Environmental Bills Fared Well in Maine This Year
Maine’s leading environmental organizations have learned the art of compromise, and that’s the only way they could accomplish anything in the recently concluded legislative session.
With Maine’s economy still in the tank, and the state budget hundreds of millions of dollars short, the desire to enact new rules and regulations, or add any costs to either agency budgets or the cost of doing business, was slim to none, even amongst the most rabid environmental legislators.
Beth Ahearn of Moose Ridge Associates, a State House veteran who lobbies for environmental and other causes, gave me an end of session report on the major environmental issues, supplemented by the knowledge I gained by sitting on a couch on the third floor of the Capitol for the final four weeks of what seemed like an interminable session, waiting for something to happen.
Here’s a report on bills that were on the Environmental Priorities Coalition’s wish list:
LD 1631, An Act to Provide Leadership Regarding the Responsible Recycling of Consumer Products, was enacted. The bill was rewritten after the chamber of commerce voiced strong opposition. It sets up a process to pull products out of the waste stream.
LD 1538, An Act to Close Loopholes in Environmental Laws, was also enacted. It requires that forestry roads used to access development have a storm water permit. This will assure that roads constructed for forestry purposes are not automatically turned into roads into developments.
LD 1662, An Act to Improve Maine’s Air Quality and Reduce Regional Haze at Acadia National Park and Other Federally Designated Class I Areas. This won my award for longest title. The amended version of this bill from the Natural Resources Committee was enacted. It reduces the amount of sulfur (a component of air pollution) in home heating oil and industrial oil over the next six years. The bill won the support of the oil industry, greasing the skids for its passage.
LD 1568, An Act to Clarify Maine’s Phase-Out of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (and I challenge you to say this one fast), was enacted, but not without a fascinating effort by lobbyists representing the nation’s top manufacturers of pallets to position their respective clients to benefit from the new law. This law bans “deca” in food pallets, and was narrowed in a floor amendment that prohibits the replacements for the “deca” mixture from using a halogenated organic chemical that contains the element bromine, chlorine, or fluorine to a brominated or chlorinated flame retardant. Even the grocers got into this one, because alternative pallets to those with “deca” are too heavy (wood, for example) and sharply increase the cost of shipping. Everyone seemed satisfied by the final result.
As an aside, isn’t it amazing what you must master these days to participate in and impact the legislative process?
LD 891, An Act to Amend the Site Location of Development Law to Include Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, was turned into a Resolve posting questions for the DEP to answer with a report back to the Natural Resources Committee next session. This is a favorite tactic for legislators who are not ready, or willing, to act on an issue. The language in the Resolve was weakened significantly in a floor amendment, and still failed to win the support of a single Republican Senator. Two Democratic Senators also opposed the Resolve. It won by a whisker, eighteen to seventeen, and came close to having language the environmental community would have opposed.
LD 1725, the Culvert Bill, got hung up at the legislature. Just as fish are blocked from moving upstream by tens of thousands of poorly installed culverts, the Department of Environmental Protection’s culvert rules were unable to migrate through the legislative process.
LD 1725, Resolve, Regarding Legislative Review of Portions of Section 10: Stream Crossings within Chapter 305 Permit by Rule Standards, a Major Substantive Rule of the Department of Environmental Protection, was modified to require that only new culverts accommodate natural stream flow. The rule for replacement culverts will go back to DEP to be reworked for next session.
Maine Municipal Association fought the new rules, but it was the late entry of the Department of Transportation that sunk the bill. The DOT, claiming that the DEP rules went further than the federal rules, stuck a $6 million fiscal note on the bill. (See my April 6 Blog for more information on this bill).
LD1547, An Act to Revise Notification Requirements for Pesticides Applications Using Aircraft or Air-carrier Equipment, was enacted, but only after being significantly amended to a position that agricultural interests could support. The amended bill continues to work toward a unified registry to notify neighbors of pesticide spraying, provides for public health input into distances for notification, allows for differing notification distances for some types of applications (within 500 feet of spraying instead of 1,320 feet), and sunsets those differing distances in 2012.
So, now that you are up-to-speed on these key issues, perhaps you’ll ask your incumbent legislators running for office, “Hey, how’d you vote on polybrominated diphynyl ethers?”
They’ll be some old impressed!