Senator Saviello, Representative Tucker, and members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee:
My name is Nick Bennett, and I reside in Hallowell. I am the Staff Scientist for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). NRCM is Maine’s largest environmental advocacy group with more than 20,000 members and supporters.
NRCM strongly opposes LD 1040, which would completely gut the Natural Resources Protection Act (NRPA). NRPA is one of Maine’s foundational environmental laws. Without it, the water quality, wildlife, and healthy ecosystems that make Maine a great place to live would decline. Critical pillars of our economy —tourism, fishing, hunting, guiding, paddling – would suffer irreparable harm. Wildlife watching, hunting, and fishing combined are worth about $1.4 billion annually in Maine. Fishing alone is worth around $300 million per year. Maine lakes support about 52,000 jobs with an economic impact of $3.5 billion annually.
Here are some or the biggest problems with this destructive bill:
Section 2(5-B) would stipulate that artificial turf is not impervious area. This defies logic. While there may be types of artificial turf that are pervious to water, it makes no sense to define all types of artificial turf as pervious, simply because they are artificial. Only pervious artificial turf should be considered pervious.
Section 3(9) would eliminate a huge number of small streams from NRPA protections. It would cause irreparable damage to Maine’s brook trout resource and damage water quality in Maine’s lakes and rivers, including those used for drinking water. It is impossible to protect water quality in larger waterbodies without protecting the streams that feed them.
Section 5(1) would increase the amount of wetland that an applicant can impact without a permit by a factor of four. This makes no sense. Wetlands are an important resource. George H.W. Bush began the policy of no net loss of wetlands in the 1980s, and it was a wise policy. This change to NRPA would accelerate the loss of wetlands in Maine and lead to habitat loss, declines in wildlife, more water pollution, and increased flooding.
Section 8(3)(A) would eliminate the requirement to avoid environmental impacts as much as possible. This is the most important part of the three-legged stool that supports NRPA — Avoid, Minimize, Mitigate —and stools with only two legs collapse. It is crucial that DEP require applicants to avoid impacts to protected natural resources, such as streams and wetlands, if it is possible for them to do so. This proposed amendment would eliminate DEP’s ability to do that.
Section 11(2-D) would allow repair of sewer and natural gas lines under streams and rivers without a permit. This is a likely recipe for disaster given the consequences of a ruptured sewer or gas line.
Section 12(9) would make this exemption apply even to outstanding river segments. This makes the consequences of an accident with a sewer or gas line even greater.
I have worked at NRCM for 20 years, and I have never seen a bill that attacks so many important pieces of NRPA or any other foundational environmental law. NRCM urges the Committee to vote unanimously Ought Not to Pass on LD 1040.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I would be happy to take any questions.