April 4, 2013
415 Congress St, Suite #204
Portland, ME 04101
CONTACT: Nancy E. Smith
Testimony of Nancy Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine in favor of LD 825,
“Resolve, To Study Climate Change and Implement the Recommendations of the Department of Environmental Protection Report on Climate Change”
April 4, 2013
Senator Boyle, Representative Welsh 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. 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.
As a part of our commitment to strengthening Maine’s economy, GrowSmart Maine is particularly enthusiastic about well grounded, thoughtful and creative proposals which seek to grow the economy in a sustainable manner while at the same time preserving our state’s unique character and quality of place. We believe this bill fits that description.
This is the first time I’ve been motivated to testify on a bill after reading a newspaper story. I spoke with Colin Woodard as he was gathering information regarding the 2010 DEP climate adaptation strategy. I was fascinated to read the article, published March 17th in the Portland Press Herald. There is one particularly important statement in that article, “The central point of contention in the forthcoming debate is what role the state should play in preparing a game plan and coordinating and assisting efforts by towns, cities, businesses, citizens groups and government agencies to respond to present and predicted effects of the changing climate. At stake is the efficacy of those efforts, and the efficiency with which they are carried out.” I think that’s exactly the issue this committee must resolve.
The report raises numerous issues relevant to GrowSmart Maine because they tie directly to the principles of smart growth; managing the growth of our communities by building on and strengthening existing infrastructure, drawing growth to downtown areas while encouraging productive farms and forests as the foundation of the rural economy.
These issues include Maine’s aging housing stock as most likely to be most vulnerable to changes in climate, Maine’s DOT study, Climate Change and Transportation in Maine which highlights the long lifecycles of most transportation infrastructure, which requires early preparation to protect significant taxpayer investments and the potential benefits of climate change to Maine’s business sectors, including agriculture and forestry, tourism and manufacturing.
In reference to state-level coordination, the Summary report states, “Without such a coordinating entity, this momentum and coordination are likely to falter. The very obvious benefits of information and resource sharing could be squandered. So People and Nature Adapting to a Changing Climate is also a call for ongoing coordination, and participants look to the Legislature for its affirmation of the work done to date, and direction to continue.”
As this committee determines appropriate next steps and considers which state agency should take the lead, this is clearly a missed opportunity with the recent elimination of the State Planning Office and Land and Water Resources Council. These entities served effectively as cross-jurisdictional conveners where issues such as energy infrastructure, production and efficiency, agriculture and forestry production and land conservation as well as land use planning could be discussed. Both DEP and the Municipal Planning Assistance Program (MPAP) housed within the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry have been discussed as potential leads on this issue. It appears DEP is not eager to engage in this process, yet I am concerned with the very limited resources of the MPAP staff. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t build on past efforts.
The challenge of government is to consistently balance the immediate with the important. Adapting our businesses and communities for the impacts of climate change is important and is becoming more immediate each year. We can’t do it all, but I believe this bill provides an opportunity to do what we must.
Thank you for the opportunity to present these remarks.