Press Release: GrowSmart Maine testifies on LD 159 and LD 763

PRESS RELEASE

March 30, 2011

GrowSmart Maine

309 Cumberland Avenue

Suite 202

Portland, ME 04101

207-699-4330

 

CONTACT: Kimberly Ballard

 

 

Testimony of Nancy Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine with regards to LD 159,

Neither for or Against,

“An Act to Foster Economic Development by Improving Administration of the Laws Governing Site Location of Development and Storm Water Management”

March 30, 2011

 

Senator Saviello, Representative Hamper and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. My name is Nancy Smith and I am the Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine (GSM). As many of you know from our previous interactions with the committee, GSM is a statewide non-profit membership-based organization working to grow Maine's economy, protect its distinctive character, and enhance our state's quality places.

Having served in the Legislature for eight years, I developed a strategy to evaluate legislation in a way that allowed for some sort of logic and structure for constructive debate. As I discern an appropriate position for GSM, I find this process is again helpful. I’d like to share this strategy with you, as I present our position on LD 159.

First, consider if it is possible for thoughtful people on all sides of this issue to articulate and agree upon “what problem this bill is addressing.” If so, then the next step is to determine if the proposal in the bill most effectively addresses the issue. If we all agree on a common problem, and agree to work towards the most appropriate solution, we’re halfway to a strong committee report, and the success that comes with final passage of an appropriate bill.

In conversations I have had with several people from development and conservation perspectives, the problems being addressed with LD 159 are two-fold. First, the current site location review law is fully triggered at a certain threshold. This creates a cliff, and some would say a barrier, as projects above this level are subject to DEP oversight, and projects below this level would fall to municipal oversight, which varies greatly across the state. Secondly, there is a redundancy among several state oversight programs; namely, Site Location, Natural Resource Protection Act, and Storm Water Management.

If we can agree that the goal of LD 159 is to alleviate both of these issues for developers while still providing timely, predictable, and effective protection of the environment, and that this goal has value and is worth pursuing, we can evaluate the bill in that light. From my perspective, the goal here is for staff of the Dept of Environmental Protection to be able to fulfill its mission, in a way that provides a consistent, predictable, and reasonable regulatory structure for those who fall under their authority.

With that goal in mind, GSM has several suggestions to offer for consideration.

1. A tiered system of regulation rather than a single threshold, or “cliff”. Developers see a single threshold triggering significant regulations as a barrier, and, at times, respond to this by adjusting their plans so that the project falls below the threshold. In this way, they avoid the costs and uncertainties of regulation, but in so doing, they may not as readily meet market demand, and the DEP is unable to achieve its goal of regulating large-scale developments “that because of their size and nature are capable of causing irreparable damage to the people and the environment of the development sites and their surroundings”. Simply raising the threshold does not fix the problem, it only relegates developments between the current and proposed thresholds to municipal authority. However, if the committee were able to develop a multi-tiered system of thresholds, each with appropriate rules based on the potential impact of different scale developments, developers could more readily meet market demand and DEP could more effectively achieve their mission.

2. The desired consistent regulatory environment is not achieved by removing DEP authority from certain scale development. It would be counter-productive to delegate oversight of developments between the current and proposed thresholds to municipalities, without requiring consistent rules for developers or providing the necessary resources to the municipalities. Maine’s municipalities vary greatly in the level of resources and expertise available to manage regulation of development. GSM does support changes that would remove regulatory redundancies between NRPA, Site Location Law, and Storm Water Management. The challenge for the committee will be in ensuring that all aspects of development are addressed when efforts to create this consistency are complete.

3. Appropriate level of legislative oversight for rule-making. As a final point, the committee must weigh the impact of shifting rulemaking from “routine technical” to “major substantive”. The added commitment of time and money required for major substantive rules should be reserved for those components of rule-making that truly require legislative oversight. Routine, technical rules are still subject to public input, and tend to require much less time and resources than major substantive rules. This allows for a timelier implementation of the rules, at lower cost to the state agency and to stakeholders, and reduces reliance on the legislative branch as well.

In closing, I hope the committee and the assembled stakeholders will be able to define a single objective with which to frame the discussion of LD 159, and that an appropriate solution is found that will allow developers to focus on meeting market demand while allowing DEP to achieve its mission. At GSM, we focus our work at the intersection of economic development and conservation. It is not as simple as choosing between the two, or striking a balance where each is harmed equally; our work is to identify and facilitate opportunities for sustainable economic growth in ways that do not harm, and can actually build upon, our unique and invaluable quality places. An appropriate amendment to LD 159 would do just that.

 

 

 

Testimony of Nancy Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine in favor of LD 763,

“An Act Relating to Maine Farm Wineries”

March 30, 2011

 

Senator Farnham, Representative Beaulieu and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs. My name is Nancy Smith and I am the Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine. As many of you know from our previous interactions with the committee, GrowSmart Maine is a statewide non-profit membership-based organization working to grow Maine's economy, protect its distinctive character, and enhance our state's quality places. I regret that previously scheduled commitments prevent me or other GrowSmart Maine representatives to present this testimony at today’s Public Hearing for LD 763.

 

As a part of our commitment to strengthening Maine’s economy, GrowSmart Maine is particularly enthusiastic about well grounded, thoughtful and creative proposals which grow the economy in a sustainable manner while at the same time protecting our state’s unique character. The viability of the natural resource sector is key to both Maine’s economy and our quality of place. It isn’t Maine if farmers and fishermen, foresters and loggers aren’t successful in their businesses. The proposal outlined in LD763 to allow for the sale of locally produced wine and beer at farmers’ markets is a sensible proposal. Maine Dept of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Resources already has in place regulations that define those who can sell at a farmers’ market and what portion of products offered for sale must come from that person’s own enterprise. The Dept. of Ag also regulates the labeling of products to identify their origin. GrowSmart Maine supports the additional oversight appropriate for the sale of spirits, as outlined in this legislation.

 

Thank you for the opportunity to present these remarks. Please feel free to contact me with any questions regarding GrowSmart Maine’s enthusiastic support for LD 763.

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