Scientist, not lawyer, needed at DEP

Scientist, not lawyer, needed at DEP

Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection needs to be run by a scientist with environmental science expertise. Effective environmental protection is essential to Maine’s largest industry, tourism, as well as its natural resource-based industries of fishing, forestry and agriculture.

Maine’s Attorney General’s office has statutory authority to represent all governmental entities, including agencies, in legal matters, whether as plaintiffs or defendants. Duplication of the AG’s legal expertise is unnecessary within the DEP.

 

Importantly, we need to begin to restore citizens’ trust in government by data-driven decisions that honor the best nonpolitical, nonpartisan knowledge available. Also, repair of the diminished morale of the department’s able staff can be led by science-based, rather than the previous political-ideology-based, management.

Recent experience within the DEP’s rulemaking on metal mining issues shows major rule changes made without scientific justification and an embarrassing lack of understanding of the technical complexities of the issues. The legislative policy committee demonstrated its inability to access scientific expertise in its rush to enact current law that violates the laws of physics with regard to groundwater contamination. Having scientific expertise at the head of the DEP does not guarantee good policy, but continuing in the mode of scientific ignorance cannot be helpful.

Legislators on the policy committee that makes recommendations on confirmation, and state senators who will vote on such confirmation, should quickly encourage our new governor to withdraw Jerry Reid’s nomination as DEP Commissioner (without prejudice) and replace it with an expert scientist.

 

Ralph Chapman

Brooksville

 

Originally published as a letter to the editor:

 

https://bangordailynews.com/2019/01/12/opinion/letters/monday-jan-14-2019-refreshing-acts-of-kindness-farm-bill-focus-scientist-needed-at-dep/

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