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Commissioner's Highlights - January 27, 2012
Commissioner Aho attended the MEREDA annual conference in Portland to talk to attendees on the trade show floor about DEP’s efforts is making to improve the regulatory climate while still providing balanced environmental protections. The Commissioner received much positive feedback, including on the department’s improved permit processing time; the strides DEP is making toward more practical and predictable regulations through the new in-house rulemaking process and the Legislature; and the recent hire by the Commissioner of Mark Bergeron, former project engineer at Sevee and Maher Engineers, Inc. and MEREDA board member, as the new Director for Land Resource Regulation, the division at DEP that oversees all land permitting.
The department launched its facility manager pilot project which will provide a single DEP point of contact for eight participating facilities. The pilot’s purpose is to improve communication and service with small and mid-sized facilities. Commissioner Pattie Aho, who envisioned the pilot, welcomed participants and got feedback on their experiences up with the DEP and ideas for improving service at Wednesday’s launch. The project is being led by Director of Assistance Julie Churchill.
New Gloucester residents have voted to approve the creation of a new community water district, with DEP staff providing technical support and $380,000 in funding to clean up benzene and MBTE contamination in drinking water supplies in a dozen Upper Gloucester area homes. The proposed water system would serve up to 88 homes, as well as town facilities, Memorial School, day care centers and several restaurants. Since 1987, DEP has facilitated and partially-funded the creation of 20 community water districts around the state, replacing more than 400 private wells.
Paradis Shop’n Save in Houlton and Graves’ Shop’n Save in Presque Isle were presented Environmental Leader certifications by DEP Northern Maine Regional Director Nick Archer, joining Edwards’ Family Shop’n Saves in Unity and Dover-Foxcroft as the only state certified green grocers north of Waterville. Grocers who participate in DEP’s Environmental Leader program are seeing significant energy cost savings that lead to increased profitably, allowing them to invest in infrastructure improvements and expansion of their workforce. In addition to the environmental and economic benefits, businesses are also incentivized by recognition within store signage and marketing materials and by research that shows environmental designations attract customers.
EPA released their 2010 Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) analysis. Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, industrial facilities are required to submit information annually on releases and transfers of certain toxic chemicals. In Maine, this information is sent to the Maine Emergency Management Agency and then on to EPA. The 2010 TRI analysis generated media attention in Maine because total reported releases increased from EPA’s 2009 analysis. However, criteria pollutant air emissions reported to the Maine DEP for 2010 indicate substantial decreases from many of Maine’s largest industrial facilities due in large part to fuel switching from residual fuel oil to natural gas. Emissions of sulfur dioxide dropped from 13,590 tons in 2008 to 6,633 tons in 2010. DEP staff provided context to EPA’s report, and reminded the press that the majority of Maine’s emitters noted in the TRI report are actually compliant with their license limits and thus the toxics emitted are not within toxic amounts.
Through the department’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund program, the Town of Machias received a $500,000 loan ($496,000 in loan principal forgiveness) for the installation of new sewers and a pump station. The loan in conjunction with a $485,000 grant from EPA, also administered by DEP, will be used to provide municipal sewer service to an area of town that is experiencing private septic system malfunctions. The project will improve water quality, decrease a public health hazard and help protect one of the state’s most valued shellfishing resources. The project is currently in design for construction and completion in 2012.
With just one year until contractors working in the shoreland zone must be DEP certified under legislation passed in 2008, we have released a robust training schedule to ensure all contractors who want to work will be able to do so. The agency announced the schedule of about 30 certification courses in 2012 and reminded contractors of the deadline. In 2011, DEP certified nearly 300 people ensuring they can continue work in the shoreland zone in 2013, bringing the certified total to more than 1000 contractors and 1900 forestry operators. “I urge all excavation contractors to get certified as it is a great way to be effective, stay competitive and add credibility to your company,” said Dan Shaw of Shaw Bros. Construction. Learn more here: http://www.maine.gov/dep/news/news.html?id=336602