Before the Joint Standing Committee on Business, Research and Economic Development
by Matt Prindiville, NRCM Toxics Project Director
Good afternoon Senator Schneider, Representative Smith and Members of the Committee on Business, Research and Economic Development. My name is Matt Prindiville. I am the Clean Production Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). NRCM is Maine’s leading, membership-supported environmental advocacy organization. We represent over 12,000 members and supporters and work on a variety of issues including energy policy, land conservation, river restoration and preventing toxic pollution.
While we certainly appreciate the need to support businesses during tough economic times, and recognize Senator Smith’s intent in sponsoring this bill as a concept draft, we unfortunately must oppose this bill as drafted for several reasons.
First, the bill proposes to create a council to develop a “new approach to regulation [and a new “regulatory regime”] based on broad principles rather than specific rules and regulations.” The language suggests that the State of Maine should move away from rules and regulations in favor of “broad principles.” We believe that our laws, rules and regulations – diligently crafted by legislators, stakeholders and state agencies – are the embodiment of broad principles in action. For example, the right of Maine people to have clean drinking water is a broad principle. The regulations which specify the reductions in pollutants to make our water safe is what gives that principle meaning and compels the actors involved to achieve it.
There is no way to accomplish the goals of Maine’s laws through broad principles only. That doesn’t provide the assurance that the public expects that critical occupational safety, health and environmental objectives will be achieved. And it likely would not work for businesses either because there would be so much ambiguity involved that they wouldn’t know what the consequences would be for failing to adhere to any specific provisions.
Secondly, granting a private-sector council to “compel staffing from any state agency” would create an unfunded mandate that would divert valuable state resources away from budgeted programs tied to existing funding sources. DEP has already lost 10% of its staffing under cuts imposed by the current administration. There is simply no agency staffing left to “compel” without undermining existing laws and programs or costing taxpayers more money.
Finally, the council would be composed solely of representatives from the business community to determine which regulatory costs should be reduced and which laws should be dismantled in favor of “principle-based regulation.” Having one sector provide recommendations on reducing their own regulatory burden is not good public policy. One would not expect the banking industry alone to draft broad goals for their conduct, and scrap the rules and regulations governing their behavior. Likewise, we wouldn’t allow drivers to get rid of our traffic laws by defining the broad rules and guidance for how we should behave behind the wheel.
Maine people and Maine lawmakers recognize that our laws and regulations involve balancing interests. We care about the protection of the health, safety and environment of our people in this state. We are the state we are because we have an open government that allows all parties to participate to help craft the rules that protect the values and balance the interests of the stakeholders involved and the people of Maine. The rules and regulations that Maine businesses adhere to are the result of decades of discussion, debate, dialogue, and lawmaking. They are the creation of our legislative and democratic process, and it would be a dismantling of that process to allow any one sector out of the mix – it doesn’t matter whom – to change the laws affecting them in the interest of reducing their own responsibilities. We don’t need to create a super-authority of one sector to create a re-writing of rules based on self-interest.
We respectfully urge the Committee to vote ought not to pass on LD 347. Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.