May 2024 Newsletter

At the end of each session, I always take a moment to consider not only the impacts of the laws passed, but also the message that was sent to the forest industry. Do our goals as a state line up with our laws? What signals were sent to those looking to make investments in Maine? How does the business climate here compare to that of our regional and global competitors?

Over my time with the Council (two decades this year!), and especially over the last six years as a founding member of the FOR/Maine collaboration, it has been evident that to be successful, our actions need to match our words. Maine has all the right ingredients for a prosperous and sustainable forest products industry, but to be successful, we must take care of our core companies and continue to attract new businesses to our state. Efforts to diversify our portfolio to include new and innovative uses for residuals also must continue.

These goals require considerable investment, so Maine must remain competitive on a global scale. Our signals to the marketplace need be clear.

Unfortunately, throughout the 131st Legislature, and especially during this past year, signals have been consistently inconsistent at both the state and federal levels.

Examples are numerous, but here are a few standouts.


In 2020, Maine adopted a climate action plan called Maine Won’t Wait. This comprehensive plan established goals to address climate change as a state and implemented timeframes to keep us on track. To achieve 100% carbon neutrality by 2045, the plan emphasizes electrifying our transportation sector and achieving 80% clean energy use by 2030.

These ambitious goals are in direct conflict with DEP’s proposal for Chapter 375 rules drafted in response to legislation that passed last year (LD 1881). The Board of Environmental Protections held a public hearing on DEP’s draft rules in March. The Chain Saw Marching Band was present in force for this hearing with the Council testifying in strong opposition (testimony included within this newsletter) along with several of our Landowner Committee members.

If adopted, the DEP proposal would establish a new broadly defined “undeveloped habitat block” category under Site Law that would require automatic mitigation for any/all impacts to 79% of Maine’s undeveloped lands (roughly 14.5 million acres) for any form of renewable energy development (wind, solar, transmission).

The result would be the most extensive rezoning in recent history, resulting in a huge taking of development values for landowners in every corner of the state while making growth in the renewable energy sector necessary to meet the State’s climate goals uneconomical and unachievable.

BEP hasn’t scheduled a follow-up meeting to discuss next steps for this proposal yet. MFPC has requested that the Board send the rules back to the Department for extensive revisions that include input from the regulated community and a stakeholder process. We think there is a more reasonable approach to mitigating site location projects, but out of the gate the current concept is flawed.

LD 1794:

With the passage of LD 1794, the Legislature (almost) established a commission, primarily made up of lawmakers – eight out of 15 members, with only two industry representatives – to dictate staffing levels at pulp and paper mills with operations in Maine. The Commission was based on several flawed premises, including that forced overtime presents safety issues for workers and host communities while voluntary overtime does not. In contrast, the same legislature enacted the most benefits rich Paid Family and Medical Leave program in the country to allow employees at businesses of all sizes to take extensive leave to care for a broad category of individuals, including people who are like family, for a broad range of reasons.

Once the program goes live (May of 2026), it will certainly create additional staffing challenges for employers, like pulp and paper mills, that are already struggling with the pressures of operating 24/7 with a limited work force.

Fortunately, LD 1794 did not become law. It was among the dozens of bills enacted on veto day after Statutory Adjournment. Governor Mills used her pocket veto authority to reject all 35 bills because they were passed “without clear constitutional authority” (Governor Mills, May 14 letter to the 131st Legislature).

LD 1985:

I hate to belabor efforts by one legislator, but a another bill aimed squarely at the industry was dropped in the bottom of the ninth that also sent confusing signals to companies with significant investments in Maine’s forest industry, LD 1985. Had it passed, this bill would have tarnished Maine’s reputation of having the most acres certified as sustainable by forcing the Bureau of Public Lands to pull out of the most predominantly used and recognized program in Maine, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

Historically BPL has been a leader in the movement to certify public lands to the two predominantly used programs. The politically motivated effort to withdraw nearly 700,000 acres from the program not only sent mixed signals to investors, it also threatened the ability of manufacturers to procure enough certified wood to meet market demand. Access to wood certified as sustainable is necessary to justify ongoing investments, and it has been used as a key selling point by the FOR/Maine effort to attract new forest products businesses to our state.

To complicate matters further, this effort was supported by an organization representing loggers even though certification programs drive demand for Maine’s forest products – demand that is necessary to support a healthy logging workforce.

Tactics used to promote this bill were underhanded and completely unnecessary. They sent damaging messages to both the marketplace and to legislators (through a front page news story) that must now be overcome. As an industry, we must do better moving forward.


It isn’t just at the state level that our signals are getting crossed. The Biden Administration has made returning manufacturing back to America a priority. The Council agrees that this is an important goal for our economy, and for national security. However, like others, we are confused by the EPA’s recent announcement of an updated National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate Matter (PM 2.5) that lowers the standard to near background levels for Maine. This rule change puts nearly 40% of the country automatically into nonattainment, and it allows for very little headroom for permitting in some areas of Maine. While making permitting for new factories and facilities more difficult, this rule change does nothing to address PM 2.5 emissions in the US that are driven by wildfires, road dust, agriculture and other nonpoint sources, which constitute approximately 84% of emissions.

Both the aggressive nature of this rule change, and the expedited timeframe it is on, defies common sense. Again, the stated goals of the administration and the actions of its regulatory agency are out of step.


While there have been a lot of mixed signals this year, the 131st Legislature accomplished a lot of important goals as well. It updated the PFAS in products law and mining laws. It created a new Dirigo Tax Program to modernize the outdated Pine Tree Development Zone tax program. The new Dirigo program recognizes our current workforce realities by shifting focus from job creation to incentivizing business investments and workforce training. This legislature also made some key investments on workforce development issues such as affordable housing and child care.

It‘s important to acknowledge that Governor Mills and her staff understood and managed issues of concern expressed by the forest industry. Without her leadership and determination, legislative outcomes could have been much worse for the business community.

Overall, with the support of our members and the administration, we were able to stop, or at the very least mitigate, the more problematic bills that were introduced over the course of the 131st Legislature. We were also able to engage proactively on bills that are important for future growth in our industry.

We‘ll spend the summer and fall working hard to educate policy makers on the importance of a stable regulatory environment and share our vision of the forest manufacturing economy.

I would like to thank our dedicated team for their tireless efforts over the last two years, and our Policy Committee for giving us direction during an unusually busy two-year session. Included in this newsletter is the breakdown of bills that we engaged on, along with their final disposition.

Our team will now shift focus to plan for the 132nd Legislature. If you have any questions, or ideas for proactive legislation, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

We hope that you will join us at our upcoming golf tournament in Bangor and our 64th annual meeting in Carrabassett Valley (information included within the newsletter linked below).


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