Timelier Permitting, Sustainability Division Launch Highlight 2012 For Maine Department of Environmental Protection

February 11, 2013

Samantha Warren, Maine DEP Director of Communications, (207) 287-5842

-The agency continues to show measurable progress in meetings its priorities, including providing balanced environmental protections, improving its permitting process and fostering a more assistance oriented culture of service-

AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Environmental Protection continues to improve the timeliness by which it issues permits for land development projects that will spur hundreds of millions of dollars of investment and new jobs.

Improving the speed and predictability of its processing of the 3,700 permit applications submitted to the agency in 2012 was a priority of the DEP under Commissioner Patricia W. Aho and is just one of the agency’s many accomplishments for last year.

In 2012, DEP’s 20-day average processing time for a permit from the Bureau of Land and Water Quality’s Division of Land Resource Regulation was an improvement over the 22 day processing time in 2011 and the 24 day time in 2010.

Among the projects the agency permitted include the $11 million redevelopment of the Shops at Biddeford Crossing into a Market Basket that will hire as many as 600 employees when it opens later this year; a $48 million torrified wood pellet manufacturing facility at the Great Northern Paper mill in Millinocket to be built by Cate Street Capital; the $44 million expansion and upgrade of the existing Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport; and a 40-acre biotech business park in Portland.

Meanwhile, DEP’s Bureau of Air Quality also reduced its backlog of minor source air permits dating back to 2006 by 92 percent.

Timelier processing is just one of the many ways DEP delivered on its mission to steward Maine’s natural resources while ensuring a sustainable economy last year.

To further support that commitment, in 2012 Commissioner Aho created a new Division of Sustainability, charged with implementing a coordinated approach to environmentally and economically sustainable management of both natural and manufactured resources.

Among the existing programs the division brings together are recycling and composting; product stewardship; chemical management including toxic chemical reduction; the Environmental Leader initiative that recognizes hospitality businesses for voluntarily making improvements to reduce their environmental impact; and strategies related to greenhouse gas reduction and climate adaptation.

“What our agency has been able to accomplish in just a year is impressive,” said Commissioner Aho. “Our staff have a growing appreciation for the importance of our roles on the front lines of environmental protection and economic development and are making meaningful, measurable contributions toward both. We’re proud of the progress we’re making and look forward to continuous improvement in 2013 as we find more effective and efficient ways to steward the natural resources that make Maine a place people want to live, work, play and invest.”

Other DEP 2012 successes include:

-The closure of 158 oil spill sites that had required long-term clean-up efforts, now allowing those sites to be returned to an economically beneficial use, up from the 105 sites in 2011. That’s in addition to the thousands of small spills the agency’s responders handled as part of the State’s 24-7 emergency services.

-The establishment of a new $2 per ton fee on construction demolition debris – the only waste stream exempt from any handling fee – that will be returned to municipalities who have expended money closing their landfills.

-The creation and distribution of 40,000 informational brochures on safe household medical sharp disposal as part of Maine’s first ever coordinated sharps education campaign.

-The distribution of $50.2 million in loans (in State FY2012) through the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund to communities for pollution abatement projects that safeguard our water, enhance energy efficiency and capacity, and reduce rates for Maine citizens.

-The training of 1,236 individuals and certification of 670 contractors in erosion and sediment control best practices that protect land and water quality.

-The launch of a lead-safe property search feature on the state’s leading online housing website at http://www.MaineHousingSearch.org to help renters find lead-based paint free, safe and maintained property listings from the nearly 1,000 already added to the site.

-The certification of 1,804 individuals in TankSmart, a free interactive training program for operators of registered oil storage tank facilities in Maine.

-The daily monitoring of air quality throughout the state, revealing only four days where air quality was publicly noticed as unhealthy for sensitive groups compared to Connecticut with 27 days, Massachusetts with 14 and Rhode Island with 12.

-The launch of the Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence to recognize entities that voluntarily implement environmental innovation.

-The levying of $857,947 in enforcement penalties as part of the department’s commitment to firm and fair upholding of the State’s environmental laws, with nearly $260,000 of that going back into the Maine economy to support supplemental environmental projects.

For more information about the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, visit http://www.maine.gov/dep or call (800) 452-1942.