2016 Committee Spotlight

Most of the work on bills occurs in committee. We highlight here the work of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee (ENR) during the 2016 session.

Solid waste. Members of the ENR Committee devoted countless hours to evaluating options to improve Maine’s solid waste policies. The committee ended up crafting a bill (LD 313) that creates a new waste disposal goal to reduce per capita generation of solid waste and promote strategies to reduce food waste. The bill authorizes the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to adopt fee changes on solid waste disposal and creates a new solid waste diversion grant program for recycling projects. The bill was signed into law by the governor.

Unfortunately, one big portion of the bill became a casualty along the way. As part of the committee process, Sen. Saviello proposed to establish a new recycling program for single-use consumer batteries.  This proposal was supported by the battery industry and environmental organizations. The committee did excellent work finalizing the language and voted unanimously to support it, but the battery recycling initiative was removed with an amendment due to pressure from the toy industry.  

Water and Wildlife. The ENR Committee voted 9-4 ‘Ought Not to Pass’ on LD 1478, An Act to Reestablish Recreational Use of a Historic Trolley Line in the Town of Gray. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Breen, proposed to create exemptions in the Natural Resources Protection Act and Shoreland Zoning for the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad in Gray, weakening important environmental protections. Legislators from both sides of the aisle, led by Rep. Duchesne and Rep. Dick Campbell, asked questions that guided the committee to a quick vote at the work session. Rep. Dick Campbell moved the ‘Ought Not to Pass’ motion and Rep. Harlow seconded the motion. Chairwoman Welsh and Reps. Buckland, Chipman, Duchesne, John Martin, Tucker, and White joined the majority report.

The ENR Committee also considered a bill, LD 1494, sponsored by Rep. Duchesne, to weaken Maine’s oil spill reporting standards. The committee initially voted 8-5 to pass the bill but came to the conclusion that the legislation did not adequately address oil spill reporting issues. They re-voted 11-2 ‘Ought Not to Pass’ out of committee, which ensured the bill’s failure on the floor of the House. The committee sent a letter to the DEP asking for input on how to make the reporting process more efficient while maintaining adequate environmental protections.