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Friday, 16 November 2012 14:33

Maine Government Leaves Residents to Deal with Climate Change

The work of former Maine Gov. John Baldacci's administration to develop specific ways for the state to help cities and towns cope with climate change has been halted and results of the initial work removed from the state's website by the administration of Gov. Paul LePage.

"We made a conscious decision that [climate change] would take a back seat," Darryl Brown, LePage's first Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) commissioner, said in an interview last spring. The DEP, its staff reduced by attrition, halted work on the climate change report in early 2011.

Baldacci had sanctioned two studies to build a framework for state and local policies to cope with the effects of climate change. The first report, delivered to the Legislature in early 2010, recommended that state agencies and municipalities work together to figure out how climate change will affect local buildings, roads and other structures -- and how much it will all cost.

The second report, with more specific recommendations and cost estimates, was to constitute Maine's official climate change adaptation plan and be presented in January of this year.

Instead, Baldacci, a Democrat, ended his term in office that month and Republican LePage was sworn in. "We changed the focus dramatically," recalled Brown, who said the administration thought Maine's interests would be better served by making environmental regulations friendlier to business.

Instead of presenting an adaptation plan in January, the new DEP commissioner, Patricia Aho, gave the Legislature a two-page letter that referred to the 2010 report, saying, "The limited resources of all stakeholders should be targeted toward continued implementation [of the original report's recommendations] rather than further document development."

Aho acknowledged in an interview that the 2010 report was no longer on the DEP website.

Andy Whitman is a director at the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences and took part in the climate report. "The biggest loss is not so much that the 2010 report was permanently shelved," he said, "but that its reasonable way forward was discontinued."

Sam Merrill, director of the New England Environmental Finance Center, said towns and cities are struggling to do what they can. He added, "People are getting it because they're getting wet"

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