A few weeks ago, the Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) committee moved forward with an “ought to pass as amended” vote on LD 1911, An Act To Prevent the Further Contamination of the Soils and Waters of the State with So-called Forever Chemicals. This bill was first introduced by Rep. Bill Pluecker (I-Warren), but an amendment was introduced by Sen. Stacey Brenner (D-Cumberland), which made major changes and replaced the bill.
The Maine State Chamber of Commerce is submitting a letter to the ENR committee in opposition to the proposed amendment to LD 1911, outlining our concerns with the proposal.
Our first objection centers on the process of how this amendment came to be. In its original form, LD 1911 prohibited the land application or distribution of sludge or sludge-derived compost, unless it is tested for all perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. There was no opposition to the bill as drafted, and the Maine State Chamber did not take a position on the bill at that time. However, less than 24 hours before the work session, an amendment was released completely changing the bill, then the committee swiftly voted it out as “ought to pass as amended.”
There was no opportunity for public comment on the amendment – despite the complete overhaul of the original proposal. During the work session, there were several questions left unanswered, and another amendment was discussed and voted on – all without any language being seen by the public or the stakeholders. There was a motion to table the amendment to make sure it would not cause any unintended consequences, which would have given the committee more time to try and solve some of the problems with the new amendment. That effort however was unsuccessful.
Since then, we have heard from several members with concerns about the new language. As we understand it, the committee is now working to address these concerns, which we appreciate, but there should have been an open and public process for this to happen. We are now legislating in reverse, and this is not a reasonable or responsible way to make public policy decisions.
The proposed amendment will also increase the cost of doing business in Maine, due largely to the $10 per ton fee in Section Five. No longer be able to spread sludge, those employers will now have to send it to the landfill, regardless of testing requirements – incurring a direct increase in their costs. It is also important to note that municipalities will also be required to landfill all sludge. This will increase the costs on municipalities to discharge the sludge, with those costs potentially being passed on to ratepayers in increased water bills. In this case, the ratepayer will be every Maine business, many of which are already suffering from increased electric bills. They could now see an increase in their water bill, which will further impact their ability to invest in the future of their business and their employees.
As this bill now moves forward to language review in the committee as soon as Wednesday, March 2, the Maine State Chamber will continue to make our opposition known to members of the committee and to the full Legislature. For additional information or questions, please contact Ben Lucas by calling (207) 623-4568, ext. 111, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.