by Nick Bennett, NRCM Staff Scientist
Senator Saviello, Representative Hamper, and members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee:
Thank you for the opportunity to testify on this bill. The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) believes that LD 671 will cripple Maine’s ability to clean up contaminated sites and result in greater pollution of ground and surface water. NRCM believes this bill will stack membership on the Fund Insurance Review Board in favor of the oil industry by reducing the number of public members of the Board. What is the problem that this bill is trying to fix by reducing public representation? NRCM believes the point of having a public oversight board is to provide
In addition, NRCM believes reducing the amount of money available to DEP staff to oversee cleanup projects is going to slow down the process of cleanup and make it more expensive. Cleaning up an oil spill isn’t simple. Oil can get into the groundwater, and once it does, cleanup costs can escalate dramatically and quickly, so it’s important to respond to a spill quickly and get the oil cleaned up before it has a chance to reach groundwater. Also, cleaning up to the right level is extremely important. If too much oil is left behind, groundwater contamination will also result.
Mom and pop gasoline stores and homeowners will not have the needed expertise to do this work, nor will they be able to afford consultants, which are very expensive, often billing $100 per hour or more.
DEP staff are uniquely positioned to respond quickly to spills. They have the experience and specialized sampling equipment, and they can be on a site without having to conclude a contract as a homeowner would with a consultant.
Finally, I would note that this bill is very similar to LD 880, which this committee rejected by a vote of 12-1 in 2009. I am attaching the Department’s testimony on LD 880 to my testimony here
Thank you again for the opportunity to testify on this important issue.