Environment

Recent Stories

State to reconsider hiding oil train data

A state committee is asking lawmakers to overhaul a 2015 law that restricted the release of information about transports of crude oil through Maine.

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. Continue Reading →

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EPA targeting Lewiston-Auburn to reduce risk to children from improper lead paint removal

The dilapidated condition of Lewiston and Auburn's housing has contributed to a childhood lead poisoning rate that's stubbornly high.

Starting next month, the federal Environmental Protection Agency is going after contractors in the Lewiston-Auburn area who are failing to follow the law that requires them to remove lead paint safely.
Improper removal of lead paint during renovation is one of the ways lead can poison adults and children. Between 2009 and 2014, there were 467 Maine children identified as lead poisoned and 97 of those children were from the Lewiston-Auburn area, where the lead paint problem is the most severe in the state. Continue Reading →

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DEP to make oil train data public again

A state committee is asking lawmakers to overhaul a 2015 law that restricted the release of information about transports of crude oil through Maine.

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. Continue Reading →

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Legislature sidestepped records law to end public access to oil train data

A state committee is asking lawmakers to overhaul a 2015 law that restricted the release of information about transports of crude oil through Maine.

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. Continue Reading →

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Maine’s future with Irving

Illustration by Joe Strassler

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. Continue Reading →

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Irving lost mining battle, but history says Canadian corporate giant will not give up

Oil tanks at the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick.

“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. Continue Reading →

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New Brunswick, Irving company province

J D. Irving headquarters (tan building on left) dominates Saint John, New Brunswick, where an Irving Oil sign stands at an entrance to the city.

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. Continue Reading →

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Legislature and LePage agree: rural residents given right to question wind turbines

A crane operator from Reed & Reed lowers the top tower section while building wind turbines at the Record Hill Wind Energy Farm in Roxbury in 2011 Photo: Daryn Slover, Sun Journal

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. Continue Reading →

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Key legislator promoting Irving mining proposal took unreported free flight from firm’s lobbyists

Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton   
Photo: Scott Thistle, Sun Journal

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. Continue Reading →

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Irving lowers Rep. Martin’s bankruptcy debt by $150k and Martin pushes another Irving firm’s mining interests

Democrat John Martin of Eagle Lake speaks with Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, in the State House.  Photo: Troy R. Bennett | BDN

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. Continue Reading →

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