March 22, 2013

template topads-templateArming rangers, merger proposal and more

By Executive Director Patrick Strauch

Despite a snow day that seems to bring the Legislature to a halt, we have been active this week on a variety of issues.

Although LD 297, An Act To Require Forest Rangers To Be Trained in Order To Allow Them To Carry Firearms, has not yet been printed, we are gathering information about the issue. At our request, the Maine Forest Service provided a chart that compares the qualifications, training, pay, etc. of forest rangers to other state law enforcement officers. We also have a current job posting that provides more detailed information about what is required of forest rangers.

  • DEBATE COMING ON REJECTED LUPC NOMINEE: Duane Lander of Greenville, the nominee for the Land Use Planning Commission from Piscataquis County was rejected by the ACF Committee in a 7-6 vote after an hours-long hearing, setting up a debate in the Senate on the nomination. There is a pattern of the will of the counties being challenged that needs to be addressed. Read Bangor Daily News story.
  • FUEL TAX PROPOSAL: We submitted testimony Friday against the fuel tax increases proposed in LD 614, An Act To Adjust Fuel Taxes To Improve Sustainability.
  • RAILROAD RIGHTS-OF-WAY: MFPC testified on landowners’ concerns about railroad rights-of-way and liability issues in LD 363, An Act To Improve Safety on Railroad Rights-of-way, and it was voted ought not to pass.
  • SWOAM BILL ON MUSHROOMS/FIDDLEHEADS: There was good discussion on SWOAM’s bill, LD 421, An Act To Prohibit the Unauthorized Harvesting of Wild Mushrooms and Fiddleheads. It was tabled until a similar bill could be printed and heard.
  • ENERGY BILL TABLED HERE; CONNECTICUT BILL GETS COMMITTEE OK: LD 646, An Act To Remove the 100-megawatt Limit on Renewable Sources of Energy, has been tabled, while at the same time a similar bill was voted out the Connecticut Energy Committee with an ought to pass vote. This bill has serious implications for renewable energy credits for Maine biomass energy producers. To see reaction to the Connecticut bill, read Lawmakers Lukewarm On Canadian Hydro and Industry attacks CT renewable changes.
  • NEW MERGER PROPOSAL HEADED FOR COMMITTEE: Considerable work has been done on the combined ACF department merger. The Natural Resource Network has produced a proposal supported by the majority of the members to structure the organization for long-term success. The hearing for this amendment to LD 837, An Act To Clarify the Laws Establishing the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, will be held Tuesday, March 26, 2 p.m., Room 214. Please call the office if you have more questions.
  • PASSADUMKEAG WIND PROJECT: The recent decision to overturn the DEP rejection of the Passadumkeag wind project is significant and sets the precedent for debates next week on several wind power bills. According to the Bangor Daily News, DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho ruled against it because of the visual effect it would have had in the area. Aho said in a press release after Thursday’s decision that she is worried about the process as the state considers more applications. “Our agency is entrusted to review each site on its individual merits within the parameters of the state’s standards,” said Aho. “Sometimes we need to say no and the board’s vote today calls into question whether we can truly do that when it comes to mountaintop wind development. I stand fully behind our licensing staff’s decision that this was the wrong project for this special place.” In general the Council is focused on the precedent being established for citing projects using visual quality standards and consistency in regulatory approach. The Council will raise these concerns in testimony on LD 616, An Act To Amend the Expedited Permitting Area for Wind Energy Development under the Jurisdiction of the Maine Land Use Planning Commission, and LD 385, An Act To Improve Wind Energy Development Permitting.
  • CONSULTING FORESTERS’ BILL: The Maine Association of Consulting Foresters has requested support from MFPC on LD 512, An Act To Allow Licensed Foresters To Use Mechanics Liens We will be there to add support.
  • SEN. JACKSON’S BILL TABLED: Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Aroostook, continues to beat the anti-Canadian labor drum with several repeat bills from past sessions.Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Aroostook, continues to beat the anti-Canadian labor drum with several repeat bills from past sessions. At Sen. Jackson’s request, the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development unanimously tabled LD 491, An Act Regarding Timber Harvesting on Land Managed by the Division of Parks and Public Lands, at its work session Friday. Included in a report by the committee’s legislative analyst, was a 2011 letter from Attorney General William Schneider saying that a similar bill was unconstitutional because “it presents premption and equal protection issues.” Sen. Jackson plans to work with the Attorney General’s Office to develop amended language that he hopes will be more acceptable.
  • BUDGET A MAJOR FOCUS: The state budget continues to be a major focus of the Appropriations Committee and will dominate the attention of the legislature.

As always please let us know if you have any questions or need clarification on any issues.