Sunday, September 27, 2015

Federal drug take back rule change curtails Maine data collection, cost saving

Yesterday's national drug Take Back day, sponsored by the US Drug Enforcement Agency, operated under new rules finalized last year, and the changes prohibited some of the public policy benefits of the program.

Back in early 2013, I reported on proposed state and federal rule changes that critics argued would reduce the environmental, cost saving, and drug abuse prevention benefits of Take Back programs in Maine. The federal changes would effectively prohibit longstanding data collection programs by pharmacy researchers that have saved the state's Medicaid program money by reducing the over-prescribing of oft-wasted drugs. The state changes would have allowed incineration of collected drugs at municipal -- rather than hazardous waste -- incinerators.

As I reported in yesterday's Portland Press Herald, both types of rule changes have since been implemented. Details therein.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Talking American Nations and the 2016 election at Colby College, Sept 22

If you live in Central Maine and have an interest in American regionalism, I'll be speaking about American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America and the 2016 election in Waterville this coming week.

The lecture, hosted by Colby College's Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement, takes place on September 22nd at 7pm on the first floor of Diamond Hall. It's free and open to the public.

Find more details here. Do come and say hello.

My next American Nations speaking event thereafter is at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, October 6th. My next public Maine speaking appearance is on Ocean's End and the environmental crisis in the oceans at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland, November 19. More details to come here at World Wide Woodard.

[Update, 9/24/15: Thanks to all who came and filled the house for the talk, and to Colby-Goldfarb for having me.]

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Gov. LePage, upset with EPA, threatens to give them his powers

Gov. Paul LePage, upset with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's position regarding water quality standards around the Penobscot Nation's reservation and other locations in the state, has issued a threat: he'll give up his administration's powers under the Clean Water Act to them.

If it sounds nonsensical, you're in good company, though an attorney for the effected industries says the loss of Maine's delegated water quality programs under the Clean Water Act wouldn't make much difference.

My story in Friday's Portland Press Herald lays it all out, including reaction from all of Maine's members of Congress, who LePage wrote, pleading for help against the agency. The story includes links back to previous coverage of the governor's heated dispute with both the EPA and the Penobscots.

Monday, September 7, 2015

On Penobscot Bay, contamination fears surround port dredging plan

Searsport, Maine's second busiest port, is overdue for maintenance and, its advocates argue, an upgrade, allowing larger vessels to reach the dock, and moderate-sized ones to not have to wait for high tide to enter or leave. But an Army Corps of Engineers plan to do both those things is running into stuff opposition from a wide range of interests on the shores of Penobscot Bay because of how the federal agency has proposed to dispose of the nearly million square yards of dredge spoils that will be produced.

My story in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram explores the issue, focusing on expert assessments of what to do with mercury-contaminated spoils (which the Corps intends to dump in western Penobscot Bay, in conical bottom pockmarks one former Maine State Geologist says are methane vents.) An excerpt:

“If you sat down and tried to find a way to guarantee you would contaminate the entire food web with methyl mercury, they’ve come up with it,” says Kim Ervin Tucker, the Lincolnville attorney representing many of the opponents, including local lobstermen, businesspeople and the Sierra Club. “You can accomplish the project’s goals in a smarter, cheaper way that doesn’t put existing lobstering and tourism and other industries at risk.”
Last week, concerns over mercury contamination in the bay were heightened when a federal judge ordered the owners of the primary culprit, the former HoltraChem plant 20 miles up the Penobscot River, to pay for studies on how to clean up mercury contaminated river bed and estuary areas.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is currently considering whether to grant the project required permits. The head of that department, Patricia Aho, left office Friday, replaced for now by another former Pierce Atwood industrial lobbyist, Avery Day.

[Update, 1920 EST: The Corps, having apparently read this story, withdrew their application today.]