LD 2018 seeks to add environmental justice into regulatory decisions at Public Utilities Commission and Maine Department of Environmental Protection
This week, the Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) committee had a public hearing and work session on LD 2018, An Act To Implement Recommendations Regarding the Incorporation of Equity Considerations in Regulatory Decision Making. This was a committee bill following a piece of legislation passed last year, which convened a stakeholder group to discuss this issue further. The Maine State Chamber did testify on this legislation stating our concerns regarding the impact this could have on the permitting process in Maine. We took a “neither for nor against” position as we intend to engage in the rulemaking process for this legislation to ensure our concerns can be addressed.
The Maine State Chamber certainly appreciates, respects, and thanks the work of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Maine Public Utilities Commission (MPUC), and the Governor's Office of Policy Innovation and the Future (GOPIF) for undertaking this enormous task. We understand that this topic has been discussed in several areas of public law, and we are happy to see this legislation contained rulemaking around the DEP and PUC, two entities worthy of carrying out this work. We generally agree and support the concept of having more public participation in the regulatory process at the DEP/PUC. The Maine State Chamber looks forward to engaging in the rulemaking to make sure the qualifications for funding, intervenor status, and the funding sources get support from all interested parties and answering any questions organizations may have about the change.
Our biggest concerns centers on the term “environmental justice” and its impact on the permitting process. It is critical that, when implementing this in the regulatory processes at the PUC and DEP, it does not do anything to further complicate the permitting process. We already have a rigorous and thorough permitting process in Maine, and anything that adds more challenges for projects to come online is of concern to the business community. For example, as we urgently need to combat the environmental and economic challenges that climate change imposes on all of us, it is important that we have a streamlined process so various renewable energy projects can get permitted and come online as soon as possible. As a proud member of the Maine Climate Council, the Maine State Chamber supports the carbon reduction goals of 45% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. We also support adding 30,000 new clean energy jobs. To reach these goals, we need a consistent regulatory process.
Our last concern is that the Maine State Chamber was not involved in the stakeholder outreach for the defining of these terms, an opportunity we would have welcomed. As these changes head to rulemaking, we hope to be engaged and help address these concerns, making sure the implementation of these changes will not add difficulty for Maine businesses. The Maine State Chamber looks forward to working with all parties to implement these laws and add clarification around the definitions and implementation.
The majority report of the ENR committee was, “ought to pass” with no amendments. As LD 2018 moves through the legislative process, the Maine State Chamber will continue to raise our concerns. However, understanding the fate of where this bill is heading, we feel it is critical to engage is during the department’s rulemaking process, the real avenue to make a difference.
For additional information or questions, please contact Ben Lucas, government relations specialist, by calling (207) 623-4568, ext. 111, or by emailing email@example.com.