Maine Department of Environmental Protection Says Record, Not MCV Report Reflects Real Environmental Results

October 1, 2012

CONTACT:
Samantha DePoy-Warren, Maine DEP Director of Communications & Education samantha.depoy-warren@maine.gov/ (207) 287-5842

AUGUSTA – An environmental scorecard of the LePage Administration released today by a partisan group misrepresents the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s continued commitment to protecting the state’s air, land and water.

While the Maine Conservation Voters’ report card attempting to school the Administration on its environmental performance accurately acknowledged that DEP under LePage’s leadership has issued the state’s largest environmental penalty in two decades, has made its permitting process more efficient and has taken a much-needed, more comprehensive, coordinated approach to waste management than its predecessors, it ignored dozens of other agency accomplishments in favor of distorting often outdated details about the department’s delivery of its programs.

Perhaps most misleading was MCV’s maligning of DEP’s implementation of the ban on BPA in reusable food and beverage containers and other Safer Chemicals related regulations and reporting requirements. The department has been lauded by the state’s leading nonprofit voice on environmental health for consistently and firmly fulfilling both the spirit and letter of the law, has seven enforcement cases underway to bring companies into compliance and is currently participating in a transparent rulemaking regarding a potential expansion of the BPA ban.

The report also alleged DEP has failed to issue new standards on coastal discharges of nitrogen pollution, though by department staff’s own admission, an overly optimistic timeline was established for criteria development, which is so complex it has yet to be achieved by any other state in the nation. DEP scientists have requested more time for the development of criteria to ensure they are thoughtful and based on sound-science and Commissioner Patricia Aho honored that ask.

MCV’s claim DEP intentionally allowed a deadline for regulating water levels on Flagstaff Lake to pass doesn’t hold water as the agency actually advocated to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that lake levels to be established by that federal body be based on the department’s historical analysis of balancing uses, including those that provide for and enhance existing habitat and recreational opportunities, such as flat and white water boating.

Attacks on the department’s product stewardship programs were also baseless, as DEP has devoted substantial resources in the past two years to better ensuring these programs are effective at keeping mercury out of the environment, including the development of an online portal (http://www.maine.gov/dep/helpmerecycle) that helps Mainers to find convenient locations to recycle products containing mercury, including electronic waste. That tool and others for materials management including safe household sharps disposal resources were the focus of a DEP press conference with Governor LePage earlier this month and the agency’s booth last month at the Common Ground Fair and later this week at the Maine Municipal Association’s annual conference.

“This report deserves a ‘D’ for being downright deceptive and divisive,” said DEP Communications Director Samantha DePoy-Warren. “The inability for opponents of the Administration to move beyond agenda-driven rhetoric and actually recognize the reality of our environmental record is a disservice to the LePage Administration and the 400 employees at the DEP who are carrying out meaningful work each day to steward our natural resources and ensure a sustainable economy. The politicization of Maine’s environment must stop; it is too important a resource and we must all lend our hands to its pragmatic protection rather than pointing fingers.”

DEP provided more than six, single-spaced pages overviewing its successes since January of 2011 to the MCV this summer to inform what the agency hoped would be an accurate assessment of its environmental commitment.

Among those accomplishments absent from the report card include the department’s expanded commitment to transparency and inclusiveness in all public processes, including a new requirement there be two public meetings for all wind power projects; the relaunch of the Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence (cancelled in 2005); closure of more than 100 long-term remediation sites; the launch of a Sustainability Unit to implement a comprehensive, coordinated approach to materials management; and technical assistance and millions of dollars in loans to communities for wastewater treatment plant upgrades and the creation of community drinking water districts to ensure water quality and enhance energy efficiency.

That’s in addition to the annual core work of the agency, including responding to 3,000 oil/hazmat spills; issuing more than 4,000 licenses and permits that are fully in keeping with state and federal standards for air, land and water protections; and training thousands of our partners in protection from earth-moving contractors to treatment plant operators to landlords in the best practices that safeguard our air, land and water.

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