In his State of the State address last week, Gov. Paul LePage continued his attack on the tax-exempt status of Maine’s 75 private land trusts, claiming they take hundreds of millions of dollars of land value off the tax rolls.
The state committee charged with promoting transparency in government is asking lawmakers to overhaul a 2015 law that made secret information about the transportation of crude oil and other hazardous materials by railroad through Maine.
The legislature’s Right-to-Know Advisory Committee voted Wednesday to send a letter to the Judiciary Committee recommending that it reconsider the controversial law in order to ensure that the government is not keeping railroad data secret unnecessarily.
The Department of Environmental Protection will resume releasing data on oil rail shipments in Maine, reversing a five-month policy that kept the information out of the public eye.
Just last month, the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting filed a Freedom of Access Act request for the monthly data. The DEP, acting on the advice of the Attorney General’s office, decided that the oil data summaries were not covered by a new and controversial law that meant to make hazardous material rail shipments secret.
A 2015 law that ended the public’s right to know about hazardous freight on Maine railways sidestepped normal legislative processes, ignored federal policies and overcame a gubernatorial veto. Now even the law’s sponsor agrees it needs to be changed.
If the giant, ever-growing Irving corporations were to have a larger presence in Maine, what effects might there be on Mainers’ daily life? Our final story in this three-part series looks at the Irving companies’ growing domination of Aroostook County and Maine politics and the corporate giant’s potential effects in Maine’s marketplace, in the state’s political world and, possibly, in the news media.
“Expansion is the thing” was the motto of K.C. Irving, the twentieth-century tycoon who created the Irving family empire. An investigation by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting of the Irving-family domination of its New Brunswick homeland and of its growing economic and political influence in Maine suggests that this is still its motto — and that Maine is its expansion target.
Several books and a Canadian-government report have noted that the Irving family business’ power over the province of New Brunswick is probably unparalleled in the developed world. Our reporter, Lance Tapley, spent a number of days in the province, getting an unusual tour of the Irving refinery, and talking with both critics and supporters of Irving’s influence in the province.
Gov. LePage and the legislature have found something to agree on: restoring the right of residents in rural Maine to have a say in the siting of wind turbines in their portion of the Unorganized Territories. The governor has signed a bill doing that after it was sent to him by the legislature.
A Republican state senator among those leading the fight to pass legislation to benefit J.D. Irving’s proposal to develop an open-pit mine in the North Woods accepted a free private plane ride to Aroostook from Irving’s lobbyists and didn’t report it to the state ethics commission.
Sen. Thomas Saviello, R-Wilton, said he didn’t need to report the 2013 round-trip ride because its value was not over $300, the threshold for reporting gifts from lobbyists to the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, and because the purpose was fact-finding.
Irving lowers Rep. Martin’s bankruptcy debt by $150k and Martin pushes another Irving firm’s mining interests
An Irving family company agreed to reduce by $150,000 the debt a leading Democratic legislator owed to the company – the same legislator, Democratic Rep. John Martin, who has been pushing to loosen state environmental regulations so that another Irving company can mine Bald Mountain in northern Maine.