LePage appoints pulp mill manager to St. Croix commission
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Gov. Paul LePage has appointed a St. Croix River mill manager to an international commission that protects the river’s corridor on the U.S.-Canadian border.
LePage, a Republican, in August appointed Scott Beal, Woodland Pulp spokesman and environmental and security manager, to the St. Croix International Waterway Commission. Maine’s governor and New Brunswick’s premier can each appoint four commissioners to the commission, which restores and manages natural habitats on the St. Croix River corridor.
“Hopefully having Beal on there will give us a better understanding of what is going on at the mill and what impact, if any, it might have on the water,” said the commission’s co-chairman, David Burns, a former Republican state lawmaker.
Paul Bisulca, a member of Schoodic Riverkeepers, a Passamaquoddy tribal organization, said he’s concerned that it’d be a conflict of interest for a pulp and tissue mill employee to sit on such a commission.
“Water to them is money,” said Bisulca, who expressed concern over fish restoration efforts.
Beal noted that he is the fourth mill employee to have served on the 3-decade-old commission, and that he would step aside for any issue concerning Woodland Pulp. “If there was anything, even the appearance of a conflict of interest, I would recuse myself,” he said.
LePage spokeswoman Julie Rabinowitz said the governor’s appointment was to make sure the commission includes “strong economic development, transportation and waterway and environmental management skillsets.”
LePage has supported Woodland Pulp’s efforts to fight a 2015 federal license for a St. Croix dam. The company says the license’s environmental and recreational requirements are far too costly.
Woodland Pulp has said the cost may force it to abandon the dam. The St. Croix International Waterway Commission and other environmental groups said that would disrupt spawning areas, wildlife habitat, tourism, native fisheries and riverfront homes.
A 2017 state law allows Maine to take over the U.S. side of the dam. But that swap will happen only if federal regulators, who are reviewing the issue, say that the dam would then no longer need a federal license to operate.