AUGUSTA — Saying the LePage administration and Republican lawmakers have begun a “widespread assault” on Maine’s environmental laws, environmental advocates on Tuesday highlighted 50 bills that they said would harm the state’s natural resources.

Some of the criticized proposals were in Gov. Paul LePage’s initial regulatory reform package; others are being sponsored by legislators.

“If implemented, this sweeping anti-environment agenda would put Maine people out of work, increase our exposure to toxic chemicals, damage Maine’s $10 billion tourism economy and harm Maine’s most important asset – the quality of our environment,” said Pete Didisheim, advocacy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

Among the bills are measures that would repeal Maine’s bottle bill; weaken shoreland zoning; abolish the Land Use Regulation Commission, which serves as the planning board for Maine’s unorganized territories; and eliminate the state’s new uniform building code.

“Maine’s tourism industry thrives because of the wild haven we provide the East Coast,” said Lisa DeHart, a Registered Maine Guide from Gardiner.

She said that if the proposals are approved, Maine “will lose an industry we have pretty much locked up.”

One proposal would establish a five-year statute of limitations on environmental violations. The clock would start at the time of the violation, as opposed to the discovery of the violation, as in federal law.

That would establish a system that punishes taxpayers rather than lawbreakers because the state would be left to pay cleanup costs if violators made it through five years undiscovered, said Sean Mahoney, Maine director of the Conservation Law Foundation.

“If you break it, fix it; if you make a mess, clean it up,” he said. “That’s the cornerstone of our environment law.”

The LePage administration and many lawmakers have argued that changes are needed to make Maine more business-friendly and encourage economic development.

 

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: [email protected]