Senator Carson, Representative Tucker, and distinguished members of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. My name is Pete Didisheim. I am the Advocacy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and I appreciate the opportunity to testify in support of the nomination of Jerry Reid to serve as Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection.
Based on the many positive experiences that I and other NRCM staff have had working with Mr. Reid over the past two decades, we believe that he has the qualifications needed to be an excellent DEP Commissioner. We recommend him highly.
Mr. Reid has provided leadership from the Attorney General’s Office in hundreds of cases that have helped restore fisheries to our rivers, protect our lakes, reduce air pollution, address climate change, and curb hazardous waste, including mercury pollution in the Penobscot River. He has successfully prosecuting parties who egregiously violated Maine’s environmental laws and has represented Maine in multi-state cases aimed at blocking rollbacks of some of the nation’s most important environmental laws.
Before elaborating further, let me speak to the issue of tribal relations.
NRCM recognizes that this nomination has raised deep concerns from members of the Penobscot Indian Nation and others who are looking to the Mills Administration to repair damaged relations between Maine tribes and the State—the result of hundreds of years of troubled history. NRCM has heard those concerns and also believes it should be a high priority for the Mills Administration to work to heal the damage. The history of injustice the tribes have experienced and continue to experience is something we all should reckon with as Mainers.
NRCM values our ongoing working relationship with the Maine tribes, and we look forward to continued collaborations to help protect Maine’s rivers, fisheries, wildlife, and other natural resources. We have worked closely with the Penobscot Indian Nation on the Penobscot River Restoration Project, which has dramatically improved the water quality and fisheries in the Penobscot River. We also worked closely with the Passamaquoddy Tribe to re-open the St. Croix River to alewives. The run was down to only a few thousand fish in 2008; now, it numbers nearly 300,000. And we have worked closely with the Houlton Band of the Maliseets to fight the threat of mining pollution.
NRCM has repeatedly backed efforts by the Penobscot Indian Nation to secure more protective water quality standards to support the Nation’s sustenance fishing rights, and we will continue to do so. We also are working with the Penobscot Indian Nation on the river reclassification package that will come before the Legislature this year, which includes important upgrades for the Penobscot River.
We have discussed these issues with Mr. Reid and believe that both he and Governor Mills are committed to improved relations with the Maine tribes and to achieving continued forward progress for the Penobscot River, including passage of the river reclassification package and a process for improving water quality standards to protect sustenance fishing rights.
We believe the frayed relations between Maine tribes and the State must improve, but we also hope that all parties can focus on the character, qualifications, and accomplishments of the nominee before this committee.
Maine’s environment is safer and cleaner because of the role Jerry Reid has played over the past 20 years. We particularly appreciate his role in the following areas:
- Climate: Representing Maine in the landmark Massachusetts vs. EPA case that protected EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases.
- Clean Air: Representing Maine over the past 20 years in every multi-state ozone pollution case to ensure that the Clean Air Act can be implemented and enforced to protect Maine’s air from upwind polluters.
- Public Lands: Defending the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument by testifying against legislation at the State House aimed at blocking the Monument, and representing Maine in the case against the Trump Administration’s attempt to radically reduce the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase National Monuments, in violation of the Antiquities Act.
- Fisheries: Defending Maine’s regulatory approvals for removal of the Ft. Halifax Dam, opening up the Sebasticook River to sea-run fish.
- Mercury Pollution: Enforcement action against the Holtrachem manufacturing plant in Orrington for the company’s illegal mercury pollution of the Penobscot River.
- Lakes: Protecting Maine’s authority to regulate water levels at Flagstaff Lake and other lakes.
- Enforcement: Many successful enforcement actions, including for falsification of wastewater discharge reports, and for violations of Maine’s hazardous waste, shoreland zoning, and air quality laws.
In conclusion, we believe that Jerry Reid’s record of public service demonstrates both his deep commitment to the protection of Maine’s environment and his qualifications to serve as DEP Commissioner. We also believe that he will work for a stronger, more productive relationship with the tribes going forward. For these reasons, we urge you to support this nomination.