Senator Saviello, Representative Welsh, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, my name is Sarah Lakeman and I am the Sustainable Maine Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. I appreciate this opportunity to testify Neither For Nor Against LD 1366.
NRCM was involved with passage of Maine’s beverage container law, when it was initially enacted in 1976, and we have been involved in issues related to implementation and preservation of the bottle bill, and the state’s six other product stewardship programs, ever since.
Ten states have a beverage container deposit program like the one in Maine, yet we are the only state where the program is administered within the state’s agricultural agency. In the past, we have felt that transferring administration of Maine’s bottle bill to the state agency in Maine that is responsible for promoting recycling and product stewardship makes sense. In the 126th Legislature, for example, we supported a similar bill proposed by Rep. Janice Cooper that was considered by the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee.
Today, however, we are testifying Neither For Nor Against because we are uncertain how the Committee and the Department will proceed with another pending piece of legislation (LD 1204) that could undermine Maine’s bottle bill, and it is not clear to us whether the proposal to split responsibilities for this program between the DEP and Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry is the best way to manage this program.
If LD 1204 moves forward with a funding mechanism that would remove larger containers from the redemption program now, or at some future date, then will be opposing both LD 1204 and LD 1366. NRCM is strongly opposed to LD 1204 as it is currently written because it contains provisions that would weaken Maine’s bottle bill and have negative impacts on Maine’s communities and the environment. In her testimony in support of LD 1204, the Commissioner called the bill “very positive” and said it provided “a very necessary and welcome funding opportunity,” and requested that the bill be considered in conjunction with the bill now before you. NRCM is opposed to LD 1366 if the intention is to use it to bolster the proposed funding mechanism in LD 1204. If the Committee drops that concept, and instead uses unclaimed deposits to fund recycling and composting programs, then we would be more comfortable with both bills moving forward.
We also have questions about what DEP’s roles will be in relation to the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. We wonder whether the transfer of statutory authority also creates new staffing and budgetary obligations for the DEP, and how those would be covered? If done within existing resources, will it add new burdens to already stretched staff? And what impact might that have on the management of the bottle bill and Maine’s other product stewardship programs? We urge the Committee to look carefully at these questions as you consider this bill.
It is for these reasons that we are Neither For Nor Against LD 1366. I appreciate the opportunity to provide these comments and would be glad to answer any questions you may have.