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. I am testifying in opposition to LD 930.
Testing drinking water wells in Maine is very important, especially for arsenic. It was extremely unfortunate that in 2015, Governor LePage decided not to reapply for federal funding that Maine had received to test drinking water wells for arsenic. In 2016, his veto of a bill to help low-income Mainers test for arsenic was equally unfortunate.
NRCM strongly supports encouraging people to test their well water and providing assistance to people who could not afford it otherwise. However, LD 930 does not provide a clear pathway for doing that. Why would it be a requirement, for example, for home owners to test their wells every five years if they have no problems with their well or put in a filtration system to address the problems? Why would fees be waived for testing only on known “contaminated areas”? One of the reasons that problems with arsenic in Maine drinking water are so insidious is that contamination occurs in areas that are completely pristine. High levels of arsenic are naturally present in some bedrock. This bill appears to focus resources in the wrong places.
NRCM strongly opposes the provision in this bill that suggests Efficiency Maine and/or the Public Utilities Commission provide funding for water quality testing. This would be completely inappropriate use of their funds, which have specific public interest purposes that have nothing to do with water quality. This Committee may not be fully aware that funding for Efficiency Maine and the PUC comes almost entirely from ratepayers and, in general, those funds are used to defray or reduce costs that would otherwise be borne by ratepayers. Directing any of their funds to be used for another purpose can only increase costs for ratepayers—including potentially by those agencies simply passing along to ratepayers any new funding for this bill so they can still continue their other statutorily defined obligations related to energy matters.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify on this bill.