After exposé on Maine driver data, Governor Janet Mills’ climate group stops recording meetings

Governor Janet Mills at a meeting of the Arctic Circle Assembly in 2019.

AUGUSTA – State officials have reportedly been denying pieces of the recent Maine Examiner exposé showing how Janet Mills’ administration is paying a vendor to track the movements of Mainers when they drive, walk or ride a bike, but the group’s official meeting minutes from the two most recent meetings tell a different story.

As previously reported by Maine Examiner, video of the November 16th meeting of the Maine Climate Council’s Transportation Working Group showed Maine DOT officials urging members of the Maine Climate Council to request driver data acquired from a new state vendor.

The minutes from the meeting, posted online, show the data from one vendor that tracks smart phone users includes: origin‐destination, turning movements, inferred trip purpose, AADT for roads (with limitations), trip speed, duration, length and demographic data on Maine drivers.

The minutes also show data from other tracking methods are also available from Maine DOT, including Bluetooth sensors, TomTom and Waze, Google’s GPS navigation app.

While the November meeting minutes confirm the facts around the state’s data collection put forward by Maine Examiner in the previous report, the December meeting brought changes to reduce the transparency of the group.

At the start of the “Welcome and Introductions” that kicked off the December Climate Council meeting, there was an announcement that the group will no longer be recording the meetings. That announcement was made just three days after Maine Examiner published the exposé on the Maine DOT offering members of the council the tracking data the state has been collecting since Governor Janet Mills entered the contract in April.

Under state law, most public entities are required to maintain detailed meeting records, and some are required to document their meetings in such a manner that is suitable for transcription. As a creation of the Maine Legislature, the council certainly is required to maintain some records.

Every meeting of the Maine Legislature, be they committee meetings or official proceedings in the chambers, are recorded. So far, minutes, details and agendas for the Transportation Working Group have been published online.

In other interesting business in the December 16th meeting, the Climate Council’s Transportation Working Group announced that the January meeting would be the last discussion the group would have about the Transportation & Climate Initiative.

The TCI, as it is commonly called, would add about a 17 cent per gallon tax on gasoline in Maine. That tax money, collected through a compact of northeastern states, would then be spent on “green” transportation projects. The TCI agreement has come under withering criticism for the fact that it essentially taxes rural Mainers to fund transportation projects in wealthy urban areas.

Janet Mills has been part of the coalition of states since the beginning of the last phase of negotiations shortly after she took office. Official public comment from Mainers has been lopsided in opposition to the TCI.

While the meeting minutes discuss a presentation on TCI and possibly having a Vermont official come to Maine to meet with the group, they provide no details about Governor Mills’ disposition on TCI.

The Transportation Working Group also discussed expanding electric vehicles and charging infrastructure in Maine and laid out a timeline to make their official recommendations in June of 2020. This despite the lack of an official “carbon budget” to determine if Maine needs any further reductions in carbon emissions to reach “carbon neutral” status as Governor Janet Mills originally proposed.

The data suggests that Maine may have already become carbon neutral during the LePage administration, but without an official study, both Governor Mills and her Climate Council are in the dark on where we actually stand.

Watch the Maine Examiner video of Janet Mills’ Climate Council Transportation Working Group discussing Maine driver data.

You can read the minutes for the December 16 Climate Council Transportation Working Group by clicking on this link:

You can read the minutes for the November 18 meeting, including details of the Climate Council Transportation Working Group’s discussion about Maine driver data collection by clicking on this link:

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