But the way the invitation is announced – and the response from the group’s executive director – highlights the chilly relations between the governor and Maine’s largest environmental group.
By Kevin Miller, Staff Writer
Portland Press Herald news story
Gov. Paul LePage has invited the head of the Natural Resources Council of Maine to meet with him to discuss how to create long-term jobs while protecting the environment – even as he again charged the group with pursuing “job-crushing, anti-business policies.”
Lisa Pohlmann, the council’s executive director, responded in kind by saying she was pleased the governor mentioned “Maine’s scenic beauty” in a letter but then accused LePage of harboring a “false notion that Maine needs to dismantle its environmental laws in order to enhance our economy.”
“It’s just not true,” Pohlmann said. “A strong economy, clean environment and healthy people go hand-in-hand – and Maine people know that. I’ll be glad to discuss with the governor why this is true.”
Wednesday’s back-and-forth between LePage and the leader of Maine’s largest environmental group came one week after the council accused LePage of harassing its members by sending letters to roughly 200 donors. In the May 27 letter, LePage wrote that “your financial support is costing rural Mainers good jobs and keeping them mired in poverty” and urged members to “carefully review NRCM’s policy positions before donating to them in the future.”
The governor used his weekly radio address Wednesday to reiterate his call for a more balanced approach to the economy that will create jobs while protecting the scenic beauty of Maine, which he called “the best in the nation.”
“However, we cannot keep saying ‘no’ to any economic activity that would allow rural Mainers to prosper. We cannot let them wallow in poverty with no way out,” LePage said.
“So I have written another letter to Ms. Pohlmann. I invited her to meet with me to discuss how we can work together to conserve our environment while allowing the economic development that will create good jobs for Mainers. I’m not talking about short-term jobs for workers to install a couple of solar panels on your neighbor’s roof at our expense. I’m talking about long-term, good-paying career jobs for Mainers that will lift them and their families out of poverty.”
But LePage also took another swipe at Pohlmann, who leads an organization that he has called one of the “biggest enemies of the state of Maine.” LePage said Pohlmann “decided to grandstand” in front of the media rather than come to him directly about the letter.
Pohlmann said she received LePage’s letter on Wednesday and indicated she was willing to meet with him, along with a contingent of people “who strongly believe that a clean environment is essential for a healthy Maine economy.”
“In January 2011, we invited the Governor to attend a roundtable on the environment and Maine’s economy, which he attended along with more than 500 people from throughout the state,” Pohlmann said.
“He came, he listened, he delivered a confrontational statement in response to the presentations, and then three days later released a radical 63-point environmental rollback agenda that would have weakened or eliminated nearly every one of Maine’s most important environmental laws.
Fortunately, the Governor’s proposals were roundly defeated through bipartisan votes at the State House.”
During a press conference last week, Pohlmann and several council donors accused LePage of attempting to harass or intimidate the group’s supporters as well as misusing public money.
“It appears the governor has taken the unprecedented step of directing public employees to hunt down the names and addresses of NRCM members so that he can send harassment letters to their homes,” Pohlmann said.
“This has got to stop. The governor should not be using Maine taxpayer money for his vendetta against NRCM.”
Pohlmann also called LePage “the most anti-environment governor in Maine history” during the June 2 press conference.
LePage has clashed with the council many times during the past 51/2 years, beginning with the regulatory reform and streamlining package that Pohlmann referred to as “environmental rollback agenda.”
More recently, LePage blames the council for helping lead the successful fight against a bill last year seeking to change state environmental regulations to allow mining under Bald Mountain in Aroostook County.
The council is also a vocal supporter of the North Woods national monument proposed by the family of Roxanne Quimby – which LePage vehemently opposes – and was heavily involved in debates over solar energy during the legislative session that just ended.
In his letter to Pohlmann, LePage took a more diplomatic tone as he steered clear of the criticisms of the natural resources council that were featured in his radio address, the text of which was released Wednesday.
“I invite you to meet with me to discuss how we can work together to conserve our environment while allowing the kind of responsible economic development that will create long-term, good-paying career jobs for Mainers,” LePage wrote. “Please let me know when you will be available to meet. Thank you.”