On April 26, 2021, Ben Gilman, general counsel for the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, testified in opposition to LD 1163, An Act To Reduce Pollution by Prohibiting Metallic Mineral Mining, before the Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. We are reprinting his testimony here for your review. If you have any questions, please contact Ben Gilman by calling (207) 838-7564 (mobile) or (207) 623-4568, ext. 108, or by emailing email@example.com.
On and off for the past five legislative sessions, the Environment and Natural Resources committee has passed a mining framework law and ratified rules developed by the Department of Environmental Protection. The Maine State Chamber supported these changes every step of the way, as they balanced our economy and protecting our environment – as our law is one of the most stringent in the country – yet still allows for mining in our state. The initial update to the mining regulation law was passed during the 125th Legislature as part of LD 1853, An Act To Improve Environmental Oversight and Streamline Permitting for Mining in Maine, sponsored by John Martin (D-Eagle Lake), which set up a framework law that instructed the DEP to undergo a major substantive rulemaking process that needed to be approved by the Legislature. LD 1163, before this committee today would be a moratorium on any metallic mining in Maine. What type of message does this send to those outside our state – we spent years developing a law, one that many would consider too stringent, and then we ban mining all together. The bar to pass a moratorium on any industry should be extremely high but in this instance the message we are sending is that a strict mining law isn’t enough – we need to ban the practice outright. That is a chilling economic development message to send to every industry looking to potentially do work in Maine – that even after years of compromise, the goal posts can be moved after the game is over.
For background, LD 1853’s goal was to help revitalize the mining industry in Maine. The bill called for stringent oversight of the mining industry. At the same time, the bill eased the excessive, and often times redundant, regulations that have suppressed the industry for more than 20 years. The previous regulations were so restrictive that no new mines had been constructed since the laws were changed in 1991. As advocates for growing our economy, this number was disconcerting to the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and our network of 5,000 members. That is why we supported efforts to reform the mining laws. Revising rules and regulations we believe may expand the mining industry and, in turn, strengthen our economic outlook was our position.
We are well aware that a prosperous Maine requires investment in job creation and a commitment to protecting our environment. In compiling Making Maine Work, we surveyed businesses across the state and were told over and over again, "Maine’s two greatest economic development assets are its quality of life and its loyal, hard-working workforce." As Mainers, we value and respect our workforce. We also understand that to keep talented, skilled workers in our state, we need to create and retain quality jobs — the type the mining industry could bring to Maine.
At the same time, our quality of life is measured in large part by the state's natural resources and its physical beauty. Maintaining the pristine nature of our surroundings is vitally important to continuing to attract more businesses. It was critical that any legislation that advanced mining requires strict protections for our environment; Maine’s business community would not have it any other way. We believe that balance was struck and yet now the industry we hoped to develop faces a moratorium before it has even begun.
In closing, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce spoke in favor of LD 1853, advocated at the Board of Environmental Protection, and continues today because our Environment and Energy Public Policy Committee believes that the current laws and rules in place strike the right balance of protecting our most precious resources and encouraging economic growth in an industry that has zero growth in our state over the past 30 years since the last changes to the rules were made. We urge the committee to vote “ought to not to pass” on LD 1163 and allow mining in our state under strict environmental regulation.