LePage’s Regulatory Reversals Stir Debate

By: - February 1, 2011 12:00 am

RILED BY RULES: Maine Governor Paul LePage has proposed a broad range of changes to environmental and consumer protection rules he sees as stifling economic growth. Now the new governor is facing pushback, the Bangor Daily News

reports . LePage wants to adopt federal water and air pollution rules that are more permissive than Maine’s current standards. He wants to open up more land for development. And he wants to reverse a requirement that products sold for children in the state no longer contain the chemical bisphenol-A. As the legislature considers LePage’s ideas, environmental and public health groups are preparing to fight the changes.

REVERSAL IS REVERSED: New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez’s effort to delay a rule limiting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and refineries has failed in court, the  Associated Pressreports . Blocking the rule, which the state’s Environmental Improvement Board approved in December, was one of Martinez’s first acts after she became governor earlier this month. Martinez had asked the state’s records office not to publish the rule in the State Register to prevent it from going into effect, but the New Mexico Supreme Court declared last week that the rule must be published. The measure — and another one to set up a cap-and-trade system in New Mexico — still could be reversed either by the legislature or the Environmental Improvement Board before they’re implemented starting in 2013. Martinez has dismissed all seven members of the Board and is starting to name replacements.

PLANT SUBSIDIES: New Jersey will subsidize the development of new natural gas power plants under a bill signed by Governor Chris Christie, Dow Jones

reports . Christie signed the bill despite arguments against it from a coalition that includes both the Sierra Club and the state’s leading utilities. They’re expected to challenge the move in court. Supporters of the subsidies argue that they will reduce New Jersey’s unusually high energy prices by adding production capacity. Critics contend they will raise prices in the long run by guaranteeing that all future plant projects include the subsidies, whose cost it says will be passed on to ratepayers. 

BIOMASS DUMPED: A power plant at the University of Wisconsin -Madison won’t be fueled with tree trimmings and crop waste, as a result of the intervention of new Republican Governor Scott Walker, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

reports . Jim Doyle, Walker’s Democratic predecessor, envisioned the plant as a demonstration that Wisconsin-produced biomass was a viable power-generating option. Walker’s administration estimates, however, that using only natural gas will save the state $75 to $80 million on what had been slated as a $251 million project.

LOOK WHO’S LOBBYING: North Dakota has a powerful voice pushing for a reduction in the oil severance tax: former Governor Ed Schafer. Schafer is a spokesman for Invest in North Dakota, a new business-funded group that is starting its promotional campaign with a state bus tour that features Schafer’s photo on the side of the bus. According to the Forum , Schafer’s pitch is that cutting the rate, which can go as high as 11.5 percent, would encourage more oil companies to keep drilling in the state. North Dakota is enjoying a large budget surplus thanks to an oil boom. Some legislators are skeptical of Schafer’s argument. “The oil companies are here because we have the oil here,” says state Senator Ryan Taylor.

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Josh Goodman

Josh Goodman helps lead research on fiscal management and place-based economic development programs as part of Pew’s state fiscal health project. Goodman has served as a primary author for Pew studies that examine how states should evaluate tax incentives and maintain budget discipline when implementing those incentives.