Senator Baldacci, Representative Matlack, and distinguished members of the State and Local Government Committee. My name is Sue Ely. I am the Climate and Clean Energy Policy Advocate and Staff Attorney at the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), and I am testifying today in opposition to LD 1472, An Act to Require Legislative Approval for the State’s Participation in Compacts, Programs and Agreements Regarding Transportation and Climate Change.
LD 1472 Includes Vague Language That Could Cripple Regional Science-Based Collaboration
We are concerned that the bill’s broad and vague prohibition on State or state agency participation in any interjurisdictional compacts, programs, or agreements regarding transportation and climate change without legislative approval could drastically hinder Maine’s ability to work with neighboring states on any number of important issues on behalf of Maine people.
Maine’s agencies, including but not limited to the Department of Transportation, work with colleagues in other New England states on many transportation and climate issues. For example, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont have collaborated on transportation management strategies. New Hampshire and Maine regularly collaborate on bridge and rail projects, including readying these types of infrastructure against potential impacts from climate change. Involving the Legislature in every interjurisdictional compact, program, and agreement that any state agency participates in related to transportation and climate change is neither practical nor reasonable. But depending on how this proposed language is interpreted, it is likely that most collaborative processes with neighboring jurisdictions could be prohibited unless approved by the Maine Legislature.
The consequences of this bill could lead to far-reaching and disruptive impacts on efforts by Maine state agencies to work with other New England states on a broad range of transportation and climate-related initiatives. But due to the vagueness of the bill language, it is difficult to fully grasp the potential impacts. For example, it is unclear how much of a nexus between “transportation” and “climate change,” if any, is required to trigger legislative approval. Is it any connection to roads, bridges, bike paths, walking paths, and public transportation? Electric vehicle infrastructure? Electric bus and car signage? Infrastructure climate readiness? Climate change programs may include collaborations on energy infrastructure, sea-level rise, emission reductions, fisheries management, joint research, and so much more. Would collaborative work in these areas require Legislative approval?
It is also unclear what is meant by “participate.” Does it include only formalized interjurisdictional processes such as those with a memorandum of understanding or agreement (MOU/MOA)? Would an agency have to get legislative approval before beginning talks about whether or not to enter into a MOU/MOA? What about informal collaborations?
Similar questions surround the definitions of “compact,” “program,” and “agreement.” All three terms are vague and could include a large number of different types of processes that could overwhelm the Legislature in requests from agencies for guidance and approval. Compacts, programs, and agreements could encompass a broad range of activities. For example, would this include information-sharing agreements? A potential outcome of this legislation is that Maine state agencies conclude that they need to come to the Legislature for all manner of approvals.
Finally, it is unclear what would satisfy the requirement that participation “is approved by the Legislature.” Would a bill need to be introduced, posted for public hearing, reported out of the committee of jurisdiction, and enacted by both the House and Senate and signed into law every time a Maine state agency seeks to collaborate with another agency in another state, through a joint program or agreement? The bill before you could very well imply just such a scenario. Would this requirement apply retroactively to all existing collaborative processes?
Maine should welcome constructive regional and national compacts, programs, and agreements on climate, transportation, and other important matters – not shy away from them, nor unnecessarily slow their attainment. Historically, the social, environmental, and economic benefits of such collaborations have far outweighed any costs.
For these reasons, NRCM strongly opposes LD 1472. Thank you for your consideration, and I welcome any questions that you may have.