DEP chief Patricia Aho is all too willing to tip the scale in favor of industries that pollute.
by Jeannine Diddle Uzzi
I was dismayed to read in the Aug. 11 Maine Sunday Telegram a column by Patricia Aho, Maine Department of Environmental Protection commissioner, defending smog waivers for businesses like Sappi of Westbrook (“Maine Voices: Smog-rule waiver plan getting bum rap”).
In her column she indicates that Maine must find a way to “balance” the interests of business with the protection of its natural resources. Her argument is similar to arguments made by proponents of the Portland Pipe Line Corp.’s plan to transport and process tar sands oil in South Portland.
In each case it is clear that while 100 percent of the potential benefits of the proposals would go to corporations, the entire community of southern Maine — Casco Bay and its residents — shares the attendant risks.
Companies that profit from these proposals may add jobs, but they may not; they may generate more tax revenue, but they may not. In neither proposal is there any reasonable guarantee that the people of southern Maine would benefit from them financially or otherwise.
In fact, the Portland Pipe Line Corp.’s argument has focused not on bringing jobs to Maine but rather on its own revenue. Using the rhetoric of compromise and balance, proponents of smog waivers and the tar sands plant imply that the financial gain of corporations ought to be valued equally with the health of southern Maine and its residents.
This argument is specious at best: Not all competing claims are created equal. The detrimental environmental impacts of smog and tar sands oil are certain and long-term, the benefits of these proposals far from clear or compelling for the majority of Mainers; and an oil spill would devastate southern Maine’s natural resources and economy.
Where smog and tar sands oil are concerned, the health of our air, water, environment and lungs are not interests to be “balanced” with a corporation’s bottom line.
Jeannine Diddle Uzzi is a resident of Scarborough.