Senator Saviello, Representative Walsh, and distinguished members of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. I am Pete Didisheim, the Advocacy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and I appreciate this opportunity to testify on behalf of our members and supporters in opposition to the nomination of Kathleen Chase to the Board of Environmental Protection.
We take the nomination process seriously. We carefully review the responsibilities of the position for which the candidate has been nominated, as well as the qualifications of the candidate to potentially fulfill those duties. Over the past 20 years, NRCM has not testified against a single nominee to the Board of Environmental Protection—but today is different.
We oppose this nominee because her legislative record as a State Representative shows a consistent pattern of opposition to many of Maine’s most important environmental laws—laws that, as a member of the BEP, she would be charged to support and defend.
While Kathleen Chase served in Augusta, she supported legislation that would have directly undermined responsibilities of the Department of Environmental Protection. She sponsored and cosponsored bills to weaken laws including the Natural Resources Protection Act and Shoreland Zoning—laws that provide vital safeguards for wildlife habitat and the water quality of Maine’s rivers, lakes and streams.
She voted against positions of the Department of Environmental Protection, Board of Environmental Protection, unanimous and near-unanimous votes of this Committee, and the majority of the House and Senate.
Examples include the following:
- In 2007, Rep. Chase voted against LD 340, a bill requiring that people who cut trees in violation of the law replace those trees or vegetation. DEP testified in support of the bill, as did town officials from Kittery, York, and Kennebunkport. Pattie Aho also spoke in support of the bill on behalf of the Maine Real Estate and Development Association. The bill received a unanimous (13-0) positive recommendation from this committee, a unanimous vote in the Senate, and a vote in the House of 114-21. Rep. Chase was part of the small minority of legislators who voted against the bill. It was signed into law May 10, 2007.
- In 2009, Rep Chase voted against LD 330, DEP’s recommended classification upgrades for Maine waterways, pursuant to the Clean Water Act. This periodic bill provided DEP’s science-based recommendations to increase the legal clean water protections for a number of rivers, streams and coastal waters where the data demonstrated water quality improvements. DEP’s proposal, reviewed and recommended for adoption by the Board of Environmental Protection, received broad support from water quality organizations like the Congress of Lakes Association, Portland Water District, and Lakes Environmental Associates. The Maine Pulp and Paper Association also supported the bill, which passed the Senate (32-2) and the House (109-33). Rep. Chase was part of a small minority of legislators who voted against the bill. It was signed into law May 19, 2009.
- In 2011, Rep. Chase was the lead House sponsor of LD 434, a bill that would have exempted all wetlands in Maine from protection under Shoreland Zoning. DEP’s Director of the Bureau of Land and Water Quality testified against LD 434 stating that the bill “would greatly impact Maine’s rivers, lakes and streams… If passed, LD 434 would eliminate a majority of wetlands that are currently protected by proven and sound regulations developed under the Mandatory Shoreland Zoning Act… [and] would be inconsistent with the definition of a freshwater wetland in the Natural Resource Protection Act. To eliminate safeguards that protect the integrity of wetlands from adjacent development would be detrimental.” The ENR committee voted 13-0 Ought Not to Pass (on a motion by Rep. Jim Parker), and the bill died in the House and Senate.
- In 2011, Rep. Chase was the lead House sponsor, and testified in support of, LD 872, a bill that would have drastically weakened protections of significant vernal pool habitat, high and moderate value inland waterfowl and wading bird habitat, and shorebird nesting, feeding and staging areas. LD 872 was not based on sound science or on a factual understanding of Maine’s Natural Resources Protection Act (NRPA). The Environment and Natural Resources Committee rejected the bill with a 12-1 Ought Not to Pass vote, and the bill died in the House and Senate.
- In 2011, Rep. Chase testified in support of a bill, LD 1477, that would have allowed property owners to demand payments from Maine taxpayers, potentially adding up to billions of dollars, for zoning, land use, and regulatory actions that were taken decades ago. In supporting the bill, Rep. Chase attacked existing DEP regulations as “excessive,” “wrongful,” and amounting to “theft.” She said: “The state in its theft of property rights through regulation has been neither reasonable nor responsible in paying for the takings.”Is this the view that Kathleen Chase would bring to the BEP, that our environmental laws are “excessive,” “wrongful,” and amount to “theft”?
- In 2012, Rep. Chase voted against LD 1797, major substantive rules developed by the DEP and recommended by the Board of Environmental Protection, for activities located in, on or over Inland Waterfowl and Wading Bird Habitat. These rules created standards for a Permit By Rule under the Natural Resources Protection Act. The Board of Environmental Protection voted unanimously (5-0) in support of the rules. DEP Policy Director Heather Parent testified in support of the rules at this committee’s public hearing. On March 6, 2012, the ENR Committee voted 12-1 Ought to Pass as Amended. The bill was then approved by the Senate unanimously and by the House (89-50), and signed into law by Governor LePage on March 29, 2012. Rep. Chase was part of the minority of legislators who voted against the bill.
- In 2013, Rep. Chase voted against LD 1308, legislation developed by the paint industry to establish a new recycling and product stewardship program for unwanted paint. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Saviello and supported by Sherwin-Williams, BEHR Corporation, Valspar, American Coatings Association, PPG Industries, the Henry Company, PaintCare, and others. This committee reported the bill out with an 8-4 OTP-A recommendation. It was then approved by the Senate (28-7) and by the House (97-45), and became law on July 2, 2013. Rep. Chase was part of the minority of legislators who voted against the bill.
We are concerned about this legislative record because, as a member of the BEP, the nominee would be called on to defend many of the very laws that, as a lawmaker, she voted to weaken—including the Natural Resources Protection Act, Shoreland Zoning, and water quality protections.
We’re not saying that the nominee was not a well-respected representative for her constituents, or that she might not be an excellent fit for a different gubernatorial appointment. But not the Board of Environmental Protection, not given her record of hostility toward many of Maine’s key environmental laws and regulations.
Finally, let me comment on the unprecedented nature of this nomination. Over the past 20 years, no individual nominated to the BEP has had such an adversarial stance toward Maine’s environmental laws as the nominee before you today.
Dating back to 1995, 40 Maine citizens have served as members of the Board of Environmental Protection (see attached). The list includes many attorneys, engineers, and scientists, and also individuals with business, municipal, forest products, and oil industry experience. Over this period, only four BEP members had served previously in the Maine Legislature,[i] and none had a legislative record that caused us to testify against their nomination. The nominee before you today is different. Her legislative record is cause for considerable concern. We believe she has demonstrated considerable bias against Maine’s environmental laws, which is why we urge you to vote against this nomination.
I appreciate this opportunity to testify and would be glad to answer any questions you may have.
[i] Chris Livesay (R-Brunswick), Real Estate Attorney; Judiciary Committee; John Marsh (R-Gardiner), Chief Warden of Maine Warden Service; Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Marine Resources Committee; Richard Gould (D-Greenville), Great Northern Paper Legislative Liaison; Energy and Natural Resources Committee; and Jim Parker (R-Veazey), Engineer, Environment and Natural Resources Committee