Part 3: Several northeastern states, including New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, have formed groups similar to Maine PowerOptions. Boston-based PowerOptions runs an organization nearly identical in mission to the Maine program, though far larger in scale — and with more transparency.
The Department of Environmental Protection will resume releasing data on oil rail shipments in Maine, reversing a five-month policy that kept the information out of the public eye.
Just last month, the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting filed a Freedom of Access Act request for the monthly data. The DEP, acting on the advice of the Attorney General’s office, decided that the oil data summaries were not covered by a new and controversial law that meant to make hazardous material rail shipments secret.
A 2015 law that ended the public’s right to know about hazardous freight on Maine railways sidestepped normal legislative processes, ignored federal policies and overcame a gubernatorial veto. Now even the law’s sponsor agrees it needs to be changed.
If the giant, ever-growing Irving corporations were to have a larger presence in Maine, what effects might there be on Mainers’ daily life? Our final story in this three-part series looks at the Irving companies’ growing domination of Aroostook County and Maine politics and the corporate giant’s potential effects in Maine’s marketplace, in the state’s political world and, possibly, in the news media.
“Expansion is the thing” was the motto of K.C. Irving, the twentieth-century tycoon who created the Irving family empire. An investigation by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting of the Irving-family domination of its New Brunswick homeland and of its growing economic and political influence in Maine suggests that this is still its motto — and that Maine is its expansion target.
Several books and a Canadian-government report have noted that the Irving family business’ power over the province of New Brunswick is probably unparalleled in the developed world. Our reporter, Lance Tapley, spent a number of days in the province, getting an unusual tour of the Irving refinery, and talking with both critics and supporters of Irving’s influence in the province.
Irving Oil has stopped and has no plan to resume shipping oil to its Canadian refinery via Maine rail lines. The decision was made earlier this year and confirmed recently in an email to the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting.
Gov. LePage and the legislature have found something to agree on: restoring the right of residents in rural Maine to have a say in the siting of wind turbines in their portion of the Unorganized Territories. The governor has signed a bill doing that after it was sent to him by the legislature.
A conflict over ethics between Gov. Paul LePage and a member of the state’s Public Utilities Commission has been settled in the short term, but threatens to produce more controversy over the long term.
A deal to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into construction of wind energy projects in Maine and across the Northeast has been approved by Maine’s utility regulators.
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