Sen Tom Saviello: Statement re Maine Mining Regulations Misconceptions
For Immediate Release
September 27, 2012
Statement of Senator Tom Saviello Regarding Misconceptions about Maine’s Mining Regulations
AUGUSTA, Maine – For the purpose of clearing up misconceptions about Maine’s mining regulations, Senator Tom Saviello (R-Wilton) issued the following statement:
“As Senate Chair of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee and a member of the Regulatory Fairness and Reform Committee, I am proud of the many accomplishments of the 125th Legislature. We worked hard to ensure that our natural habitats are protected while at the same time striving to stimulate Maine’s struggling economy.
In so many ways, Maine’s quality of life is reflected in our commitment to the environment and I believe that our commitment can and will remain front and center as we continue the process of streamlining the regulatory burden on businesses to encourage investment and spur economic growth. As a forester and retired environmental manager, I am keenly aware of the critical balance between Maine’s precious natural resources and economic development. I have no doubt that a thriving economy can co-exist with rigorous environmental protections.
In April 2012, LD 1853, An Act to Improve Environmental Oversight and Streamline Permitting for Metallic Mining in Maine was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor. Maine's mining laws, last overhauled in 1991, imposed requirements that were confusing, rigid and time-consuming. As a result, no metallic mineral mine has been permitted or constructed in the state since the laws were revised.
Opponents continue to criticize the metallic mining bill’s introduction late in the Session, asserting the bill was rushed and not carefully considered. The public process on this piece of legislation was unprecedented; in addition to the Informational Briefing and Public Hearing, the Environment and Natural Resources Committee held nine work sessions and throughout the process the Committee continued to take testimony from interested parties.
In reality, unlike some far-reaching bills the Maine Legislature acts on, the Committee expended enormous amounts of time and energy refining and improving this legislation, all the while focused on developing language that balanced our dedication and commitment to protecting Maine’s environment and our responsibility to ensure sound economic policy and good jobs for our citizens.
There certainly was no rush to judgment, and foolhardy for anyone to suggest that even a single member of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee was interested in putting forth a piece of legislation that endorsed unrestricted mining activity or compromised the environment. Our purpose was to determine the most effective and efficient regulatory structure, to develop a framework that will continue to provide stringent protections of lands and waterways in the area of mining activities.
The metallic mining law sets forth the strongest of protections and continues to uphold our state’s strict environmental laws. Before a permit to develop a mine can be issued, an applicant must demonstrate that “the mining operations will not unreasonably adversely affect existing uses, air quality, water quality or other natural resources.”
The law further reinforces stringent standards now governing our aquatic resources. It explicitly requires mining operations comply with existing water quality standards. And, it directs an applicant to reasonably assure “that public and private water supplies are not affected by the mining operation.”
The law stipulates that 1) any discharge to ground water beyond a mining area must meet drinking water standards or be as clean as the water that is there today; and 2) surface water must not be contaminated directly or indirectly by mining operations.
Further, water quality must be monitored throughout mining operations, during suspension of mining operations and following closure of a mine, a period defined as at least 30 years after mining has ceased.
The law mandates that rules governing metallic mining be subject to an extensive review and approval process before they are finalized. Experts hired by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection will oversee the rulemaking process which is expected to take nearly two years. The draft rules will be submitted to the Board of Environmental Protection, comprised of citizens from across the state, for examination and approval. The rules will further be considered by the Environment and Natural Resources Committee and then go to the full Legislature for approval. The process – from start to finish – will be deliberative and thorough, and again provide extensive opportunity for public input.
Metallic mineral mines across the country have been open, operated, reclaimed and closed without environmental problems. Of course, mines that were constructed and operated before current environmental laws and regulations have a mixed environmental record. But today’s operations are a far cry from facilities first opened in the 1800s and operated up until the 1980s such as the Callahan mine. Rigorous environmental laws, requirements for reclamation and closure planning and advanced water treatment technology combine to offer the opportunity to mine in a safe, responsible manner.
In addition to the requirement that an applicant prepare an operations, closure and environmental protection plan before the mine is permitted, the applicant must provide financial assurance that the mine will be reclaimed and closed without spending taxpayer money. A permit cannot be issued until the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection finds that the financial assurance for closure and reclamation are adequate. The forms of financial assurance required do not allow a company to pledge assets other than cash, and furthermore, the financial instruments allowed cannot be “cancelled, withdrawn, revoked or otherwise reduced without the express written consent of the Commissioner . . .”
Before us is the possibility of revitalizing an industry that dates back to the 1800s, an industry that could potentially create hundreds of jobs in a county that desperately needs jobs, pumping millions of sorely needed dollars into our state’s economy. This can be done with critical environmental protections in place. Just as importantly, we have the chance to say loudly and clearly to others across the state and around the world interested in creating jobs that Maine’s business community, citizens, environmentalists and lawmakers are ready and willing to work together to create solutions that benefit all of us.”
Contact: Senator Tom Saviello, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, (207) 645-3420
Senator Tom Saviello represents Maine Senate District 18 which includes the Franklin County communities of Avon, Carrabassett Valley, Carthage, Chesterville, Coplin, Dallas, East Central Franklin, Eustis, Farmington, Industry, Kingfield, Madrid, New Sharon, New Vineyard, North Franklin, Phillips, Rangeley, Salem Township, Sandy River, South Franklin, Strong, Temple, Weld, West Central Franklin, Wilton, and Wyman. The district also includes the Kennebec County towns of Belgrade, Fayette, Mount Vernon, Readfield, Rome, Vienna, and Wayne, as well as the Somerset County communities of Mercer and Smithfield.