's advocate, not ours

With increasing outrage, we have been reading Colin Woodard's hard-hitting series "The Lobbyist in the Henhouse" (June 16-18).

click image to enlarge

With Patricia Aho, above, at the helm, the DEP has promoted the agenda of corporations rather than the need to maintain a healthy environment, readers say.

2013 Telegram File Photo/Carl D. Walsh

We are appalled (but not surprised) that Gov. Paul LePage and his henchmen are emasculating the Department of Environmental Protection and other state agencies that were established to protect the people and the environment of Maine.

It is disgraceful and an affront to the people of Maine that LePage has appointed former lobbyist Patricia Aho to lead the DEP, where she shamelessly promotes the agendas of her former clients, who are being given a "blind eye" to degrade the environment the DEP is supposed to protect. The financial interests of her former clients are being favored over the health, safety and well-being of today's Mainers and future generations.

Thirty-one states and the federal government have "revolving door" laws that prohibit former legislators from becoming lobbyists for a period of time. Maine does not.

We should have a "revolving door" law that goes both ways. It should prohibit state legislators and executives of state agencies from becoming lobbyists for two years, and it should prohibit lobbyists from becoming executives of state agencies for two years.

If we had such a law, Patricia Aho could not have been appointed to head the DEP; and she would not have been able to promote the agendas of the corporations for whom she lobbied for so many years.

Hugh Maynard and Faith Woodman

Bath

Regarding "The Lobbyist in the Henhouse" special report published June 16: It was wonderfully done and shocking all at the same time.

I was very impressed at the full and detailed coverage of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection under the leadership (and I use that term lightly) of Gov. Paul LePage and DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho.

And I was appalled at the deceptive ways that the Maine DEP is getting taken completely off course from its mission.

The seven-month investigation provided the public with a chance to find out the unconscionable activities that have been going on since Aho became commissioner.

Doesn't the acronym DEP stand for "Department of Environmental Protection"? Where's the protection of the environment under Aho?

For anyone who was not informed by this report, the top four things that really upset me were:

Not allowing the additional chemicals to be added to the Kid-Safe Products Act.

Not citing industry for violations, cutting that number almost in half cited during prior administrations.

Delaying the paperwork (intentionally, it appears) to change the water levels of the Long Fall Dam drainage.

Purging key information from the DEP website so the public and others will not see what horrors are going on.

If you did not read the expose, you may ask why these things were done. The answer is simple: Prior to being commissioner of the DEP, Patricia Aho was a lobbyist and her clients were the very companies that will profit from her current actions.

And this is in the name of Gov. LePage making Maine a business-friendly state. If Maine needs to roll back our environmental protections to be business-friendly, then I for one don't want it.

Go to the paper's website and read this professionally done special report if you missed it. It will be worth your time.

Marjorie DeSanctis

Scarborough

Thank you for the investigative report on Patricia Aho and the Department of Environmental Protection.

This is the kind of local reporting you cannot and will not get from any source other than a committed local newspaper. We are very lucky to have that kind of commitment here in Portland.

Janice Bailey

Portland

I want to share two feelings.

1. Gratitude to the Portland Press Herald for hiring Colin Woodard and giving him the backup to pursue the strong investigative reporting at which he excels.

He represents the best sort of journalism by interviewing a wide circle of informants and digging into the background facts before presenting a well-documented story to the public.

We cannot have good government unless it is open to thoughtful public scrutiny. I have missed the old Maine Times and Phyllis Austin's probing reporting. I am so happy that you have brought Colin Woodard on staff. Thank you.

2. Disgust at the corruption revealed in Colin Woodard's recent articles, the "Lobbyist in the Henhouse" series on the Department of Environmental Protection.

The people of this state depend on the DEP to do what its title describes -- protect our environment, not advocate for the commercial interests of those who do harm to our children and our environment. I am disgusted by the current DEP commissioner's betrayal of her hardworking and committed staff members who carry the day-to-day load of seeing our environmental laws enforced.

I regret that so many qualified folks have left their important jobs and sympathize with those who carry on despite Patricia Aho's hostile leadership. Aho needs to resign. Maine deserves better.

Chris McDuffie

North Yarmouth

I would first like to thank the Press Herald for doing a remarkable job in providing a lot of insight into operations at the Department of Environmental Protection ("Efforts to reduce risks to kids run into a powerful foe," June 17).

Looks like the LePage administration is -- once again -- more interested in supporting business, including dangerous business they know nothing about, than in serving the people of Maine in an ethical and moral manner.

The DEP is the Department of Environmental Protection, not the Department of Let's Ignore Scientific Evidence, although one would be hard pressed to tell that to Commissioner Patricia Aho.

Aho does not seem to have the scientific background or the wherewithal required to oversee this department.

Furthermore, it is a conflict of interest to be commissioner of a government agency while having lobbied for the very companies that agency is supposed to be regulating. (Didn't we already cover this when Bruce Poliquin was state treasurer?)

The DEP is supposed to provide the framework and set the guidelines for what products chemical manufacturers may make and/or sell and whatproducts they may not make and/or sell. It is not supposed to turn a blind eye to actual, real issues with actual, real scientific evidence to back up those issues.

Perhaps someone with a bit more education in the physical, biological and environmental sciences would have been a better choice for DEP commissioner than a former special interest lobbyist.

Protecting the environment and the people of the state of Maine is the No. 1 priority of the DEP. Aho seems more interested in helping her former business pals.

Tanya Kelly-Strobel

Yarmouth

It is with dismay and sadness that I learned of some of the omissions and actions of Patricia Aho and, by extension, Gov. Paul LePage in the "un"protection of our environment and the treatment of experienced state employees.

Where will this kind of abuse end? An environmentally depleted state, more disheartened and discouraged scientists and other Department of Environmental Protection staff are likely consequences.

More importantly, what can we do about it? Are impeachment or arrest for dereliction of duty and lack of enforcement of Maine laws possibilities? Can a knowledgeable person track any flow of funds from former or current clients into the pockets of those now in power?

We have almost two years left of what some might call this "reign of terror" or neglect/corruption of state laws and processes. Are we helpless against what some may characterize as arrogance and lack of accountability?

Keep up the good work in letting us know how bad things are in state government and the danger it poses to all of us in Maine.

Cindy Frost

Alfred

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