Friday, August 30, 2013

Speaking on Maine coast's past and present, Portland, Aug. 31

For those in Greater Portland, Maine, I'll be giving my talk on the past, present, and future of coastal Maine Saturday, Aug. 31, at the Maine Island Trails Association Small Boaters Conference. The talk is based on my New England bestseller, The Lobster Coast, and is free and open to the public.

My talk kicks off at 5 pm at the Portland Company complex, but earlier in the day there are presentations by historian Lincoln Paine, Harvard scientist John Edward Huth, open ocean kayaker Ken Fink, and former White House Chief Cartographer Rick Paulus. If you want to stay on afterward for MITA's 25th anniversary dinner, tickets are available for $30.

My next public talk in Maine is scheduled for November 3 in Cape Elizabeth, where I'll be talking American Nations.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Maine DEP misses two more dam licensing deadlines

Regular readers probably recall my recent five-part, three-day series on the Maine Department of Environmental Protection under former corporate lobbyist Patricia Aho. The Maine Sunday Telegram investigation led with a story about how the department came to miss a critical deadline related to the once-in-a-quarter-century federal re-licensing of the Flagstaff dam. By dropping the ball -- and, thus, removing Maine from the court of play -- Aho's DEP allowed the dam owner to make an easy layup, avoiding possible concessions on water levels.

Amazingly, the DEP has since missed two more such deadlines, waiving the state's authority in the licensing of four dams and two dikes in the St. Croix basin of Washington County. Details on the front page of today's Portland Press Herald (or, for readers in the state capital, page B5 of the Kennebec Journal.)

[Update: 9/2/2013: The Sun-Journal's Sept. 1 editorial on this subject takes Aho to task.]

Friday, August 16, 2013

An Interview with MaineHealth CEO Bill Caron

MaineHealth is the largest healthcare network in Maine, with 16,000 employees and nearly $2 billion in combined revenue. Maine is the oldest state in the country, which means network's like MaineHealth are particularly exposed to issues related to Medicare reimbursements.

In yesterday's Portland Press Herald, I interview the network's CEO, Bill Caron, about the issues facing MaineHealth and Maine health care generally, including the pressures that triggered this week's layoffs at Maine Medical Center, and the implications of the Affordable Care Act, which he describes as the "last shot" for the U.S. to avoid a single payer insurance model.

My reporting last touched on MaineHealth last month in connection with the coming, controversial closure of a member hospital, St. Andrews in Boothbay Harbor, and the simultaneous down-sizing of Miles Memorial Hospital in Damariscotta.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Reviewing "The Plantagenets" in the Washington Post

In the Washington Post this weekend, you'll find my review of Dan Jones' new book, The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England.'  

It's an excellent book on a compelling, if disturbed, set of subjects. Here's an excerpt from the review:

"Those depressed about the state of 21st-century American politics take solace: Governance really has advanced since the late Middle Ages, when any lout, psychopath or 10-year-old might wind up as your chief executive, triggering a family feud, uprising, civil war or, as often as not, a combination of the three. The Plantagenets’ dysfunction surpasses anything on reality television in that the actors lead armies against one another."


For those looking for more literary criticism, my most recent review for the Post was of Olympia Snowe's new memoir/call to action, Fighting for Common Ground, published in June, and before that of a boisterous, flawed attack on the late Christopher Hitchens.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Paper companies back Maine DEP plan to rescind smog rules

As reported earlier this week, the administration of Maine Gov. Paul LePage is seeking to rescind some key smog pollution rules currently abided by across the northeast. The measure is strongly opposed by environmentalists and, now, Democratic legislators and both of Mr. LePage's principle rivals in the upcoming gubernatorial election.

But as I report today, the measures are receiving strong support from Maine's pulp and paper industry, which say the rules have no environmental benefit and will cost them millions as they convert many of their mills from fuel oil to (cleaner) natural gas. Read about their case -- and the counter-arguments -- in today's Portland Press Herald.

The head of the state agency that is proposing the changes, environmental protection commissioner and former Pierce Atwood industrial lobbyist Patricia Aho, was the subject of my seven month, five-part investigative series published over three days in mid-June. It revealed how many policies and actions Aho has undertaken have benefited her former lobbying clients in the chemical, drug, oil, waste management, and real estate development industries.

As reported today, Pierce Atwood currently represents the Maine Pulp and Paper Association, and in the past Aho has been a registered lobbyist for the association and two of its member paper companies.