AUGUSTA, Maine — State officials on Wednesday will be considering the nomination of Poland Spring's Natural Resource Manager Mark Dubois to the state's Board of Environmental Protection, and water activists are putting out a "red flag alert" in response.
According to Maine.gov, "The Board of Environmental Protection is a seven-member citizen board created by the Legislature to provide informed, independent and timely decisions on the interpretation, administration and enforcement of the laws relating to environmental protection and to provide for credible, fair and responsible public participation in department decisions.
"The board’s duties include: major substantive rulemaking, review of certain license applications, decisions on appeals of the commissioner's licensing and enforcement actions, and recommending changes in the law to the Legislature."
Board members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature.
If appointed, he would sit on the board for four years. The Sun asked Dubois why he was seeking the position and why he believes he is qualified.
"I am a professional geologist practicing in Maine in a scientific capacity for over two years," said Dubois, who lives in Falmouth. "I am looking forward to using my science background to perform a personal civic duty by serving on the board."
Dubois and Susan Lessard of Belfast are being considered to replace Thomas Dobbins of Scarborough, an expert on state and federal regulations on the storage and transportation of petroleum on coastal waters, and Thomas Eastler of Farmington, a professor of environmental geology at the University of Maine, Farmington.
Dobbins' term expired in December, and he chose not to sit for a second term. Eastler's second term ends Jan. 30, and he is not eligible for reappointment, according to Executive Analyst for the Board of Environmental Protection Cynthia Bertocci.
The other board members are James Parker from Veazie, Alvin Ahlers of North Yarmouth, Mark C. Draper of Caribou, Jonathan Mapes of Springvale and Kathleen Chase of Wells.
The Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources will be considering Dubois' nomination following a confirmation hearing starting at 10 a.m. at the Cross Building room 216. Public input will be taken.
The committee will be responsible for determining whether or not to recommend Dubois and Lessard to the state senate for confirmation.
The Environment and Natural Resources Committee consists of Sens. Thomas Saviello (R-Franklin, chairman), Amy Volk (R-Cumberland), Geoffrey Gratwick (D-Penobscot) and Reps. Ralph Tucker (D-Brunswick, chairman), Robert Duchesne (D-Hudson), John Martin (D-Eagle Lake), Jessica Fay (D-Raymond), Stanley Paige Zeigler Jr. (D-Montville), Jonathan Kinney (R-Limington), Richard Campbell (R-Orrington), Jeffrey Pierce (R-Dresden), Scott Walter Strom (R-Pittsfield) and Denise Patricia Harlow (I-Portland).
As Poland Spring's natural resource manager, Dubois has been the face of the company locally.
Poland Spring extracts water from Fryeburg and Denmark, Maine. In recent months, Dubois had been advocating for Fryeburg voters to support the construction of a bottling plant by approving a warrant article at a special town meeting to sell some Eastern Slope Regional Airport land.
In October, the article failed by a wide margin, 600 against, 259 for the sale.
The corporate parent of Poland Spring is Nestle Waters North America, which in turn is an affiliate of Nestle Waters. Nestle Waters is subsidiary of Nestle S.A. based in Switzerland.
Recently, Community Water Justice, a network of people seeking to secure water rights in Maine that was co-founded by Fryeburg Water District Trustee Nickie Sekera, put out a "red flag alert" on its Facebook page about Dubois' nomination and urged people to contact the committee and their state senator to block his nomination.
On Facebook, Community Water Justice called Dubois' being on the committee "a serious conflict of interest that gives additional power to private interests.
"We are amidst the 'global water grabs' where water rights are quickly being secured by the world's most wealthy individuals, corporations and banks," Community Water Justice continued.
"We should not be giving power to foreign corporate interests as this or to any private entity when we should be putting our groundwater under a public trust."
The Sun asked Dubois about Community Water Justice's concerns.
"There are specific statutes covering conflicts of interest," said Dubois. "The statutes clearly states that I would have to recuse myself in any water extraction issues or any matter related to Poland Spring."
Information about the joint committee go to tinyurl.com/ybkqlajs.