Dec 28, 2009

Sears Island - Sierra Club revisionists can't hide their guilt

It is astonishing to read in a recent article by the Portland Press Herald that that "the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club...has long opposed development on Sears Island".

Not so. The New England Chapter of the Sierra Club long opposed any development on Sears Island. It showed its mettle by suing -and winning-in state & federal courts in the 1980s and 90s.  The Maine Chapter, which split off from the New England Chapter in 2000 & is run by a tiny cabal of ultra-moderates, blithely reversed those decades of successful opposition. It has always supported MDOT's Sears Island dismemberment plan.

Maine Sierra Club's failure to protect this part of natural Maine has caused outraged citizens to take up the slack. Three lawsuits are contesting the MDOT's attempt at privatizing publicly-owned Sears Island. Sierra Maine's betrayal of the Club's hard-fought legal victories has given aid and comfort to the industrialists

Another error in the article: Ms. Becky Bartovics did NOT represent the Sierra Club's Maine chapter through the three years of the Sears Island Joint Use Committee. 

That post was held by Joan Saxe, who, as the meeting records show, sat passively by as the industrialists at the table took and took and took. Bartovics was not even a member of the Joint Use Committee. She was an 'alternate', representing the Penobscot Bay Alliance, and was not supposed to participate unless Saxe or another greenie quit the Joint Use Committee.

Eventually, Saxe's passivity at the Joint Use meetings led to her removal. Bartovics switched labels, abandoning her PBA for the Sierra Club moniker, and finished the job of privatizing Sears Island, hand in hand with Islesboro Island Trust's Steve Miller, whose crocodile tears can't quite drown out his role pushing dismemberment of Sears Island.

PPH should've look at the actual record and not relied on Miller and Bartovics's self-serving revisions of their role in putting New England's biggest unprotected wild island & its vital-to-Penobscot-Bay-groundfish nursery shoal at risk. 


Anonymous said...

Neither the Sierra Club nor any of the other JUPC/SIPI enviros supported a Sears Island port.

The Sears Island agreement says, "appropriate uses for Mack Point and Sears Island are compatibly managed marine transportation, recreation, education and conservation." Two locations, four uses, no delineation as to which uses should go where. Agreeing to this is not agreeing to "dismemberment" and does not reverse the earlier Sierra Club position. Agreeing to this statement could easily mean that all marine transportation uses should be at Mack Point and the other uses should be at Sears Island.

The agreement also says, "It is understood that none of the parties are endorsing in advance any proposal for a marine transportation facility. They will not, however, oppose such a facility for 'nonsubstantive reasons.'" Wetlands, fish habitat. eelgrass beds, vernal pools, scenic vistas and endangered specieis habitat are all "substantive" reasons to oppose a port on Sears Island. So the Sierra Club and others retained the "right" to raise those issues if a port on Sears Island is ever proposed.

Why anyone would continue to bitterly complain about the Sierra Club and the other JUPC/SIPI enviros is beyond me. The facts are clear.

Ron said...

Dear Anonymous
Thanks, I needed a chuckle; the howling of guilt-striken Maine Sierra Clubbers and debased land trusters is always splendid comedy.

Your beloved S.C.U.M., aka Sierra ClUb of Maine, has needlessly placed Sears Island island at enormous risk, by turning 2/3 of it into tasty mitigation bait, which bait, glittering with the imprimaturs of SCUM, Islesboro Islands Trust and MCHT, is being dangled by MDOT before venture capitalists low and high.

As noted in the article, both MDOT and the Maine legislature are going to continue pimping Sears Island with all their might; this time they'll simply drop the bar lower and raise the incentives higher.

But, wait, you say; sure, SCUM and IIT are proudly trotted out by the Baldacci administration for signing onto the Joint Use Agreement. Sure, that agreement calls for industrial port development on the western third of Sears Island. Sure the preserved parcel is being touted as part of the mitgation package for would be developers.

But none of that matters, they roar, because they will fight a port application if the applicants propose to violate any laws in building the port.

Um...but wouldn't SCUM and IIT done this anyway? Why is handing MDOT mitigation credits by giving a private land trust 600 acres of public land in perpetuity considered to be an improvement over NOT giving MDOT this pile of mitigation credits with which to spice its offer?

Given that you sound like someone new to the struggle to protect Sears Island, I'll try to fill in some knowledge gaps:

1. Mack Point: the Non-Alternative.
Earlier this year the state's engineering consultant Fay Spofford & Thorndike released their final report on the Mack Point alternative. From the executive summary: "It is the consclusion of this report that the build-out of Mack Point as a container terminal is not feasible..." without condemning and taking the Irving oil tank farm and building Irving a new tank farm "at another deep water port in Maine."

Get it? A containerport can be built at Mack Point as long as Irving can build an oil port and tank farm on Sears Island!

One can hear the Spoffordites snickering as they penned THAT phrase! Read it yourself at:

2. EPA will not protect the island.
In 1995, then-Governor Angus King, with the help of Senator Olympia Snowe, lobbied US EPA to remove its permit reviewer from the Sears Island project. Why? Because by upholding the law she was stalling King's port plan. EPA Region 1's administrator John DeVillars kowtowed to the politicians and pulled the reviewer off the case. Fortunately Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility was tipped off (by this blogger). PEER sued Devillars for this unlawful act, then offered to pull the suit if Devillars restored the staffer. Deveillars did so, the staffer was restored to her post, and King's port plan continued its slide into its deserved oblivion. Moral of the story: EPA will abandon its mission - and its staffers -whenever the politicians demand it.

3. Neither Sierra Club's Maine chapter nor the Isleboro Islands Trust have ever sued any developer or polluter wannabe, no matter how nasty their plan. The state rightly identifies them as paper...not tigers... paper kitties, perhaps. Brought to heel by a bowl of milk sop compromise that John Muir would've hurled back in MDOT's face. But that was the old Club, not Maine's potempkin chapter.

SCUM (and IIT) need to take their heads out of the clouds about Mack Point and EPA. At the very least, the "leaders" of these two organizations should resign and make way for leaders with principles.

Anonymous said...

As I understand things, MDOT has the authority to try to get mitigation credit for some of Sears Island regardless of whether there is a conservation easement. This authority comes from the manner in which the title was acquired by the state and from "An Act Regarding the Management and Use of Sears Island" (a horrible piece of legislation).

The easement neither creates mitigation credit nor provides MDOT with any new authority to pursue mitigation credit.

And, the Sierra Club has been working hard to call-out the foolishness of the mitigation bank concept.

We don't argue the MDOT and Transportation Committee's faulty Sears Island thinking but that existed before SIPI/JUPC. It has simply continued to exist after SIPI.JUPC. In fact, about the only substantive things I can see that changed due to SIPI/JUPC are (1) there is written agreement that a long list of possible Sears Island uses, such as LNG and nuclear power, will NOT be pursued and (2) 600 acres is protected from development by a conservation easement held by a public charity (not the state).

So, Sears Island's future is not settled by SIPI/JUPC; not by a long shot. But Sears Island's future was far from settled BEFORE SIPI/JUPC. And environmental interests have now protected some of the island and are at this very moment working to prevent the mitigation bank from making a travesty of the federal "no net loss of wetlands" policy.

Did SIPI/JUPC achieve what Sierra Club wanted? I don't think so at all. Sierra Club wanted Sears Island protected and any future marine transportation development to go on Mack Point. What do you do when you don't get everything you want?

As for suing a developer, there has been a little press about that Islesboro land trust suing Leucadia for a development plan out there. And Sierra Club sued EPA when they weren't inclined to uphold the Clean Water Act back in the 80's and 90's.