BANGOR, Maine — Independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler vowed to “rebuild” Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection and create a Maine Energy Finance Authority to provide capital for energy projects if elected in November.
“Imagine a different and better approach to governing,” Cutler said in his policy announcement. “Imagine a state where government’s decisions are made based on evidence, not ideology.”
The first of Cutler’s five-part environmental initiative was to “rebuild and strengthen” Maine’s DEP, “restoring its integrity and funding and providing the department with the staffing levels, competence, expertise and leadership that it needs to discharge its responsibilities,” according to policy documents.
Cutler called out DEP leadership when asked about what he saw as the organization’s main fault. He said Commissioner Patricia Aho, a former industrial lobbyist, should not have been appointed to lead the DEP. If elected, Cutler said he would appoint “highly qualified people” to run state agencies and would ensure they hold “loyalties to the public interest.”
A DEP spokeswoman referred comment to the office of Gov. Paul LePage, as Aho and other DEP officials were attending an awards ceremony Tuesday.
LePage campaign spokesman Brent Littlefield said Tuesday evening that, “It seems fairly consistent that Michaud and Cutler are more interested in attacking the woman leaders of the LePage administration than they are in solving problems.”
Littlefield pointed to a $900,000 penalty levied against Chevron Corp. in 2011 as remediation for oil that leaked into the Penobscot River during a 30-year period starting in the 1950s. It was the second largest environmental penalty in the state’s history, and evidence that LePage’s administration had taken a stand on environmental issues, Littlefield argued.
“Unlike Eliot Cutler and Mike Michaud, Gov. LePage has taken action,” Littlefield said.
Under Cutler, the DEP would increase protections of waterways through oversight of municipal water systems, and help cities and towns “coming to grips with the monumental financial challenges” of funding improvements to stormwater runoff and aging sewer systems, Cutler said.
Cutler also pledged to reduce carbon emissions produced by the transportation industry. He said the state would accomplish this in cooperation with other states in the region and Canadian provinces by implementing regional clean fuels standards, increasing the number of zero-emissions vehicles by 15 percent by 2025, and encouraging increased use of rail, buses, carpooling and bikes.
“ Climate change is real, and human activity is its chief cause,” Cutler said.
Cutler said he would “re-double” the state’s efforts to build renewable energy infrastructure, including onshore and offshore wind, biofuels, as well as geothermal, tidal and solar energy. He also wants to see the state continue to push for increased natural gas pipeline capacity.
Maine also would create an Energy Finance Authority under the Finance Authority of Maine “to provide low-cost capital for 21st-century energy projects that promise to make energy more affordable for citizens and businesses.”
Cutler vowed to “make government work better” and reform the regulatory process to promote private sector innovation and investment in energy. Cutler said that would include a study to examine long-term risks to Mainers presented by climate change. The state also would eliminate or change regulations that levy unnecessary costs or delays on energy investments.
Accompanying a news release rolling out Cutler’s policies was an editorial from Edmund Muskie Jr., son of the staunch environmental politician who pushed forward the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. The editorial was published in March in the Bangor Daily News.
Cutler worked as a legislative assistant to Muskie, helping the senator craft the Clean Air and Water acts, according to Muskie Jr.
“Examine the records of all the candidates for governor this year,” Muskie wrote. “Only one measures up to the leadership standards Dad set, and that’s Eliot Cutler.”
Gubernatorial candidate Rep. Mike Michaud’s camp countered Cutler’s news conference with its own statement Tuesday afternoon. The statement criticized LePage’s record with the environment and energy policy. Michaud’s Communications Director Lizzy Reinholt called Michaud “the only candidate in the race with the necessary experience and proven track record of bringing people together from all parties and backgrounds to implement common-sense policies that protect our environment and invest in clean, renewable energy.”
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