Gov.-elect Janet Mills continued to assemble her Cabinet on Tuesday by nominating a fellow attorney to lead the Department of Environmental Protection.

Mills, who will be inaugurated Wednesday, announced her selection of Jerry Reid as the next DEP commissioner. Reid is currently chief of the natural resources division in the Maine Attorney General’s Office, where he has two decades of experience, including 11 years as chief.

“The Department of Environmental Protection plays a crucial role in safeguarding the air we breathe, the water we drink, and our many other valuable natural resources,” Mills said in a written statement. “Jerry has worked tirelessly for decades to protect our environment and natural resources through his work in the Attorney General’s Office, and I know firsthand from my experience working closely with him that he has the talent and ability to lead this important agency. I look forward to continuing to work with him in the years to come.”

ADVOCATE: ‘GOOD NEWS FOR MAINE’

The nomination, which will be considered by the Legislature’s Environmental and Natural Resources Committee and the Maine Senate, was applauded by at least two environmental advocacy groups.

Pete Didisheim, advocacy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, called Reid an “outstanding choice,” highlighting his experience in environmental law and as a public servant.

“Through his years of public service in the AG’s office, Jerry has earned the trust and confidence of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, professional staff across state government, and leaders from businesses, municipalities and conservation organizations,” Didisheim said. “Without question, Jerry Reid is one of Maine’s top experts about the policies and protections for Maine’s clean air, clean water and natural resources. With this nomination, Governor-elect Mills had added another very talented professional to her team, and that’s good news for Maine.”

Maureen Drouin, executive director of Maine Conservation Voters, also praised the choice of Reid because of his “depth of knowledge and experience.” She said Reid’s selection shows “that the Mills administration is serious about tackling climate change, protecting human health, and ensuring our air, land and waters are protected.”

The DEP has been without a permanent commissioner since Nov. 9, when Paul Mercer stepped down from the post he had held since January 2016.

Mercer is an engineer who specialized in energy and waste issues in the private sector, as well as a former professor and administrator at Maine Maritime Academy. He was the third DEP commissioner during Gov. Paul LePage’s nearly eight years in office and took over leadership of the agency after the tumultuous four-year term of predecessor Patricia Aho.

Deputy Commissioner Melanie Loyzim has been acting commissioner since Mercer stepped down.

If confirmed, Reid will be taking over the DEP at a busy time. In addition to several major rulemaking processes and petitions, the DEP is gearing up to begin its review of Central Maine Power Co.’s controversial proposal for a 145-mile, high-voltage transmission line through Maine to allow HydroQuebec to supply electricity to Massachusetts.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission is not expected to rule on a crucial permit for the CMP power line project until March.

WIDE ARRAY OF SPECIALTIES

In the natural resources division of the AG’s Office, Reid specialized in matters related to the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, hydroelectric licensing, land use law and environmental litigation.

In recent years, Reid testified in 2016 against a LePage-sponsored bill aimed at preventing 87,500 acres of land owned by Roxanne Quimby in northern Maine from being designated a national monument. A legislative committee voted against the bill after Reid warned that it would not likely withstand a legal challenge because it would restrict the conveyance of property.

Reid also led the Office of Attorney General’s fight to maintain state ownership and control over the Penobscot River. In June 2017, Mills was confronted by a group of protesters, including members of the Penobscot Nation, at Portland City Hall over her position on water rights for indigenous people.

Reid, a 49-year-old Harpswell resident and Wesleyan University graduate, began working for the Attorney General’s Office in 1994 after graduating from the University of Maine School of Law. He lives in Harpswell with his wife and three daughters.

If confirmed, Reid would lead the DEP’s efforts to protect and restore Maine’s natural resources and enforce the state’s environmental laws.

“I’m honored to be Governor-elect Mills’ selection to lead the Department of Environmental Protection,” Reid said Tuesday in a written statement. “I have been privileged to work on some of the most important environmental and natural resources issues facing Maine in the Attorney General’s Office, and I’m excited by the opportunity to continue that work in a new role.”

 

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