Sean Mahoney, the Maine advocacy center director for the regional , told SolveClimate News that LePage is also seeking to dismantle statutory and regulatory changes that provide incentives for renewable energy projects. The move could hinder Maine's wind power development goals of hosting between 2,000 and 3,000 megawatts of turbines by 2020, he said.
Renewables, mainly hydroelectric power, account for about 50 percent of Maine's electricity mix.
The proposals also suggest plans to significantly cut back bonds approved for the state-funded (LMF) Program, an office that helped to conserve more than a million acres of land. The program has implemented nearly 200 projects to protect mountain summits, salt marshes and coastal shorelines, as well as provide public access to the outdoors for hunting, fishing and camping.
LMF is also charged with protecting the North Woods, a 3.5-million acre forest in northwestern Maine that could open up for development under the governor's plan, which also calls for a rollback on regulations calling for smart planning to prevent urban sprawl.
Overdevelopment, Mahoney said, would eliminate part of the state's enormous forest carbon sink, a natural reservoir that sequesters carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and thus reduces greenhouse gas levels.
"We plan to work to first try and educate and the governor on why some of the proposals that he has made are wrong-footed, but if he would continue to pursue them, we will most likely be opposing those efforts," he said.
The list goes on and on, conservationists lament.
LePage's proposals would abolish the , a citizen board created by the legislature to enforce regulations and swapping Maine's environmental laws on air-emissions removal with less stringent federal standards.
The plan would also open up 30 percent — or three million acres — of Maine's unorganized land to development while overhauling regulations of the Department of Environmental Protection and the Land Use Regulation Commission.
Other suggestions include eliminating Maine's electronic waste recycling program, the first of its kind in the nation, and reversing the planned phase-out of (BPA) in children's products, such as baby bottles and cups. The proposals would lift a ban on using toxic flame retardants in furniture and would no longer require hospitals to grind used syringes before throwing them out, a measure meant to keep the devices from washing up in the state’s fishing and recreational waters.
'False Conflict' Between Environment and Economy
A coalition of 24 Maine environmental groups argue that protecting the state's landscapes and offshore waters is more economically sound than opening it to what they call rampant development.
They say that most of the environmental laws passed with overwhelming support from both Republican and Democrat legislators, signaling a statewide interest in conversation and environmental protection.
"A dirty environment is no way to bring new jobs to Maine," Maureen Drouin, executive director of the , told SolveClimate News.
She noted that the state's forest-based manufacturing, tourism and recreation bring $6.5 billion to Maine’s economy each year, while wildlife-related recreation contributes $1.5 billion and Maine's well-renowned lobster and clam industries bring $1 billion each year. Representatives from these industries spoke out at with more than 500 attendants to link the state economy to strong environmental regulations in a final effort to reach out to LePage before he issued the proposals.
Mahoney said: "[LePage] is trying to roll back four decades of environmental statutes and regulations that have allowed Maine to maintain its unique set of natural resources, as well as make use of them economically."