Senator Carson, Representative Tucker, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, my name is Sarah Lakeman and I am the Sustainable Maine Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). I appreciate this opportunity to testify in support of LD 988, which would help Maine’s waste policy better align with our solid waste management hierarchy.
LD 988 strikes the existing $2/ton exemption on waste-handling fees for landfilled municipal solid waste (MSW), and directs the generated funds to support waste diversion efforts in the state. According to DEP’s most recent solid waste generation and solid waste capacity report, there were 241,587 tons of MSW landfilled in our state in 2017. Had this bill passed and been in effect at that time, there would have been $483,174 generated for the Maine Solid Waste Diversion Grant Program established under section 2201-B. That amount is about five times more than what DEP awarded to Maine communities through the grant program in 2018; see a list of waste diversion projects that were funded attached. NRCM believes this program is helping our communities to innovate and keep waste out of our landfills—and the more money in that fund, the better.
Supporting LD 988 is a logical choice for two reasons: 1) Maine’s current disposal fee structure is not germane with our solid waste management hierarchy established in 38 MRSA §2101. Landfilling is the lowest rung on our solid waste management hierarchy, below waste-to-energy. Based on the hierarchy, it doesn’t make sense that the State would have a $1/ton charge for waste-to-energy ash, but then provide a universal exemption for the $2/ton fee for landfilling MSW; and 2) Using funds accrued from landfilling MSW toward the reduction of landfilling MSW makes sense systematically: the more landfilling in the state, the more money accrues to the fund to increase landfill diversion, and likewise—with less landfilling there would be fewer funds accrued, but also less need for a fund.
NRCM believes that it is time to finally pass this proposal. The concept in LD 988 was proposed in the Department’s 2009 Proposal to Strengthen Maine’s Recycling Effort Report, and NRCM testified in favor of a similar bill, LD 947, in 2015. LD 988 would help align Maine’s waste policy with our solid waste management hierarchy and would create additional funding for our state’s Solid Waste Diversion Grant Program. Thank you for your consideration of these comments, and I would be glad to answer any questions you may have.
 This report can be found here: https://www.maine.gov/dep/publications/reports/index.html