AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Senate on Wednesday affirmed a vote earlier this week in the House of Representatives that will force the Department of Environmental Protection to restart the process of implementing new large-scale mining rules.
The rules were developed after the passage of legislation in 2012 that called for new mining regulations after Canadian timber company JD Irving Ltd. expressed interest in mining copper and zinc on a 500-acre site it owns on Bald Mountain in Aroostook County.
Proposals for new regulations, which would apply to all of Maine, were debated for months by the citizen-led Board of Environmental Protection. That body voted unanimously to endorse the rules in January.
However, the proposed rules began to encounter resistance as soon as they reached the Legislature, beginning with the Environment and Natural Resources Committee’s 8-3 vote to reject them last month. On Monday, the House voted 98-39 in favor of LD 1772, a resolve which orders the DEP’s process to start over with a due date of Feb. 1, 2016.
The Senate’s unanimous vote on Wednesday, which happened without debate, essentially upheld the committee’s recommendation and killed the proposed rules, but LD 1772 faces further votes in both the House and Senate.
Among the arguments lawmakers have made against the rules are that they don’t provide enough protection against contamination of groundwater in Maine and that there aren’t enough financial guarantees required to ensure that a mine operator will have the capacity to clean up when a project ends.