Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Maine: updates on paint recycling, climate adaptation, governor's "blackout"

A few updates on some of the stories I've been covering here in Maine:

Paint Recycling enacted: As I reported in today's Portland Press Herald, Gov. Paul LePage chose not to veto a bill creating a household paint recycling program here in Maine. His administration has opposed this and other so-called product stewardship programs in the past. (His spokesperson, Adrienne Bennett, told me a couple of hours ago -- well after the piece came out -- that the governor was satisfied with changes made to the original bill that helped ensure no toxic paint would escape into the environment.)

This piece of legislation -- which was backed by both industry and environmental groups -- featured in part three of my recent investigation of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Blackout against Press Herald lifted?: After said investigation appeared last month, Gov. Paul LePage's office declared that state officials would no longer speak to the Press Herald or its sister papers, the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. The move received unfavorable coverage across the country, from the Associated Press and Poynter Institute to WGBH's "Beat the Press" and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show.

It would appear the blackout has ended. While reporting the paint story, I received prompt, live, and forthcoming attention from the DEP. I also ultimately (although past deadline) received a response from Bennett herself, who has previously said she was the one who instituted the ban. Gov. LePage has also recently answered questions from our State House bureau chief at a live press event and the Department of Education has tweeted that it has never stopped speaking to us.

Climate adaptation bill killed: While we're talking about the DEP, one update on my March story on the death of Maine's climate adaptation strategy. This session, the state legislature passed a bill that would have compelled the DEP to re-start work on the strategy, but as the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting noted last week, it was vetoed by LePage and the legislature was unable to over-ride.

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