More than twenty years since Maine laws governing the permitting process for mining activity have been examined by lawmakers there is a new law that will take effect. Today, Governor Paul LePage signed LD 1853, "An Act To Improve Environmental Oversight and Streamline Permitting for Metallic Mineral Mining in Maine. The bill, which is sponsored by Representative John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, seeks to improve environmental oversight and make the permitting process for mining activity in Maine more efficient through a consolidated permitting process.
"It's time to modernize Maine's metallic mining regulations -- now more than two decades old and under which a permit has never been issued -- to reflect improvements in mining technology. This effort has the potential to create hundreds of jobs in Northern Maine. It's an opportunity we simply can't afford to lose," said Governor LePage. "We can strike a balance between a prosperous economy while protecting the environment and the commitment from the Department of Environmental Protection demonstrates we can do it in a meaningful and thoughtful way."
During the legislative process, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Patricia Aho and Policy Director, Heather Parent worked closely with members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. Over the next two years, the Department of Environmental Protection will undertake a thorough review of the best environmental regulatory approaches to metal mining and commence a transparent, inclusive process to modernize current rules, which have not been revisited since 1991.
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will update its mining regulations to create pursuant to the recently enacted Maine Metallic Mineral Mining Act through the major substantive rulemaking process, move all metallic mine permitting from Land Use Regulation Commission jurisdiction to DEP and put money in a Mining Oversight Fund.
"The DEP is committed to fostering a healthy environment that stewards our natural resources with the understanding that without those resources, we won't have a vibrant economy and we won't be Maine," said Commissioner Aho. "From the day this concept mining bill was introduced, the department has worked determinedly to shape it in a way that guarantees Maine and its citizens receive the benefits of the resource and associated activities, while also ensuring that environmental protections are upheld and subsequent remediation and closure is adequate. The final bill the Governor signed today does exactly that," Aho said.
Serving the people of Northern Maine, Representative John Martin says the bill will boost the economic outlook in the region. "This new law will create hundreds of good paying jobs for the people of Aroostook County," said Rep. Martin. "Maine's outdated mining laws needed to be updated to reflect new advances in mining technology that help strike the right balance between protecting the environment, safer mining, and economic development. We will continue to work with the environmental community to ensure that our natural resources are not jeopardized."
Minerals can be recovered in a way that keeps the air, land and water clean and this modernization of Maine's mining rules will lay out the framework to foster that.
The DEP will ensure that as this process moves forward, it is a thorough and thoughtful one and if mining activity is carried out in Maine as a result of these regulatory updates, it is done so in a responsible way that ensures adequate environment protections. The department will ensure updated regulations appropriately address ground and surface water protection, the management of waste rock, transfer of ownership and the inclusion of financial assurance mechanisms that will guarantee any proposed mining operation provides financially for long-term closure and remediation. The DEP and its permitting process will also make sure that no mining site owner will be able to walk away from the site until it is completely closed to the satisfaction of the Commissioner and the protection in perpetuity of its surrounding environment.