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EXCLUSIVE: Irving spends more than $226,000 on lobbying to facilitate mining
EXCLUSIVE: Irving spends more than $226,000 on lobbying to facilitate mining

By Jym St. PIerre

J.D. Irving Ltd., Maine's largest landowner, has spent well over $200,000 on corporate lobbyists to push for changes to Maine's mining laws, according to state lobbyist disclosure records.

Three lobbyists — Tom Doyle of the Pierce Atwood law firm, Jim Mitchell of the Mitchell Tardy lobbing firm, and Anthony Hourihan of Irving — collectively were paid or reimbursed $226,691 for working in behalf of Aroostook Timberlands LLC to successfully pass LD 1853 during Maine’s regular legislative session last year and to fend off an effort to amend that bill this year. [1]

Aroostook Timberlands is a subsidiary of J.D. Irving, which was set up to pursue development of a large-scale open-pit mine at Bald Mountain in Aroostook County.

In the spring of 2012, then-Rep. John Martin introduced LD 1853 very late in the legislative session. Conservation groups point out that lawmakers rewrote Maine’s mining regulations in just a few weeks in March-April 2012 without adequate public input or robust scientific scrutiny. [2]

The last-minute bill replaced regulations that took a special committee more than a year to develop in 1990-91. The law directed the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to formulate new mining rules that weaken clean water standards for mines. Efforts in 2013 by conservationists to get the Maine Legislature to amend or repeal the 2012 law fell short. [3]

With assistance from a mining consultant, the DEP has drafted new mining rules. At a hearing on those rules held by the Board of Environmental Protection on October 17 opponents outnumbered supporters five to one. [4]

Lobbyists working for Irving testified before the BEP at the October 17 hearing in favor of weakened mining rules, but their September and October 2013 lobbying reports have not yet been filed with the State elections commission.

The DEP must finalize and submit the draft rules to the Legislature by January 10, 2014. [5]

Irving's lobbyists are claiming victory, but girding their loins for another skirmish. In a recent article in the Maine Mining Journal, they wrote, "While the primary battle has been fought and won, this issue will not be completely resolved until regulations are adopted and actual sites are permitted....The environmental community is certain to try to limit the legislative gains adopted this year by advocating for restrictive regulations." [6]


NOTES

[1] Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics & Election Practices, Lobbyist Reports for Thomas Doyle, Anthony Hourihan, and James Mitchell, http://www.mainecampaignfinance.com/Public/entity_list.asp?TYPE=LCB

[2] Kevin Miller, There’s gold in Aroostook County, and bill would ease Maine mining regulations, Bangor Daily News, March 20, 2012.

[3] Maine Conservation Voters, 2012 Environmental Scorecard, http://www.mainescorecard.org/publication/?m=23888&l=1; Maine Conservation Voters, 2013 Environmental Scorecard, http://www.maineconservation.org/assets/Scorecards/mcv-scorecard-2013.pdf

[4] Alanna Durkin, Environmentalists slam proposed Maine mining rules, Associated Press, October 17, 2013; Christopher Cousins, Controversial mining rules debated at heavily attended hearing in Augusta, Bangor Daily News, October 17, 2013; North Cairn, Many testify against revising Maine Mining rules, Portland Press Herald, October 17, 2013.

[5] Public Law 2011, Chapter 653, Sec. 30, An Act To Improve Environmental Oversight and Streamline Permitting for Metallic Mineral Mining in Maine, http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/getPDF.asp?paper=HP1371&item=4&snum=125

[6] Thomas Doyle et al, About face: How a mine moved toward operating in Maine, Mining Engineering, December 2012.

Posted on Wednesday, October 30, 2013 (Archive on Wednesday, November 20, 2013)
Posted by Jym St. Pierre   Contributed by Jym St. Pierre
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