Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Maine Mining Regulations

October 17, 2013
To Maine Board of Environmental Protection
Subject:  Testimony, Mining Regulations
Chairman Jeff Crawford, members of the board, thank you for this opportunity to testify.  My name is Alice Bolstridge.  I was born and grew up in Portage Lake, Maine, not far from Bald Mountain.  I remember the debate of the 90s about the feasibility of an open pit mine at that site, and I remember the conclusion then that an open-pit mine there would be an environmental disaster. 
My memory is supported by files of the Department of Environmental Protection from that time which state that open pit mining of Bald Mountain would likely pollute rivers, lakes and streams with sulfuric acid runoff and arsenic pollution and would produce only 80-130 jobs at best, not the estimated 700 that JD Irving promises.
 I have heard an Irving spokesperson and other proponents of the proposed new mining rules claim that technical progress makes open-pit mining safe now.  I am not a scientist, but I am a good researcher.  I have been researching this issue for over a year and have not found evidence that supports those claims.

The DEP denies in a BDN article that they hid this information from lawmakers and the public, but they do not cite any evidence there that they provided the information, and they do not cite evidence that the claims about pollution or the economic consequences are untrue.  All evidence I trust indicates that we in Aroostook County will bear the environmental consequences of an open-pit mine at Bald Mountain and that all Maine taxpayers will bear the economic consequences of clean up long after the miners and the corporate profits have gone.  Indeed, we will be paying the costs for generations to come. 

The tobacco industry denied for generations that smoking is hazardous to human health, to preserve profits.  The football industry denies mounting evidence that concussion trauma causes permanent brain disease to football players, to preserve profits.  The fossil fuel industries still try to deny that carbon emissions cause global warming, to preserve profits.  If these proposed regulations are passed as written, the DEP and lawmakers who vote for them are in denial about the environmental hazards, for the hope of corporate profit. 

Please, look at all the evidence.  The proposed mining rules from DEP do not adequately protect water, air, or wildlife from mining pollution. nor do they protect Maine taxpayers from the cost of cleanup.  

If the claims about environmental safety made by the proponents of open-pit mining are really true, why do we need to weaken the environmental protections written in the rules of 1991? 

Alice Bolstridge

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Medicaid Expansion to “Provide for the General Welfare.”

In The Star Herald, June 5, Representative Alexander Willette uses welfare pejoratively 6 times.  He calls it “irresponsible” and the cause of “hospital debt.”
But the United States Constitution has a very different view of welfare.  In the preamble, “promote the general welfare,” is used as one of 6 reasons for establishing the Constitution.  In Article 1, Section 8, “provide for . . . the general welfare” is listed as one use for Congress’s  “Power To lay and collect Taxes.”  Medicaid expansion is a good way to “promote and provide for the general welfare” for tens of thousands of working poor in Maine who won’t be able to pay their hospital bills without it.
It benefits hospitals, taxpayers, and job seekers as well.
Willette accuses Representative Robert Saucier and his Democratic friends of reneging on their promise to pay the debt and of playing party politics because they attached Medicaid expansion to the bill to pay the hospitals.  But there was a good reason to combine the two issues.  According to Matthew Stone in the Bangor Daily News April 2, 2013, a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis “projects Maine’s hospitals would see $348 million more in payments from Medicaid over the next decade if the state expanded the program. Hospitals also would have to provide less care for which they aren’t paid.”  Both the Maine Hospital Association and the Maine Medical Association support Medicaid expansion. 
I can’t agree with Willette’s assertion that past welfare expansions “caused the hospital debt.”  Providing health care to those who can’t afford it may have contributed to unpaid  hospital bills, but it was the Maine state government’s inability or refusal to pay that caused the debt.   
Willette’s accusation that Saucier, in supporting Medicaid expansion, broke his promise to bring jobs to Aroostook County is contradicted by a statement of Gordon Smith from the Maine Medical Association:  “A Medicaid expansion could support the creation of about 2,000 health care jobs” (Matthew Stone. BDN.  March 5, 2013).  To create the most jobs, Maine needs to pay the hospital debt and expand Medicaid. 
Willette’s attack on Saucier is unreasonable and unjust. 
Shorter version published  June 10,   Bangor Daily News.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mining in Maine

I was born in Portage Lake and grew up there.   I own a home on the lake’s shore.  The Hathaway Road that links Route 11 with the north basin of the lake was named for my maternal grandparents who lived there.  I fished in Fish River and in its tributary brooks and streams.  The water systems surrounding the proposed mining site at Bald Mountain were a major source of my family’s protein for much of the year.  In spite of increased levels of mercury, I still eat brook trout from these waters.  I have strong and intimate ties to the area that feed my interests in protecting  the environment for the health and well-being of my grandchildren and yours. 

I have attended 2 public forums on the issue of mining on Bald Mountain in the last year, one at Ashland High School and one at UMPI.  Both were essentially infomercials for the mining industry.  Environmental risks were explained away with propaganda about technical advances that will assure drinking-quality water will leave the mining site.  At the Ashland forum members of the audience were at least allowed to ask questions and express concerns about the environmental risks and the long-term economic impacts.  At UMPI the audience was actively discouraged from participating.  At the beginning we were told only 30 seconds for questions or comments, but the presenters left virtually no time for audience participation. 

I call these presentations propaganda because I have been doing other research on my own, and I can’t find any evidence not linked to economic interests of the industry that their claims are true.  The North Jackson Company, hired to help write the regulations, has close ties to the mining industry.  Page one of their proposal says: “We pride ourselves in our long relationships with two major metallic mining companies” (   How is that not a clear conflict of interest with environmental protection?

Nick Bennett, scientist for Natural Resources Council of Maine, says he is “still looking for an example of a mine closed in the United States that did not leave behind environmental damage or cost taxpayers money”   I, too, want to see those examples.  Why aren’t they readily available?  I am alarmed by Senator Tom Saviello’s claim (in the same BDN article) that “the mining operations will not unreasonably adversely affect existing uses, air quality, water quality or other natural resources.”  How could any adverse effects be reasonable?   If the industry’s claims about the safety of mining are really true, why oppose requirements of LD 1302 to increase protection of ground and surface water, to provide assurance that the mine will not require perpetual wastewater treatment after closure, and to provide an example of a comparable mine that has operated for at least 10 years without polluting ground and surface water?

About jobs and economic benefits to the area, being a limited resource, metallic mining is always, at best, a boom and bust cycle.  The bust attending a mine closure is virtually guaranteed and will come within 20 years in the best of circumstances.  In addition, it’s highly unlikely that Aroostook workers will get many of the jobs that pay $73,000 a year which Irving Inc. promises.  Judging by past Irving promises in Northern Maine (the closing of the Pinkham Mill for instance), it is foolish to trust in the ones they make about mining Bald Mountain.

In the many hours of research I have done, I found no trustworthy evidence that the claims made about environmental safety and overall economic benefits are true.  We need to focus on developing legislation that supports clean, renewable energy, sustainable economic growth, and environmental protection.  LD 1302 attempts to provide some of that protection.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Label GMOs

It is important to do everything possible to maintain health, reduce health-care costs, and keep the environment safe and healthy.  To do that effectively, consumers need to know when they are buying food that contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  Please ask your legislators to support LD 718, the bill to label GMO foods.  This bill is a common-sense effort to provide consumers the information they need to make informed choices.  We have a right to know.  Here are some facts about GMO foods from Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association,

·         GMO crops have been engineered, not simply bred, to contain DNA from entirely different organisms so that the crops then have traits that could not be gained through traditional plant breeding. Many crops have been engineered with special bacteria or viral DNA to make them herbicide resistant or lethal to insects.

·         Already 62 countries around the world label foods that contain GM ingredients, including all of Europe, Russia, China, India and South Africa.

·         A recent poll conducted by MSNBC showed that 93% of consumers want to know if they are eating GM foods.

·         Five main GM commodity crops - corn, soy, cotton, sugar beets and canola - have byproducts, such as high fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, vegetable oil and canola oil, in an estimated 75% of processed foods sold in grocery stores.

·         Commercial foods already are labeled extensively with nutritional information, country of origin and information about their production. It is time to add a label for GM contents.
Published in The Star Herald and The Bangor Daily News, March, 2013

Why Demonstrate for Peace?

            As a demonstrator for peace every Sunday I am sometimes asked, “Why?” in various ways, at various times and locations, in mostly antagonistic tones, and occasionally with downright insults.  I also get arguments about why peace is impossible and war is a necessity: “Violence and war are in human nature, and you can’t change human nature;”  “Short of war or other means of violent force, what are we to do in the face of a Hitler, a Saddam Hussein, an Osama bin Laden, ruthless leaders who will organize masses of warriors to murder, torture, enslave, rape, or commit any other atrocity to any number of people to accomplish their purposes?”

            These are serious arguments.  Experts on the issue do not agree on what the evidence shows about human nature as opposed to what is learned via human culture.  Peace in our time seems improbable. Justifications for war have a long and pervasive history, and they are fueled by feelings of satisfaction, pleasure, and intensity we crave in our everyday lives if we are to judge by the popularity of violent media which teaches that violence is an exciting and necessary way to get rid of the bad guys and make heroes.   Peaceful conflict resolution is hard work, it is not widely taught yet, and its rewards are delayed gratification with, apparently, nowhere near the intense excitement that violent conflict provides.

            So why do I continue to demonstrate for peace?  Because I believe that war is too costly in money and human potential to sustain; see

And because I believe that, while peace may not seem probable in our time, it is clearly possible sometime, and there is evidence that shows this.  Simple observation shows that most people live most of their lives without resorting to violence.  People can and do learn better ways to solve relationship problems and to get their excitement through social-justice action and other peaceful means.  Without cultural reinforcement for violence and with appropriate treatment, the mentally ill, too, can and do live peaceful lives. 

            Peaceful movements and leaders of my own lifetime have increased in numbers and strength. The first formal academic programs in Peace Studies only began in the mid-20th century.  Since then these programs have proliferated: “The existence of 200 peace studies programs on college campuses in North America and Western Europe provides powerful testimony for the desire of human beings to avoid Armageddon by studying peaceful ways to resolve conflicts” ( More and more people speak about peace, study it, write about it, and join with others in actions to protest war and to promote peace.  At the bridge for peace, thumbs up are far more frequent than thumbs down.  In spite of opponents making arguments about human nature and necessity, historic cultural changes have taken place in my lifetime increasing civil rights for racial minorities, women, gays and lesbians.  These changes take place because of the efforts of individuals organizing and demonstrating to challenge existing cultural frames.

            I go every Sunday to add my voice to the growing chorus of those who believe in the possibility and necessity of replacing violence and war with peaceful problem solving and conflict resolution. 

Published in The Star Herald, "Viewpoints," March 13, 2013

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Celebrate Women’s History Month at the Reed Art Gallery at UMPI,
Friday, April 5th from 5-7 p.m.
5:00 to 5:30:  The Mawait'jig E'pijig/Gathering of Women Drum Group.
5:30 to 6:30:  Readings from the VERA literary journal with authors
Kathryn Olmstead
Alice Bolstridge
Pamela Sweetser
Kimberly Pratt
Melissa (Jenks or Crowe, not sure which Melissa plans to read).

Friday, February 1, 2013

MSCN 2013 Poet Laureate

Maine Senior College Network’s 2013 Poet Laureate:  
Alice Bolstridge

Wild Apples
Through farm fields growing up to woods,
we walk toward our hard-won storied past
through open spaces left between goods
of soft and hard economy forebears faced,
evergreen for boards and pulp, hard-wood trees
for fire.  Looking for what can last,
we taste sour wild apples.  They'll freeze,
sweeten, and feed deer that spread
seed through all the fields.  Nature decrees
unstillness.  The land, torn from forest
before our time, untended now for years,
goes fecund with roaming, wind, and unrest,
grows then into now and to be, graced,
wild, and ever green with birth and waste.