Last week was a busy week in Augusta with our team appearing in a number of legislative committees to represent our membership. On Tuesday, we presented testimony before the Taxation Committee neither for nor against LD 191, “An Act to Amend The Laws Regarding Certain Business Equipment Tax Benefits” and we introduced the Council to the Transportation Committee during their interested parties briefing. We also attended a presentation by the Children’s Caucus to advocate for a childcare tax credit bill that the Council will support this session as a potential solution for workforce availability issues in rural Maine.
On Wednesday in ENR we monitored a four-hour briefing on PFAS (more on that below).
In ACF, we monitored work sessions on three bills of interest, including LD 24, “An Act to Prohibit Open Burning Under a Red Flag Warning and Regulate Recreational Campfires”, LD 108, “An Act to Establish a Logger Relations Advocate Within the Maine Forest Service” and LD 180, “An Act to Allow a Person to File a Paper Copy of a Timber Harvest Notification Form.” An amended version of LD 24 passed with strong support with an amendment requested by wild blueberry growers while LDs 108 and 180 died unanimously.
In IFW, we monitored the work session on LD 57, “An Act to Amend Maine’s Endangered and Threatened Species List.” This bill passed unanimously with an amendment requiring a report back from the Department in four years.
Yesterday, we submitted testimony to the Labor and Housing Committee in opposition to LD 53, “An Act to Ensure Accountability for Workplace Harassment and Assault by Removing Intentional Acts and Omissions from Workers’ Compensation Exemptions.” We oppose this bill because the broad drafting of the language would open employers up to significant litigation for acts that they may not be at fault for, threatening the very foundation of the workers’ compensation program.
Next week the Legislature will be out of town for February break, so no public hearings or work sessions have been scheduled. The week after, the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee will consider two bills we would like your input on. Please email Krysta to let us know if you support or oppose the following two bills, and why.
- LD 43, “An Act to Reduce the Cost of Electricity by Removing the 100-megawatt Limit on Renewable Resources of Energy
- LD 622, “An Act to Create Equal Opportunity Access to Clean Energy by Removing the 100-megawatt Limit on Clean Energy Sources
PFAS Briefing Update
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), along with the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF), this past week provided a comprehensive briefing and update to the Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources Committee on their combined efforts pursuant to P.L. 2021, ch 641, “An Act to Prevent the Further Contamination of the Soils and Waters of the State with so-called Forever Chemicals.”
In 2021, the Maine Legislature appropriated $20M to the DEP to establish an administrative structure along with DACF, the Maine CDC, the Maine Drinking Water program, and the Department of IF&W to co-develop processes to implement a PFAS investigation program to collect, validate and compile data based on groundwater, sludge/soil, fish and animal testing.
Agency updates included information on their PFAS investigation structure, hirings and staff trainings, schedules and sampling efforts for collection, validation and data compilation based upon current standards and screening levels, as well as additional information on the sites included in their PFAS investigation. Additional information was provided on the use of funds to date. Since 2019, the DEP reports it has spent $3.5M on non-personnel costs as part of their investigation for sampling and lab analysis, research, equipment and filter installation, equipment and water. DACF reports it has spent over $2M on income replacement, viability support and laboratory testing on its investigatory sites. Additionally, the DEP’s preliminary PFAS investigation cost projections are significant with an estimation that the current 1,037 investigatory sites will cost somewhere between $27.7M to $53.5M.
Both Departments provided an abundance of information (handouts available upon request) over a 4-hour session where it was clear that Maine’s PFAS legislative efforts are complex, involved and will be a significant focus of this legislature.
That’s all for now. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.