Environmental Ordinance – Jay

Date: 25 Nov 2008 | posted in: governance | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

The event behind the enactment of the ordinance was the June 1987 strike of 1,250 workers at the International Paper Company’s Androscoggin paper mill in Jay. Since 1937 a social contract had existed between International Paper and the Paper Mill Unions. IP paid high wages and 80% of the local property tax. In exchange, the community put up with the foul smell generated by pollution from the plant. This social contract was referred to locally as "the smell of money". But in 1987, while making record profits, IP demanded major concessions from the union. The workers struck and within two months, all the union workers were permanently replaced with out-of-town workers. After 16 months, the strike was called off.

Becausethe people living in town were no longer on the IP payroll and the people working for IP no longer lived in town, the strikers began to reassess their relationship with the company. The local community had been left with the smell but no high paying jobs. In addition, IP had accumulated a record of serious environmental violations which had gone unpunished by the state. For instance, a local citizen photographed IP’s illegal dumping of toxic waste in its landfill, but the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) refused to take up the case. On many occasions, IP would have a spill or a leak and the union would bring it to the public’s attention only to have state officials support IP’s contention that nothing bad had happened.

Aftera particularly serious chlorine dioxide leak, which could have injured thousands of workers had they been in the factory, the town selectmen instructed the town lawyer to draft an environmental ordinance. He hired environmental and constitutional lawyers, and they drafted the Jay Environmental and Improvement Ordinance, which was enacted by the people of Jay in a town meeting in May of 1988. The ordinance encompasses all state and federal environmental law relating to land, air and water pollution. Thus, any plant that formerly had to get a permit from the E.P.A. or the D.E.P. (for an air emissions license, waste discharge license orsolid waste landfill license) now has to obtain this permit from the town. And the town of Jay has a much stronger incentive to enforce compliance, since it experiences the direct impact of any violations.

In addition, the ordinance created a full-time Environmental Administrator to enforce the law. Presently, three companies: James River, International Paper, and Blue Rock have facilities that will require a town permit under the ordinance.

Since enactment of the ordinance, there has been a 50% reduction in accidental spills, a complete elimintation of foul-smelling emissions from one of the paper mills, and much faster reporting of environmental violations. Experience has shown that there is a difference in reporting from the mills when an environmental violation relates to a Town of Jay ordinance vs. a state ordinance (one day vs. 18, respectively).

While the town had to cover the costs of the environmental program (equivalent to a $14 assesment on an average home value), the recently enacted 20th amendment to the ordinance makes the program self-sustaining- funded completely outside of the town’s budget by the companies that apply for pollution permits.


  • The full text of the Environmental Control and Improvement Ordinance
  • For more information on the Jay ordinance contact (207) 897-6785.
  • Jay, Maine Home Page
  • The Betrayal of Local 14: Paperworkers, Politics, and Permanent Replacements – by Julius Getman. Cornell University Press
  • Pain on Their Faces:Testimonies on the paper mill strike, Jay, Maine, 1987-1988 – by Jay-Livermore Falls Working Class History Project; Peter Kellman, Coordinator