November 12, 2013
Environmental Council of States
Recently, I was selected as the Environmental Council of States (ECOS) Planning Committee Chair. ECOS is a national non-partisan, non-profit association of state and territorial environmental agency leaders and is currently looking for a new Executive Director. Maine has been a member for years, and as Chair of the Planning Committee, I will be leading ways to improve state strategic planning efforts nationwide and find ways to increase communications between EPA and all states. In fact, at a recent ECOS meeting, I asked EPA about how states should comment on a recent petition that would needlessly create difficulties for municipalities to effectively manage stormwater. I look forward to continuing this conversation and others with ECOS, EPA and my colleagues across the country.
November 6, 2013
What to do with 27,000 tons of fiber? Composite lumber of course!
I’m very excited that a former shooting range site in Warren with 27,000 tons of carpet-like waste fiber on it will finally be cleaned up! Last year, I visited the Town of Warren and heard the frustration from selectmen that the fiber, which is flammable and causes a public health risk, had not been cleaned up. I instructed the department to find a way to clean the site up – without putting the fiber in a landfill. The department received four bids to our RFP with the winning zero-cost bid going to Triumvirate Environmental who will process the fiber into composite lumber. Triumvirate is doing this onsite and creating 8-16 jobs. As one selectman said, it’s a homerun! I agree that it is truly a win for the economy and the environment and yet another example of why beneficially reusing materials is a priority of mine – it encourages all of us to think differently how we view "waste", creating jobs and keeping materials out of our landfills. See our press release here: http://www.maine.gov/dep/news/news.html?id=607312.
September 26, 2013
I had the pleasure of speaking on behalf of the Department this morning at E2Tech’s legislative and policy forum this morning. Sometimes I think folks forget that after the debate in the Legislature it is up to the agency to actually implement the laws, draft, write and carry-out the rules, make all of the new requirements mesh with the ongoing requirements, make the new requirements mesh with our financial and staffing allocations and requirements – and also meet the requirements imposed on us by EPA and potentially other federal agencies as well. And yes, this is still policy, but the public administration aspects of policy are many times forgotten. Here is some statistics about the past legislative session, which helps to put our work in perspective.
- 1577 bills introduced
- Roughly 1/3 became law for a total of 530
- DEP tracked 242 bills
- By tracking, I mean that policy staff reviewed the text, listened to hearings and kept Office of Commissioner informed
- 15 presentations to legislative committees, including -
- several presentations on the department, budget, and program review
- Shoreland Zoning & NPRA
- Product Stewardship
- Prepared 13 legislative reports
- Participated in over 140 public hearings and work sessions
Looking forward to the upcoming session, we will continue our dialogue through the work of updating the Materials Management Plan which the department will be presenting to the legislature. We have no choice but to think differently about our waste and make changes because every day approximately 4,800 tons of municipal solid waste is generated within Maine by residential and commercial activity. 40% of that is comprised of organics, which provides us with significant opportunities for higher use, whether through composting, agronomic utilization or other uses. One of the department’s priorities is for the state to move beyond the use of a traditional landfill and look toward a more comprehensive analysis of Maine’s waste stream to support additional waste diversion through regulatory, voluntary, and market-based programs.
September 6, 2013
Paying Back our Debts
Municipalities did the right thing for the environment by either cleaning up or closing their landfills that threatened the environment and public health, and DEP is doing the right thing for the economy by getting its fiscal house in order. Prior to their closure or clean-up process, municipalities were promised by state officials that they would receive partial reimbursement from DEP, but it won’t be a surprise to some, the State ran out of funding for the program and the towns and cities never fully paid back. Last month I had the distinct pleasure of visiting Greenville and Bath to start the repayment process. The reimbursements are being funded by a new $2 per ton fee on construction and demolition debris – the only waste stream exempt from any handling fee. Presque Isle, Caratunk, Greenville, Bath, and Caribou, Limestone and Fort Fairfield – the trio of towns that own the Tri-Community Landfill will all see checks biannually until the balance has been paid off completely.
August 13, 2013
I spoke to the Portland Rotary Club last week to talk about DEP’s focus on environmental literacy, sustainability, and commonsense regulations. One such law, is An Act Regarding Working Waterfront Projects, that ensures that the working waterfront projects that are part of a clean-up or a redevelopment plan can occur without having to meet the strict standards regarding trees and shrubs’ removal. This means more money can be used to clean-up a hazardous property and put back to productive use – it’s a win-win situation for the economy and the environment.
July 24, 2013
New Gloucester Water System
Last week, I had the honor of celebrating the groundbreaking of the New Gloucester Water System. 27 years ago leaking underground storage tanks contaminated private residents' wells, and DEP removed the harmful soil, installed water filtration systems, provided hundreds of thousands of financial assistance and thousands of hours of technical assistance to ensure public health of New Gloucester residents. Town officials, the water district, residents, USDA/RD and Cumberland County CDBG all came together with DEP to break ground on a permanent solution to protect public water supplies. I hope more municipalities see the results of this collaborated effort and turn to DEP for assistance with developing public water supplies. If your town needs help from DEP, visit our Assistance page.
July 16, 2013
Do you know of a hazardous property that should be cleaned up in your town? Maine has one of the most successful Brownfields Programs in the country, consistently receiving higher than average funds from other states. This is in large part due to the excellent work DEP staff does to inform interested parties about the program, providing assistance during the grant application process, and following up after the grant is received. Hazardous properties that are cleaned-up and put back into productive use protect the environment and public health thus spurring our economy forward. Visit our Brownfields Program for more information.
All workers in the United States, including those in the private and public sectors, must be trained in the federal Occupation Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) new Global Harmonization System (GHS) by this Sunday, December 1, 2013. Fortunately, the Maine Department of Labor created a helpful 23 minute video to train every employee in Maine. Many DEP employees and constituents handle hazardous materials and watching this video can help keep us all safe.