Senator Carson, Representative Tucker, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, my name is Pete Didisheim. I am the Advocacy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. I appreciate this opportunity to testify on behalf of our 20,000 members and supporters in support of LD 1784, An Act to Increase Permit by Rule Application Fees.
We support this bill as part of a multi-part strategy to help ensure that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has the resources it needs to do its important work of helping protect Maine’s environment.
In recent years, the purchasing power of DEP’s budget has declined even as its responsibilities and workload have expanded. Members of this committee understand the importance of increasing funding for DEP, including by increasing the number of Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) available in critical areas, and ensuring that the Department has the funds it needs to fill existing vacancies. We appreciate the role you have played this year in advocating for DEP’s budget with the Committee on Appropriations and Fiscal Affairs.
LD 1784 complements your efforts to help restore lost funding and staff capacity at the DEP. This bill will boost resources for staffing in the Land Resources Bureau through an increase in the Permit By Rule (PBR) application fee. When the PBR process was introduced in 1989, the fee was set at $50. Over the past 30 years, the only increases made in this fee have been tied to the consumer price index, averaging only about a one to two percent increase annually.
The increased revenue will support existing staff positions and training for one of DEP’s most vital roles – the processing of permit applications under the Natural Resources Protection Act and Site Location of Development Law. Landowners, developers, municipalities, and policy-makers all expect DEP to stay on top of this permitting work. Currently, staff in DEP’s Land Bureau is stretched too thin, given its workload of managing more than 3,000 permit applications annually. This bill will help address this problem in a way that will be good for the environment and good for those who expect DEP to process permit applications in a timely fashion.
I appreciate this opportunity to testify in support of LD 1784. We urge you to vote Ought to Pass on the bill, and I would be glad to answer any questions you may have.