If Maine government had the will and the capacity today to do just two things to make this state attractive for new investment, development and job creation, one of those actions would be to overhaul Workers’ Compensation Insurance and the other would be to reform the environmental permitting process.
In the past 20 years, Maine has compiled an impressive list of laws designed to defend the environment against unwise or inappropriate development. The chronic weakness in this otherwise tough regulatory system is the unwieldy bureaucratic process by which the state issues licenses and permits.
Applicants deserve to have their projects approved or rejected in a reasonable amount of time. Instead, they encounter delays, inconsistencies, redundant requirements and indecisiveness.
LD 1372, now in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, would dramatically revise the permit and licensing process without weakening environmental protection.
Key features of LD 1372 provide Department of Environmental Protection rulemaking to establish reasonable time limits for permit processing, consolidation of all licensing and permitting within the DEP, and centralizing routine permit decisions within that agency, allowing for elimination of the Board of Environmental Protection (a new environmental appeals board would consider contested decisions).
Some form of national economic recovery is imminent. Maine can help itself by reforming the needlessly expensive, frustrating and discouraging license and permit system that has evolved around its valuable body of environmental law. It can do this by vesting power within the Department of Environmental Protection to oversee a reformed process that places a premium on timeliness and decisiveness.