Passamaquoddy moving ahead to build Bottling Plant

DW4L was alarmed to find out that the Passamaquoddy Tribal Leaders have returned to the idea to tap one of the largest aquifers in Maine, and build a bottling plant.  Under the guise of creating jobs, the Tribe now faces even more exploitation, if they give up the rights to their water.  In addition, the proposed plant is located dangerously close to the proposed East-West highway, ensuring exploitation by the global market.

Link to TV news report: http://www.wcsh6.com/news/article/191127/2/Water-water-everywhere-job-creation-in-Washington-County

INDIAN TOWNSHIP, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — A team of geologists has made a discovery that could create 150 jobs in Washington County: a 1,000 acre aquifer with 22 untapped, bubbling springs.

The aquifer is on the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s land in Indian Township.

Tribal leaders are hoping to tap into that aquifer to manufacture Passamaquoddy Blue bottled water.

Geologists with A.E. Hodsdon Engineering said the aquifer has so much water, the tribe could tap 1 million gallons a day.

“We can probably take out 10 times that amount volume,” said Al Hodsdon.

“But you couldn’t bottle that much water, that’s a lot of water,” he said.

Hodsdon has called it the “Saudi Arabia” of fresh ground water, and said test results qualify the water as “above excellent.”

Members of the tribe said they have always known about the natural resource, but never knew how much water sat below the ground.

After consulting with Hodsdon and a developer, Mike Dugay, the tribe is moving foward with plans to develop the plant and manufacture the water.

Economic development consultant Harold Claussey, Director of the Sunrise County Economic Council, has forecasted that the plant would create between 60 and 80 direct jobs, and 80 indirect jobs.

“This is something that we’re really hoping becomes a reality,” said Indian Township Economic Development Director Ernie Neptune.

The Passamaquoddy Tribe reports an unemployment rate of 65 percent.

“With a 60 plus unemployment rate in this area, it’s going to be a blessing,” said Neptune.

It’s the poorest part of the poorest county, where surrounding Washington County towns report unemployment rates as high as percent.

But there is a sense of cautious optimism surrounding this project.

“I think a lot of people want to see it before they believe it,” said Passamaquoddy Karen Sabattis.

In the last decade, the tribe has attempted several projects to create jobs and boost the local economy: a natural gas line terminal, a racino, and a lumber company.

All three projects failed.

But project developers, geologists, and tribal government leaders think it’s going to be different this time around.

“So you’ve got great quality, great quantities, and great opportunity for Washington County, and certainly for the Passamaquoddy Tribe in Indian Township,” said Dugay.

The tribe needs to secure $22 million in funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs before they can build the bottling plant.

If that funding comes through, the tribe hopes to have the plant up and running by 2013.

Action Alert: Contact your rep today to oppose LD 1671

Action Alert

Funding of East-West Highway Feasibility Study

Coming up for vote as early as tomorrow, 2/28

Contact your representative today opposing LD 1671

LD 1671, An Act To Provide Funding to the Department of Transportation for a Feasibility Study for an East-West Highway, has been voted out of the Transportation Committee and is expected on the floor as early as tomorrow, February 27.  We need to flood the legislature with e-mails and calls opposing this taxpayer subsidy of private profits at a time the budget is being cut for programs which are critical to the health and welfare of the people of Maine.

Points to make: 

  • Public money for private profit.  Your tax dollars should not be used to fund a financial feasibility study to attract Wall Street investors for a private toll road that will benefit the highway investors and Canadian energy and trucking companies, but not the people of Maine.
  • No way to limit the cost to taxpayers.  If the study requires more funding than the $300,000 allocated in the bill when the DOT puts the study out to bid, the sponsors will not need to bring it back before the Transportation Committee or the legislature.  This means taxpayers are signing a blank check for a private project.
  • Not for Maine communities, or tourists.  This road will not be accessible to Mainers or tourists for two reasons: 1) The tolls will be controlled by investors and cost prohibitive for most except Canadian transports.  2) The project will only have two interchanges, one north of Dover Foxcroft to allow containers to be exchanged, and one at Route 201.
  • Diminished local economic opportunity, and community vibrancy. There has been no discussion of potential environmental impacts of this highway, particularly impacts to Maine’s water and forests if the highway encourages the export of water and wood chips. A financial feasibility study will ignore these impacts. This kind of little to no value-added globalization exploits resource-rich communities like ours. It leaves communities in poverty because they no longer have value in their land to sustain themselves, and in conflict because people are powerless to meet their needs. Let’s support local economic initiatives, small business, and community vitality.
  • No public voice + limited state regulation = an environmental and community disaster.  As a private project, there will be no room for public advocacy on any aspect of it after it leaves the State Legislature. That is a huge infringement on individual rights, and local control.  This feasibility study opens the door to one of the most significant landscape and cultural transformations Maine has ever seen, with no feedback from Mainers.
  • Burning even more fossil-fuel – that doesn’t seem right.  Globally and nationally, we are running out of oil.  To meet our current demand, people are considering dangerous and costly projects like moving Tar Sands oil from Alberta, Canada to U.S. refineries.  Building another road, that would cause irreversible damage to the environment and local communities, is moving in the wrong direction.
  • Jobs.  A short-lived increase isn’t worth a long depression. The road will depress local land values, decrease tourist appeal, increase pollution that makes the land less viable for farming and other local land use, as well as exploiting the resources that are the foundation of Maine’s value-added sectors.
  • A supercorridor for natural gas, and what else?  New information that the highway might create a corridor for a natural gas pipeline from Canada’s gas fracking fields in Quebec and New Brunswick to ports in its maritime provinces and for liquid petroleum gas (LPG) to be trucked to the fields to use a new gas fracking technology, adds to the urgency to stop this bill and to conduct a thorough study of what this highway might really entail.
  • For those with a Democratic representative, note that the D’s on the Transportation Committee voted no in committee.  Thank them and ask them to speak out forcefully on the floor when the bill is brought up.  They are:

 

For more background go to www.defendingwater.net/maine/east-west-highway/

Thanks for taking action to protect Maine and our precious water.

Chris Buchanan, Organizer, Defending Water for Life in Maine, February 27, 2012

Letter to Representative: Vote to Oppose the East-West Highway

Attn: Representative Dennis Keschl

From: Chris Buchanan, 273 Manchester Road, Belgrade, ME 04917

chris(at)defendingwater(dot)net

(207) 357-1443

 

February 24, 2012

Dear Representative Keschl,

As one of your constituents I am writing to urge you to oppose LD 1671, An Act to Fund a Feasibility Study of the East-West Highway, that may come to the house floor as soon as next week.   I did testify at the public hearing and submit a document similar to this one at the work session.  However, I was disheartened by the disrespectful behavior of many members of the Transportation Committee during the public hearing and I hope that by communicating with you directly, my thoughts will be received openly.  Thank you so much Mr. Keschl for your time and consideration.

I have a number of very serious concerns about using public money to fund a study for private investors, the loss of local control that this proposal represents as one of the first major “public-private partnership” initiatives, and the environmental and economic impacts of this highway, which are critical.  Above all, I see a tremendous lack of long-term visioning for Maine’s economy and Maine’s people, and I urge you to take a step back and encourage your colleagues to do so as well.  My desire, that I believe we must share because I understand it is no easy task to represent a community of people in a political arena, is to see Maine’s people prosper.

I have compiled the following points regarding LD 1671 as clearly as possible because I feel so strongly about this that I am also organizing other people to oppose this bill.  Please do not allow this feasibility study to occur, for the following reasons:

Taxpayers funding a “financial” feasibility study, to see if private investors will profit.  During the public hearing, we learned for the first time that this study was, “really just a financial feasibility study,” according to Maine DOT Deputy Commissioner Bruce Van Note.  They are not looking at routing, or environmental impact.  Rather, they are looking to see if the demand exists on Wall Street for this road, and if the toll road owners will make money.  Why should taxpayers do a financial risk assessment for private investors?

No way to limit the cost to taxpayers.  The RESOLVE asks for $300,000 of taxpayer money, then the Maine DOT puts the project out to bid.  According to Van Note, if the project requires more funding, they will not need to bring it back before the Transportation Committee, or request public permission.  This is highly concerning!  Taxpayers are signing a blank check for a private project.  At a time when Governor LePage and the GOP are supposedly reducing government spending by cutting social services, this initiative is contradictory and questionable.

What exactly does “Independent study” mean?  During his testimony at the public hearing, Bruce Van Note said three different things in favor of this highway:  1) That the Maine DOT can’t do the study because this project is a “special” case and requires specific expertise.  2) That the Maine DOT needs to do the study so that it is “independent” and unbiased towards anyone who may benefit from the project.  3) That the project would be put up for bid.  I have heard Senator Doug Thomas say that the study must be independent to protect the public interest.  I would like clarification about how these mixed messages will result in public protection, especially now that it is clear that the point of the study is not for the public, but for private investors.  This is confusing.

How much will a toll cost?  There is no way to control the cost, or to ensure accessibility to Mainers.  According to a source inside one of the potential highway investors, the toll is proposed to cost $75.  However, Canadian transports could pay up to $150 for the toll and still save money cutting across Maine.  Toll investors are poised to profit handsomely just from that traffic. For all the honey-coated appeals to Maine people, saying this will bring tourism and jobs, that is not the intended purpose.  The toll may be exorbitant, and exclude most users other than Canadian truckers, and multinational corporations.

Not for Maine communities, or tourists.  In addition to being cost prohibitive, the east-west highway is a limited access throughway from Quebec to the Canadian Maritimes.  When questioned about how this road would access Maine communities, Peter Vigue could only name two places along the route: North of Dover Foxcroft, and at Route 201.  The exit at Dover Foxcroft allows for containers to be exchanged at Brownville Junction.  There is an additional intermodal facility proposed at the Costigan railroad junctions.  To reiterate, the road is designed for Canadian transport trucks, then multinational corporations who want to extract raw materials from Maine to export to global markets.

Diminished local economic opportunity, and community vibrancy. This kind of little to no value-added globalization exploits resource-rich communities like ours.  Take a broad look at other communities that have been used for raw resource extraction: the Middle East, most of Africa, South America, Haiti… some of the poorest and highest conflict-ridden areas in the world.  We see the same equation there: Low cost, raw resource extraction by wealthy private investors to profit in the global market.  That economic model only benefits a few, at the expense of the rest.  It leaves communities in poverty because they no longer have value in their land to sustain themselves, and in conflict because people are powerless to meet their needs.  Do we want Maine to be another colony?  By caring for the health of our land, and listening to the people who live on it, we support local economic initiatives, small business, and community vitality.

Just today in fact, Mark Aube of Mobilize Eastern Maine wrote an article about what Maine needs to thrive.  It is all about allowing regional economic development, listening to local people, and reducing the state’s “paternal” role.  Here is a link to that article for your reference: http://bangordailynews.com/2012/02/23/business/catch-the-wave-to-a-better-economy/?ref=latest

Jobs?  I have heard many advocates say that this investment of public money for this private project is worth it for the economic stimulus it will bring to Maine.  I acknowledge that for a brief stint during construction, many people in that part of the state will be hired to use their “yellow muscle” to build this road.  However, these jobs will only last for the duration of the project.  In addition, as a private project with out-of-state investors, it is very hard to determine how many jobs that would actually be.  Investors seek the cheapest labor which may be Mainers, but they usually bring in out-of-state project leaders, and sub-contractors.  Finally, as noted above, I feel the overall impact of this road will depress the local economy.  Certainly, the road will depress local land values, decrease tourist appeal, increase pollution that makes the land less viable for farming and other local land use, as well as exploiting the resources that are the foundation of Maine’s value-added sectors.

No public voice + limited state regulation = an environmental and community disaster.  This is an entirely private project.  There will be no room for public advocacy after it leaves the State Legislature, despite the fact that the project will irreversibly transform the heart of Maine.  That is a huge infringement on individual rights, and local control.  Is this what public-private partnership is going to look like?

What can people do if any part of this project is unwanted?  Like all other private projects, investors will go through a regulatory permitting process for all their intended environmental impacts, in this case, including the feds.  Due simply to access to capital, community voices are hushed by big business all the time.  Individuals have peanuts compared to corporate coffers.  Facing the reality of this power imbalance, deepens our concern over this project. The feasibility study opens the door to one of the most signficant landscape and cultural transformations Maine has ever seen, with no feedback from Mainers.

Burning even more fossil-fuel – that doesn’t seem right.  Globally and nationally, we are running out of oil.  To meet our current demand, people are considering dangerous and costly projects like moving Tar Sands oil from Alberta, Canada to U.S. refineries.  Building another road, that would cause irreversible damage to the environment and local communities, is moving in the wrong direction.  It is not a creative or innovative solution, it is exactly the opposite.

Mr. Keschl, I urge you and your colleagues to create a long-term vision that values Maine’s strengths, and I welcome the opportunity to gather resources and collaborate with you on those initiatives.  As you know, Maine is a treasure with unique and incredibly beautiful ecology.  Maine people are creative, hardworking, and passionate.   We need to identify what the people here need to thrive for the long haul.  Prioritizing Canadian businesses, and multinational corporations that do raw resource extraction, is not the way.  Public funding for private investment, at the added cost of individual rights and local control, is not the way.  Let’s build on our strengths, not sell them out.

With respect and with goodness,

Chris Buchanan

chris(at)defendingwater(dot)net

Takings Bill Testimony from DW4L, LD 1810, 2-21-12

Written Testimony to the Judiciary Committee in Opposition to LD1810

February 21, 2012 ~ State House Room 438

Good afternoon Senator Hasting, Representative Nass, and other honorable members of the Judiciary Committee:

Unfortunately I am unable to make it to testify in person.  My name is Chris Buchanan and I’m an organizer with Defending Water for Life in Maine.  We are submitting written testimony in opposition to LD1810 because it will undermine individual rights by giving corporations even more power, undermine environmental protections that are in place to ensure the health and welfare of Maine people, and will cause Maine taxpayers unlimited financial hardship.

For these deeply impactful reasons, we asked who LD 1810 benefits?  The answer is clients of Cathy Connors, and the Pierce Atwood lobbying firm.  Ms. Connors, an undeclared lobbyist at Pierce Atwood, has repeatedly provided “Takings” bills to this legislature.  Pierce Atwood has numerous clients with potential interest in LD 1810, including Casella Waste Systems, Horizon Wind Energy, and Nestle Waters North America.[1]  This bill will not benefit Maine people for many reasons.

Corporations like these are already too powerful.  As we have seen by working to protect communities from corporate water miners like Nestle, successfully opposing a corporation is almost impossible already.  People, towns, and corporations are expected to “duke it out” within local, state, and federal regulatory law.  However, due to Dillon’s rule and legal rights granted through corporate personhood, this is like pitting a lion against a mouse.  The lion, or corporation, with endless time and extensive fiscal and legal resources, will almost always win.  The mouse, with limited energy, capital, and time, rarely stands a chance.  For an example, see the lawsuit between Nestle Waters North America and the Town of Fryeburg.  Nestle sued the town because the people did not want more trucks in town, and won.[2]  Passing LD 1810 would mean actively furthering the disempowerment of Maine’s people and Maine’s communities.

Endless cost to Maine taxpayers. The Maine state government exists to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the people.  To do so, Maine has laws to protect and preserve public health and the environment.  LD 1810, provides corporations the right to sue the State for loss of profits incurred by these regulations.  “In Oregon, this resulted in some $20 billion in claims against the state between 2004 (when state lawmakers passed such a bill) and 2007 (when they repealed it).”[3] For any profit-curbing protective measure, Maine taxpayers are exposed to potential lawsuits.  Not only does this set Maine up for endless expenditures to corporate coffers, it incentivizes deregulation.

Incentivized deregulation.  The implications of further environmental de-regulation are staggering.  Mainers are struggling desperately right now for economic support and leadership.  The most practical and proven way to encourage economic stability and community revitalization is to support local people who are creating value added products, providing local services, and who live, work, and play in Maine.  That is not possible without healthy citizens, and healthy land.  We must maintain a balance between strong protections and local control to ensure the long-term vitality of Maine.

Defending Water for Life is opposed to LD 1810 because it was not written for Mainers, and will not benefit Maine.  It nurtures corporate special interests, who pursue profits at the expense of Maine people and our environment.  In sum, LD 1810 unleashes never-ending costs and legal headaches to Maine communities, encourages environmental devastation, and further undermines democracy.  This Committee should reject this “Takings” bill, as the Legislature did in 1994, 1995, 2000, 2003, and 2011.  Please hear us now, because we cannot afford to pay Pierce Atwood.  Thank you for your time.

Respectfully submitted,

Chris Buchanan

Defending Water for Life in Maine

chris(at)defendingwater(dot)net

(207) 357-1443

LD 1671 Work Session Testimony & Talking Points Resource

February 16, 2012

Dear members of the Transportation Committee,

I have compiled these points regarding LD 1671 that I urge you to consider.  We want to see Maine prosper.   Please do not allow this feasibility study to occur, for the following reasons:

Taxpayers funding a “financial” feasibility study, to see if private investors will profit.  During the public hearing, we learned for the first time that this study was, “really just a financial feasibility study,” according to Maine DOT Deputy Commissioner Bruce Van Note.  They are not looking at routing, or environmental impact.  Rather, they are looking to see if the demand exists for this road, and if the toll road owners will make money.  Why should taxpayers do a financial risk assessment for private investors?

No way to limit the cost to taxpayers.  The RESOLVE asks for $300,000 of taxpayer money, then the Maine DOT puts the project out to bid.  According to Van Note, if the project requires more funding, they will not need to bring it back before the Transportation Committee, or request public permission.  Taxpayers are signing a blank check for a private project.

What exactly does “Independent study” mean?  During his testimony at the public hearing, Bruce Van Note said three different things in favor of this highway:  1) That the Maine DOT can’t do the study because this project is a “special” case and requires specific expertise.  2) That the Maine DOT needs to do the study so that it is “independent” and unbiased towards anyone who may benefit from the project.  3) That the project would be put up for bid.  We demand clarification from the State about how these mixed messages protect the public.

How much will a toll cost?  There is no way to control the cost, or to ensure accessibility to Mainers.  According to an inside source, the toll is proposed to cost $75.  However, Canadian transports could pay up to $150 for the toll and still save money cutting across Maine.  Toll investors are poised to profit handsomely just from that traffic. For all the honey-coated appeals to Maine people, saying this will bring tourism and jobs, that is not the intended purpose.  The toll may be exorbitant, and exclude most users other than Canadian truckers, and multinational corporations.

Not for Maine communities, or tourists.  In addition to being cost prohibitive, the east-west highway is a limited access throughway from Quebec to the Canadian Maritimes.  When questioned about how this road would access Maine communities, Peter Vigue could only name two places along the route: North of Dover Foxcroft, and at Route 201.  The exit at Dover Foxcroft allows for containers to be exchanged at Brownville Junction.  There is an additional intermodal facility proposed at the Costigan railroad junctions.  To reiterate, the road is designed for Canadian transport trucks, then multinational corporations who want to extract raw materials from Maine to export to global markets.

Diminished local economic opportunity, and community vibrancy. Globalization exploits resource-rich communities.  Take a broad look at other communities that have been used for raw resource extraction: the Middle East, most of Africa, South America, Haiti… some of the poorest and highest conflict-ridden areas in the world.  We see the same equation there: Low cost, raw resource extraction by wealthy private investors to profit in the global market.  That economic model only benefits a few, at the expense of the rest.  It leaves communities in poverty because they no longer have value in their land to sustain themselves, and in conflict because people are powerless to meet their needs.  Do we want Maine to be another colony?  By caring for the health of our land, and listening to the people who live on it, we support local economic initiatives, small business, and community vitality.

No public voice + limited state regulation = an environmental and community disaster.  This is an entirely private project.  There will be no public advocacy.  What do people do if any part of this project is unwanted?  Like all other private projects, investors will go through a regulatory permitting process for all their intended environmental impacts.  Due simply to access to capital, community voices are hushed by big business all the time.  Individuals have peanuts compared to corporate coffers.  Facing the reality of this power imbalance, deepens our concern over this project. The feasibility study opens the door to one of the most signficant landscape and cultural transformations Maine has ever seen, with no feedback from Mainers.  We are facing irreversible impact to the heart of Maine.

Burning even more fossil-fuel – that doesn’t seem right.  Globally and nationally, we are running out of oil.  To meet our current demand, people are considering dangerous and costly projects like moving Tar Sands oil from Alberta, Canada to U.S. refineries.  Building another road, that would cause irreversible damage to the environment and local communities, is moving in the wrong direction.  It is not a creative or innovative solution, it is exactly the opposite.

We urge the Transportation Committee and Maine Legislature to create a long-term vision that values Maine’s strengths, as opposed to focusing on Maine’s weaknesses. Maine is a treasure with unique and incredibly beautiful ecology.  Maine people are creative, hardworking, and passionate.  Please listen openly.  Let’s build on our strengths, not sell them out.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Chris Buchanan

grassroots organizer, Defending Water for Life in Maine

chris(at)defendingwater(dot)net

(207) 357-1443

Marie Zwicker’s Testimony in Opposition to LD 1671

As a voting resident and person who loves Maine “the way life should be” it has come to my attention that LD 1671, An Act To Provide Funding to the Department of Transportation for a Feasibility Study of an East-west Highway, is scheduled for a public hearing. As my memory serves, such a road has been under discussion and proposed off and on for approximately 20 years. At this point in time, it seems to be that the Cianbro Corporation wants to move ahead with studies for a project that could prove immensely profitable to them. Cianbro doesn’t have the money for the feasibility study, and as part of their business group, wrote a letter to Legislators asking for an emergency bill (LR2358) to support funding. This entire issue is being rushed through the committee process in the legislature, the legislature which has sworn to represent the interests of the people, not the corporations, of Maine. This has tremendous potential to do terrible damage to the Maine that we, the People, love.

 

One of my most serious concerns about this highway involves the danger that it poses to our pristine and beautiful state.  Passing legislation for a quick feasibility study will not provide sufficient time for a complete Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), therefore will not take into account potential environmental impacts of this highway, particularly with respect to impacts to our water, air and forest wildlands. We have built our economic and development policies based on a human-centric model and assumed that nature would never fail to provide or that technology would save us. That is being proved to be a fallacy. I have lived in Maine long enough to note with dismay what has been continuing to happen to our beautiful state. Our natural resources are continuing to be eroded away. This destructive path that has been gradually occurring will be greatly exaccerbated by an East-West highway.

 

Maine has the highest percentage of forests in the east. It is the reason why Maine is a destination point for tourists who wish to enjoy one of the last remaining unbroken areas of wildlands. This highway would fragment this important resource, not only fragmenting the habitats of endangered species and closing the door to the return of other native, indigenous species, but it would seriously harm those businesses that make their living from promoting hiking, canoeing, white-water rafting, fishing, wildlife watching, bird watching, photography, etc. Touirism will suffer greatly as there are not many tourists who will wish to visit an industrial/commercial wasteland.

 

Another matter that concerns the vast majority of people in this state is that a feasibility study of the East-West highway as a private toll road should not be funded by taxpayers.  It is crazy to expect Maine taxpayers to pay for this private toll road, especially when it was originally presented as not being funded by taxpayers.

 

This bill is being rushed through to serve the interests of Cianbro, a private corporation, and Canadian businesses looking to cut transportation costs, without looking at the public interest of all Mainers, nor the protection of our natural resources.  Will the cutting down of our forests, the selling of our water, the degradation of our air by highway pollutants and being a transport throughway be in the best interest of Maine residents now and in the future?

 

Unfortunately I am currently out-of-state visiting relatives and consequently am unable to attend the public hearing in person to present my comments and strong opposition to any feasibility study of an East-West highway. Therefore this letter must serve to represent me and my objections. I shall look forward to receiving a response indicating how you plan to take into consideration these important concerns. I have also contacted my own representatives and senators, both in Maine and the U.S., on this critical issue so that they will be aware of this important issue and my strong opposition to it.

 

Thank you,

 

Marie Louise Morandi Long Zwicker

P.O. Box 230

149 Sanctuary Way

Sullivan, ME 04664

(207)460-8920

Chris Buchanan’s Testimony in Oppostion of LD 1671

DEFENDING WATER FOR LIFE IN MAINE

273 Manchester Road

Belgrade, ME 04917

 

Statement to the Transportation Committee regarding LD1671:

We are OPPOSED to An Act To Provide Funding to the Department of Transportation for a Feasibility Study of an East-west Highway

 

February 14, 2012 State House Room 126, 1pm

 

Testifying:  Chris Buchanan, Belgrade, 207-357-1443

chris@defendingwater.net

 

Defending Water for Life in Maine is opposed to LD 1671 for several reasons that we feel are critical to the wellbeing of Maine people and the land we live on.

 

First, it is unethical and dishonest to use $300,000 of taxpayer money to fund a private project, especially in the face of public cuts to healthcare, education, and social services.  As the committee is aware from previous testimony by Senator Doug Thomas, the east-west highway would be a private toll road.  Senator Thomas stated multiple times in his sponsorship of this study that it would not be funded by taxpayers, but rather, by private or federal funds.  On January 23rd he told the Dover-Foxcroft selectboard that it would not be funded by taxpayers, despite asking for funding from the General Fund.[1]  We oppose using public funds for a private project.

 

Second, we urge the Committee to look into the future and ask what the people of Maine want long term?  Considering rising fuel costs associated with less supply and more demand, and the fact that we are facing Peak Oil, we feel it is unwise and irresponsible to support a project that promotes burning fossil fuels to transport goods.

 

As leaders and representatives of Mainers, sworn to protect our health and welfare, we urge you to focus on alternatives that will benefit Maine people and our local economy.  Although it may be beyond the scope of this Committee in a broader sense, as a voice for the people we urge you to support initiatives that would spur local health, like assisting Mainers in creating value-added products, and revitalizing smaller communities.  The east-west highway would reduce the health and accessibility of Maine’s environment by burning more fossil fuels, and we would be investing in infrastructure that will become more and more obsolete over time.

 

In addition to supporting increased fossil fuel consumption in a world running out of fossil fuel and facing climate change, there are many other reasons the east-west highway will not benefit Maine.  Its primary use will be as a costly toll road for Canadian transport trucks heading to and from Canadian ports.  The toll proposed is $75 to cross Maine.  There will be few on and off ramps, other than to refueling stations or rail yards like Brownville Junction.  The stated intention is not for tourists or for Mainers.[2]  To reiterate, the highway would certainly result in pollution, negative environmental impact, and ongoing decrease of land values.  This alone impacts local economic viability, but also reduces Maine’s tourist appeal, a significant source of income for Mainers.  The environmental ramifications are huge and need to be considered with much greater detail, but to be brief, the construction of the highway over three major rivers, numerous watersheds, and through unbroken forestlands will irreparably damage this land that is the heart of Maine’s identity.

 

Fourth, the project will create few jobs, especially in comparison to jobs in social services that are facing cuts.  It is a private project that is Cianbro president, Peter Vigue’s brainchild.  It will be their project.  Cianbro regularly performs huge infrastructure projects all over New England and moves their workforce.[3]  We are not looking at new job creation beyond a small number of gas station service jobs.  If toll worker jobs are created, they will become obsolete due to automation within the next three years.[4]

 

Finally and critically, the highway exposes Maine to exploitation of raw resources by multinational corporations that provide few jobs, do not spend their profits in Maine, and do not pay taxes here.  Our land is our primary source of stable wealth and welfare.  To export raw materials like lumber, bulk water, and gravel is shortsighted and will devastate the future of our home.  To create a potential super-corridor for future pipelines, and high voltage transmission lines from industrial wind projects that scar our mountains, would irreversibly define Maine.

 

Please take a look at our website, where we are compiling as much information that we can on the east-west-highway project: www.defendingwater.net/maine/east-west-highway/

 

I sincerely appreciate your time and consideration.

 

With most genuine regards,

Chris Buchanan

grassroots organizer, Defending Water for Life in Maine

(207) 357-1443

chris@defendingwater.net

www.defendingwater.net/maine

 

 

Defending Water for Life in Maine is a project of the Alliance for Democracy.  Our mission is to protect water from commodification or privatization, because water is necessary for life, and should not be used for profit.

 

 


[1] http://bangordailynews.com/2012/01/27/news/piscataquis/state-senator-pitches-east-west-highway-proposal/?ref=latest

[2] http://www.emdc.org/document_upload/CIANBRO%20Presentation.pdf

[4] primary source information from a Maine Turnpike Authority employee

Whose Valley is it Anyway?

The 9th Annual Skagit Human Rights Festival
March 2012
Whose Valley is it Anyway? 
Corporate Power or Community Power?
March is Human Rights Month in Skagit County, and the Skagit Human Rights Festival has some great events planned to put relevant conversations on the community table.
  • Lee Mann Exhibition–Art opening, Thurs., March 1, 5 p.m, Skagit Valley College multipurpose room. Letters and photos of longtime Skagit Valley human rights advocate Lee Mann on display. His son, Bryce Mann, to make the presentation.
  • Human Rights Display, Fri., March 2, 5-7 p.m., Lincoln Theatre Art Bar, downtown Mount Vernon. Skagit art pieces will relate to corporations, civil liberties, water and labor. Artists Richard Olmsted, Thais Armstrong, Sue Wren, Jessica Gigot and Kerry Scott.
  • Corporations and the Rise of Occupy, Thur., March 8, 7 p.m., Phillip Tarro Theatre, Skagit Valley College. Movie showing of Inside Job about the U. S. financial crisis followed by a corporate personhood Q&A panel session. Panel members involved with the Northwest Occupy Movement.
  • Civil Liberties and E-Verify, Thurs., March 15, 7 p.m., Phillip Tarro Theatre, Skagit Valley College. Lt. Col. Margaret Stock (ret.), political science instructor and award winning lawyer from Alaska, explains how the E-Verify national database will impact all of us–not only undocumented immigrants.
  • Defending Water, Thurs., March 22, 7 p.m., Lincoln Theatre, downtown Mount Vernon. Sandra Spargo, Alliance for Democracy, will show the movie TAPPED about the bottled water industry and will discuss the Anacortes contract to build a bottled water/beverage & food manufacturing plant entitled to five million gallons of water per day.
  • Labor, Thurs., March 29, 7 p.m., Lincoln Theatre, downtown Mount Vernon. Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council, and young labor activists will describe how unions champion the rights of all workers and will show two short movies: Eyes on the Fries and We Are the ILWU.
Visit www.skagithrf.wordpress.com for a complete list of event details.