Senator Brenner, Representative Tucker, and members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee:
My name is Nick Bennett, and I am the Staff Scientist for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). NRCM is Maine’s largest environmental advocacy group with more that 25,000 members and supporters. I reside in Hallowell. I am testifying in support of LD 1801.
Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) proposed this bill to resolve a longstanding issue with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concerning Maine’s exemption for stormwater discharges in Class AA and Class SA waters. Class AA is the highest class for rivers and streams, and Class SA is the highest class for estuarine and marine waters. Existing Maine statute (Title 38 Sections 465(1)(C)(1) and 465-B(1)(C)(1) respectively) allows stormwater discharges in compliance with state and local requirements to Class AA and Class SA waters.
In 2015, EPA disapproved these sections of Maine statute, and since then, the status of the stormwater exemption has been in limbo. This made DEP hesitant to propose upgrades from Class A to Class AA for numerous waterbodies, including those in critical habitat for endangered Atlantic salmon. LD 1801 is a proposal that DEP developed with EPA to resolve this issue. It allows exemptions for certain stormwater discharges to Class AA and Class SA waters, but these exemptions are narrower than those in existing statute.
NRCM believes the approach outlined in LD 1801 is reasonable, and we urge the Committee to vote Ought to Pass on the bill. This will allow DEP to enthusiastically endorse the upgrades from Class A to Class AA that the Board of Environmental Protection approved in December 2021 and that the Committee will vote on later this session.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I would be happy to take any questions.