The Regulatory Fairness hearings being held around the state by the Legislative Regulatory Reform Committee are bringing out large numbers of Maine citizens and business owners who want to see Maine’s environmental standards strengthened, not weakened. During the hearings there have been specific suggestions to improve the implementation of particular laws, but generally, little to no call for complete repeal of any laws.
I attended the Auburn hearing on February 3 that was covered by the Lewiston Sun Journal. During the time I was there, most people spoke about the importance of protecting Maine’s natural resources and the quality of life they provide. Buzz Lamb, a retired computer industry businessman from New Gloucester and NRCM board member, spoke from more than 40 years experience working with industries throughout Maine, including forest products, wholesale, retail, manufacturing, transportation, and health care industries. He challenged the premise put forward by the LePage Administration that regulation was killing jobs, noting instead that the real causes of job loss in Maine have been the rise of big box stores that eliminated healthy downtown retail districts; consolidations in wholesale distribution, banking, insurance and other industries that moved headquarters and jobs out-of-state; global labor rates that drew shoe and textile manufacturing jobs overseas, and the resulting decline of many other supporting jobs in the community. He said, “I find blaming Maine’s business environment on environmental regulation to be very misguided. In fact, it makes me question whether or not the governor’s team has done an adequate job in problem determination.”
Buzz argued against the environmental rollbacks proposed by the LePage administration and some current legislators, saying that they will increase long-term costs to both business and government due to the rise in cost associated with toxics clean up, public health, and sprawl. He specifically discussed the legislative proposal to weaken shoreland zoning laws. As the owner of approximately 3000 feet of farm and woodland affected by shoreland zoning, he said the proposal of a 75 foot setback (instead of the present 250 feet) could not be proposed “with a straight face.” He said that 75 feet does not even begin to address the run off issues facing our lakes and streams during spring run off and heavy rains. “Once eutrophication (the introduction of artificial substances to a fresh water system) begins, it is difficult to stop and eventually feeds itself. The long term costs of watershed deterioration will be very high, including clean up costs, land value decline, expensive filtration equipment for public water supplies, and flood damage from faster run off.” He does not find being a good shoreland steward “onerous or difficult.”
Comments like these from Buzz Lamb about actual experience with our environmental standards in Maine have been delivered by hundreds of people throughout the hearing process. We hope the Legislature will listen and submit real solutions to real problems, rather than gut environmental laws that continue to serve Maine citizens well.
If you have not contacted your legislator yet to express your concerns about the proposed environmental rollbacks, I encourage you to do so today.
You can also join us for the final hearing in Augusta in Room 208, Cross State Office Building, Capitol Street, on Monday, February 14 between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. to say a few words to the committee. Join us at noon for a rally to protect Maine’s environment in the Hall of Flags at the State House. Hope to see you there!