LePage to environment: kiss my butt!

Posted on February 14, 2011 in Our Opinion, Perspectives
By USM Free Press

Republican ascendancy has already recalled a nice Chris Rock routine — good relationships may be boring, but then the only exciting relationships are bad ones. You never know what’s going to come up any given day in a bad relationship – “hey, you gave me crabs!”

Or, “hey, let’s redefine ‘rape.’”

All right, that’s not exactly fair — sort of as an afterthought, a new bill seeking to codify existing limits on federal subsidies for abortion just happened to change the relatively non-controversial rape provisions (which protects victims from having to bear their rapist’s children) to, instead, “forcible rape” provisions. To which a nation said — wait, what other rape is there?

In all likelihood, those GOPers had an eye toward excluding or reinterpreting the way federal subsidies would apply in cases of statutory rape, where an adult engages in sex with a teenage minor, without any violence or coercion involved.

We’ll leave the merits of that point to another day. Perhaps then we’ll note the unnecessary burden this kind of hair-splitting would place on, you know, impregnated rape victims. But there’s illogic at work here that even conservative Republicans could appreciate: really, you’re leading this?

Thus, the House of Representatives GOP got its real inauguration, the one where a reemerging party steps right back into old, treacherous narratives (and then recants after the damage is done — they restored the unqualified “rape” late last month).

Here in Maine, just as this was going down, I have a feeling our own Governor LePage was a bit more prepared when he invited his first policy-related firestorm; you don’t introduce a massive, pro-business overhaul of your recently-blue state’s environmental regulations without having a good fight in you.

LePage sold himself as a businessman throughout the 2010 campaign, and one of his favorite laugh-lines at rallies involved being told by the state that in order for one of his clients to develop on a particular swath of land, they would have to conduct a great “black fly census.” The EPA denies it, but he’s sticking to his story.

And that appears to be the theme of his new environmental policy — stop annoying business!

The new reforms call for, among other things:

  • Re-zoning at least 3 million acres of protected wilderness for business development.
  • Rolling back the Informed Growth Act, whereby projects that would develop on more than 75,000 square feet must first be subject to a comprehensive community impact study.
  • Undoing state regulations on the use of bisphenol A in children’s toys and accessories. The chemical is linked to cancer and other health problems, but LePage would like Maine’s restrictions on its usage to be no more strenuous than the federal government’s.
  • No longer requiring businesses to fund the recycling of their product’s plastic containers.
  • Subjecting all future environmental regulations to cost/benefit analysis, with more emphasis on the impact they might have on a business’ bottom line.

And so forth. It’s been like a shot of adrenaline for our local environmental organizations, which you can forget exist in times when they have a standing brunch invitation with the Blaine House. With Republicans also controlling the legislature now, they have their work cut out for them. At least there’s got to be some traction to be had in convincing citizens that, contrary to what LePage suggests, environmental regulations are designed to be somewhat burdensome; they exist to reign in potentially destructive behavior that could be quite profitable to individual firms.

Perhaps the governor sees his time at the top as a big negotiation, and this was a bold move from which to compromise. But it’s hard to shake the feeling that this is just the beginning of one man’s long, very noisy, single term.