by Nick Bennett, NRCM Staff Scientist
Good afternoon Senator Saviello, Representative Hamper and members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine opposes LD 159 because it will likely result poorer planning for large-scale development, pollution of surface and ground water, and harm to wildlife habitat.
Currently sites that disturb three or more acres, or subdivisions that develop 20 acres and have five or more lots, trigger Site Law review. Under LD 159, these thresholds would increase dramatically to 10 or more acres of disturbed area or 40 acres and 10 lots for subdivisions. Thus, many projects currently receiving site law review at the state level would no longer do so, and only municipalities would be able to review these projects.
There are a number of key findings that relate to water quality and the natural environment that DEP needs to make before large-scale development projects can proceed. Specifically, DEP must find that the development does not harm protected natural resources. It also must find that the development will meet the standards in the Stormwater law, is built on appropriate soils, will not harm ground water, has made adequate provisions to deal with sewage, and will not cause flooding. Even though DEP will retain some jurisdiction over stormwater through the Stormwater Law if LD 159 passes, it will not be able to make findings on these other important factors for many large development projects.
These sorts of findings are complicated to make, and most municipalities do not have the capacity to do the research and field work necessary to make them. DEP has soil scientists, engineers, and geologists on staff or access to professionals in other state agencies who can do this work. Many municipalities, particularly smaller ones, depend on DEP to make these findings. Without DEP’s assistance on these matters through the Site Law, Maine will likely see more large scale developments that cause damage to waterbodies through polluted runoff and inadequate sewage systems and harm wildlife habitat more than necessary.
For these reasons, NRCM urges the Committee to vote ought not to pass on LD 159.