While this was a shorter week than normal due to the holiday on Monday, legislative committees have continued to push through the enormous workload that remains. The pace continuously increases as bills are printed and referenced to committees of jurisdiction. With just shy of 1,800 bills printed, roughly 400 remain in draft form, yet the clock is quickly running out for committees to conduct their work. We are still waiting for the presiding officers to assign a deadline for committee work to be completed, but it is expected that only a small handful of weeks remain before bills need to be carried over to next year or voted out.
Here’s a look at the bills we engaged on this week in Augusta.
On Tuesday, we testified before the Taxation Committee on a number of bills. While we are opposed to the bill as drafted, an amendment was presented for LD 1135, “An Act to Ensure That Carbon Credits Can be Sold on Forest Land Enrolled in the Maine Tree Growth Tax Law” that we supported. The amended version would direct the Maine Revenue Service and the Maine Forest Service to issue guidance regarding carbon markets and how they intersect with the Tree Growth Tax Law. Our testimony on this amendment can be found here.
We testified in support of LD 1475, “An Act to Promote Biomanufacturing and Biotechnology Development by Establishing a Tax Credit.” In our comments, we provided some suggestions for clarifications that should be made to ensure that this credit can be utilized for our industry. Our testimony can be found here.
We also testified neither for nor against LD 1308, “An Act to Establish Municipal Cost Components for Unorganized Territory Services to be Rendered in Fiscal Year 2023-24. Reflected in this bill is a small tax increase to fund items like education and snow plowing expenses. Our testimony can be found here.
On Wednesday, the Agriculture Conservation and Forestry Committee voted on an amended version of a bill opposed by the Council, LD 993, “An Act to Facilitate Stakeholder Input Regarding Forest Policy in Maine.” The amendment was supported by four members of the committee, with six voting ONTP. Three members were absent. The amendment changed how the board would be appointed to the executive branch, it reduced the size of the board from 21 members to 10 and it brought the duties more in line with the New Hampshire model. Once reported out of committee, LD 993 will go to the House for consideration where either the majority ONTP or minority OTP-AM report may be considered. The Council will continue to monitor this bill.
The Energy, Utilities and Technology held work sessions on the two 100-megawatt bills that were opposed by the Council, LD 43, “An Act to Reduce the Cost of Electricity by Removing the 100-megawatt Limit on Renewable Resources of Energy” and LD 622, “An Act to Create Equal Opportunity Access to Clean Energy by Removing the 100-megawatt Limit on Clean Energy Sources.” The committee voted ONTP on LD 43. LD 622 received a divided report with six members voting ONTP and three voting in favor of the legislation.
The EUT Committee also voted on unanimously OTP-AM on a bill supported by the Council, LD 698, “An Act Directing the Public Utilities Commission to Study the State Natural Gas Supply Pursuant to the Maine Energy Cost Reduction Act.” The amendment directs the PUC to continue to work on gaining capacity in order to reduce electricity costs and increase winter reliability. Once reported out, this bill will advance to the House for consideration.
Yesterday, we testified before the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee in opposition to an amended version of LD 1431, “An Act Requiring the Public Utilities Commission to Adopt Rules Promoting Renewable Energy.” The amendment, which became available less than 24-hours before the public hearing, was confusing, contradictory and damaging to biomass generators in Maine. It seems to eliminate biomass as an eligible resource under Maine’s Renewable Portfolio Standard by creating a new definitional category, “naturally regenerative or certified green”, that excludes biomass and (hydropower for that matter). The amendment also directs the PUC to conduct a study of biomass with a report back to the committee early next year. The Council is joined by ReEnergy, a member company, in strongly opposing this legislation.
The Week Ahead
Next week will be a busy one, especially for the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, which will hold meetings on various topics including mining and PFAS.
On Monday, this committee will hold public hearings on two bills that I would like to bring your attention to. The first is LD 1411, “An Act to Require the Adoption of Sector-specific Greenhouse Gas Emissions Limits.” This bill, which is in conflict with the work of the Maine Climate Council, has the potential to limit future growth and expansion capabilities of our industry if it caps emissions at the current level. We have the capacity to grow, and as we’ve seen in recent months, critical investments are being made to diversify our industry.
On Monday at 1:00 PM, the Environment and Natural Resources Committee will hold a public hearing on LD 1621, “An Act Regarding Environmental Justice.” While the Council agrees that it is important for all Mainers to have equal access to the regulatory process, we have some concerns with the language as drafted, so we will testify neither for nor against this bill.
Also on Monday, the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee will hold a public hearing on LD 416, “An Act to Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue for Research and Development and Commercialization” at 10:00 AM. This hearing presents an opportunity for mills who have benefited from MTI grant projects to show their support of this allocation of money. To submit online testimony or sign up to testify remotely, click here.
There is a host of other bills on topics ranging from nuisance beavers to off-trail snowmobile riding that will be considered next week as well. For more information, see the schedule below. If you have any questions, or need help submitting testimony, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Krysta West for assistance.
PS: The Board of Licensure of Foresters public rulemaking hearing on Chapters 70 (Qualifications for Forester License), 70-A (Licensure by Endorsement) and 100 (Code of Ethics) that was set for Monday, April 24 has been rescheduled for May 25. Oral comments will be accepted at the public rulemaking hearing and written comments will be accepted until Monday, June 5, 2023 at 5:00 PM. FMI, click here.