The Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) voted unanimously “ought to pass” on LD 1964, An Act To Update Certain Water Quality Standards and To Reclassify Certain Waters of the State. This bill is part of the triennial review process and implements recommendations of the Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) resulting from its review of the State’s water quality classification system and related water quality standards. As recommended by the board, the bill includes specific updates to certain water quality standards and water quality classifications based on water quality data and the recommendations of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and other parties.
There were 51 recommendations put forward, and for many of these, the Chamber had no opposition. One section the Maine State Chamber opposed in its testimony was section 19. Section 19 deals with the Androscoggin River and the reclassification from Class C to Class B of the area from the Worumbo Dam in Lisbon Falls to a line formed by the extension of the Bath-Brunswick boundaries across Merrymeeting Bay. Maine’s business community supports a clean and healthy environment supported by a robust regulatory framework that ensures we are stewards of our most precious resources. Our environmental policies should be based on science, including our river classifications. The business community needs consistency in its river classification regulations. There are many jobs impacted by changes to the river’s classification. The Maine State Chamber has concerns this could set a dangerous precedent and have impacts on the businesses upstream that rely on a consistent regulatory environment. We also fear that this could open the door in the future for reclassifications upstream, which would cause even greater problems, as was the case with LD 676.
A carryover of concern for the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, LD 676, An Act to Reclassify Part of the Androscoggin River to Class B, was voted unanimously “ought not to pass” by the ENR committee on March 2, 2022. LD 676 would have classified the river further upstream, which would have been more problematic. LD 1964 is a shorter stretch of reclassification by about 19 miles.
Our other major concern with LD 1964 was the last-minute attempt to reclassify the lower Presumpscot River from Class C to Class B. This would also have significant impacts, and the Maine State Chamber was strongly opposed to this being included. It is important to note that the BEP did not put this recommendation forward, and the DEP was against this, which is why it is not in the bill as drafted. The State should not be creating a regulatory environment for Maine businesses that sets them up to not meet standards, which is what would happen in this case.
The good news to report on this issue is that an amendment was not included into the bill, and LD 1964 passed as drafted. The Maine State Chamber will continue to make its concerns over the changes to the Androscoggin River heard as this moves to the full legislature. It is a positive outcome that LD 676 will not pass, and that the amendment was not included into LD 1964. For additional information or questions, please contact Ben Lucas, government relations specialist, by calling (207) 623-4568, ext. 111, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.