by Cathy Johnson, NRCM North Woods Project Director
Good afternoon Sen. Nutting, Rep. Pieh and members of the Committee. My name is Cathy Johnson. I am the North Woods Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. I am here today on behalf of the 12,000 members and supporters of the Natural Resources Council of Maine in opposition to L.D. 516.
By statute, all LURC Commissioners are required to be familiar with the needs and issues of the jurisdiction. They must have either lived or worked in the jurisdiction or have particular expertise in issues facing the jurisdiction.
How many of the LURC commissioners should also be required to reside in LURC jurisdiction is not a new question for this Legislature. Before1997, two Commissioners were required to reside in LURC jurisdiction. In 1997, L.D. 1644 changed the law and raised the number required to four.
Between 1997 and 1999, it became crystal clear that requiring four members to be residents of the jurisdiction was a mistake. Many people who were extremely knowledgeable about issues facing the jurisdiction or had lived or worked in the jurisdiction AND who had the time and interest to serve were excluded from consideration simply because of where they lived at the time of potential appointment to LURC.
Because of the difficulty of finding four potential LURC Commissioners who had the interest, time and ability to serve AND who physically resided in the jurisdiction, in 1999, LD 1654 essentially repealed the requirement that four members be residents of the jurisdiction and returned the law to the earlier requirement that two members be residents. This law has functioned effectively since 1999.
The time demands on LURC Commissioners are even greater now than they were between 1997 and 1999. Complex development proposals like Plum Creek’s and energy proposals such as the multiple wind power projects have required multi-day and even multi-week hearings. Finding individuals who have the interest and ability to contribute this much time on a volunteer basis AND who live in the jurisdiction would be even harder now than it was in the late 1990s.
In order to avoid the mistake that was made in 1997, and to ensure that the best qualified individuals are available for consideration as potential LURC Commissioners, we urge you to vote Ought Not To Pass on L.D. 516.
Thank you for your attention.