Rep. Diane Russell’s April 20 OpEd, “How the Koch brothers’ greenback influences green jobs, clean energy debate,” perfectly captures how the Kochs and other groups use Suffolk University’s Beacon Hill Institute in Boston to advance their priorities.
As an alumna of Suffolk, BHI’s influence on policies in Maine and other states concerned me, which is why I started a campaign to get the university to stop taking Koch money.
Between 2008-2011, the Charles G. Koch Charitable Trust Foundation gave Suffolk University more than $700,000, the vast majority of which went to BHI. While the university has pledged to release more information about these grant agreements, they have yet to do so.
Still, we already know from documents exposed by The Guardian last year that big money has an influence on BHI’s supposedly nonpartisan research. Case in point: BHI’s request to the conservative Searle Foundation for grant money to fund a study on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative explicitly stated, “Success will take the form of media recognition, dissemination to stakeholders, and legislative activity that will pare back or repeal RGGI.”
In other words, BHI told Searle that its study would discredit a program designed to mitigate climate change and advance renewable energy before they even conducted it!
Koch and other big funders’ money comes with strings attached, and the only way to prevent that is to cut ties altogether. I hope that Suffolk and the dozens of universities that take significant money from them will eventually come around to that reality.
The company I work for, Sargent Corporation has been in business since 1926. We’ve seen a lot of companies, industries and ideas leave Maine. We have observed one particular thing over and over that has caused companies and developers to seek other states: unpredictable and politicized regulatory decisions.
One of the newest industries that has greatly benefited Maine’s economy is the development of emission-free, clean-energy projects in our wind-rich areas of the state. Sargent Corporation is among the many go-to companies chosen to help move these wind farms from the drawing board to reality. We work alongside many other Maine companies in both the design and construction phase of these developments. We have heard from many small businesses we partner with; they tell us that without this work they would have been forced to lay people off as our state economy continues to lag.
Unfortunately, in recent months politics has begun to find its way into regulatory decisions about clean energy development. Well-sited and community supported projects like the Bowers Mountain wind project have become entangled in political gamesmanship usually found inside the Washington beltway. It is clear to us that other companies are watching how the law is applied and the ultimate outcomes of these types of commercial developments.
We certainly hope to be able to put many Mainers to work in the coming months, but we can’t do it unless regulatory decisions are based on the facts and not supposition or political rhetoric.
Struggling for health care
I was saddened after reading an article in the April 21 printing of The Maine Campus about a 21-year-old University of Maine student who is struggling to purchase health care coverage. She is a full-time student who works part time, but doesn’t earn enough to qualify for subsidies through the health care exchange because Maine has yet to accept the federal funds to provide nearly 70,000 low-income Mainers access to health care coverage.
In an effort to reach across party lines, a bill was amended and passed late Thursday that would accept the federal funds and use them to purchase private insurance through the exchange for Mainers who earn less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level. This amendment was modeled after a bill that was passed in New Hampshire last month, and I hope it will have support from both parties here in Maine.
Hard-working, low-income Mainers, including students, need access to health care coverage that could help save their lives. Broadening access to health care coverage would allow them to see a doctor regularly and access preventive services such as pap tests and tobacco cessation aids, also reducing unnecessary emergency room visits. I encourage Maine lawmakers to vote for LD 1578 in the event of a governor’s veto. The lives of nearly 70,000 Mainers are too important to leave on the table.
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network volunteer
We recently attended a presentation at the Bangor Public Library for a new national park and recreation area in northern Maine. Sponsored by the Natural Resources Council of Maine, it was delivered by Lucas St. Clair, who demonstrated genuine passion for the project as well as for the economic interests of the people of the region. Independent analysts have found the area to be in keeping with the grandeur of other national park units.
As Maine natives for over six decades, we have seen once easily accessible areas enjoyed by generations of families suddenly and irrevocably become off-limits. Several formerly publicly used lands, trails, beaches, roads, ponds, areas of oceanfront and lake shoreline have fallen to “Private – Keep Out” warnings. Even now – in our courts – the debate goes on regarding whether portions of Maine’s oceanfront beaches will remain accessible to the general public. This was not the case when we were young, and it makes our hearts heavy for future generations of Maine people. What will be left of the natural world for the average Maine citizen to enjoy?
It has been shown that national parks generally benefit the regions in which they are located. Historically some folks have opposed those parks and later – after the parks were created – changed their opinions. As Acadia National Park benefits the Bar Harbor region and coastal Maine, we should welcome this extraordinary opportunity for the people of northern Maine and for the benefit of all Mainers and visitors alike.
Michael and Wanda Curtis