We are deeply concerned about the Administration’s announcement to pursue a massive restructuring of Maine’s DEP, and we urge the Legislature to put the brakes on this bad idea.
We are aware of no evidence that this proposal will be good for Maine — not for taxpayers, Maine businesses, or the environment.
Other states are not going down a path like this, and that should tell us something. In fact, the only one that comes to mind, Idaho, tried something like this 20 years ago, and then restructured back because it wasn’t working.
Maine’s DEP has a parallel structure to the US EPA, organized by air quality, water quality, and hazardous waste. With so much of Maine’s environmental protection money flowing down from the EPA, consistency makes sense. In contrast, the Administration’s proposal could be an administrative nightmare that wastes money and staff productivity.
The proposed new functional areas don’t seem simpler; they’re more confusing. But the larger concern that should be a worry for the business community, lawmakers and Maine people, is that this massive shuffling of staff and functions at DEP will disrupt the important work that DEP does every day protecting our air, water, and land.
If the Administration drags Maine’s DEP down this path, then restructuring will be the focus of the agency for the next couple of years, instead of environmental protection. This DEP restructuring threatens the job of protecting Maine’s environment by bogging down the entire agency in the restructuring process. There is a real risk that this proposal will create “reorganization dysfunction” at DEP, at a time when the department needs to be focused on processing permits and implementing the laws that protect Maine’s environment.
We need to remember that the DEP is responsible for protecting one of Maine’s most important assets — the quality of our natural environment. And DEP has been doing a good job at this, even with declining resources. Over the past eight years, the DEP has permitted more than $5 billion in capital investments in Maine. The Department is processing more than 4,000 permits annually, even as its budget has declined by 12% since 2002 and staff has dropped nearly 20% since FY 1995.
The Legislature needs to take a close look at this proposal, including a look at whether the primary motive is to disrupt the DEP, prevent effective environmental protection, and force out employees whose job it is to administer our environmental protection laws.