The same week the Portland Press Herald, the Kennebec Journal, and the Morning Sentinel published an in-depth analysis of the administration’s work to undermine environmental protections, a spokeswoman told them they would no longer respond to requests, even for public documents, because the newspaper’s parent company “made it clear that it opposed this administration.”
The papers conducted an extensive investigation into a former corporate lobbyist appointed by LePage to be commissioner of Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). What they found was that Patricia Aho has fought environmental laws and enforcement since her appointment in 2011. The positions she has taken include blocking implementation of a 2008 law to protect youth from dangerous chemicals, reducing enforcement on land developers, rolling back recycling programs, and purging information from the Department’s website. Each of these efforts benefit her former clients in the chemical, drug, oil, and real estate industries.
In one article, the Press Herald describes a DEP with significant limitations placed on staff. Colin Woodard quotes a former director saying, “There was an immediate gag order put on staff and on staff’s ability to freely interact with the public and talk about environmental concerns or to make requirements of people.” The DEP has eliminated tens of thousands of pages from its website, including the official state climate change report.
Certain tactics carry over into other areas of LePage’s administration, considering its new policy to limit staff interaction with journalists doing their jobs. LePage himself has fought against increased wind energy targets, while touting conspiracies like the wind industry faking it with electric motors to pretend “wind power works.”
LePage has also threatened to veto an energy bill that increases energy efficiency and renewable energy targets.