An Act To Amend Environmental Permitting Standards
Sec. 1. 38 MRSA §344, sub-§2-A, ¶A, as amended by PL 2011, c. 304, Pt. H, §18, is further amended to read:
(1) The commissioner may not request the board to assume jurisdiction of an application for any permit or other approval required for an expedited wind energy development, as defined in Title 35-A, section 3451, subsection 4, a certification pursuant to Title 35-A, section 3456 or a general permit pursuant to section 480-HH or section 636-A. Except as provided in subparagraph (2), the commissioner shall issue a decision on an application for an expedited wind energy development within one year of the date on which the department accepts the application as complete pursuant to this section, and the commissioner shall issue a decision for an offshore wind power project or a hydropower project, as defined in section 632, subsection 3, that uses tidal action as a source of electrical or mechanical power within 185 days of the date on which the department accepts the application as complete pursuant to this section or within 270 days of the department's acceptance of the application if the commissioner holds a hearing on the application pursuant to section 345-A, subsection 1-A.
(2) The expedited review periods of 185 days and 270 days specified in subparagraph (1) do not apply to the associated facilities, as defined in Title 35-A, section 3451, subsection 1, of the development if the commissioner determines that an expedited review time is unreasonable due to the size, location, potential impacts, multiple agency jurisdiction or complexity of that portion of the development. If an expedited review period does not apply, a review period specified pursuant to section 344-B applies.
The commissioner may stop the processing time with the consent of the applicant for a period of time agreeable to the commissioner and the applicant.
Sec. 2. 38 MRSA §344, sub-§2-A, ¶D, as enacted by PL 2013, c. 325, §4, is repealed and the following enacted in its place:
(1) The commissioner shall accept public comment on an application during the course of processing the application. The commissioner shall set a deadline for receiving public comments.
(2) The commissioner may not issue the final decision until 10 business days after the close of the public comment period. The commissioner's final decision must include responses to the public comments.
Sec. 3. 38 MRSA §480-C, sub-§5 is enacted to read:
Sec. 4. 38 MRSA §480-II is enacted to read:
§ 480-II. Small-scale wind energy development; permit requirements
A person proposing to construct a small-scale wind energy development must demonstrate adequate financial capacity to decommission the development at any time during construction or operation of the development, or upon termination of development operations for any reason. The obligation to decommission the development must be transferred to any future owner of the development in the event of a transfer of title. Decommissioning is required if the development's purpose or use is abandoned for a period of one year at any time after construction begins. Demonstration of financial capacity to decommission must include documentation of financial assurance that the decommissioning costs will be fully funded prior to the start of construction. Financial assurance may be demonstrated in the form of a performance bond, surety bond, letter of credit or other form of financial assurance acceptable to the department.
A public informational meeting must be held in accordance with department rules for permit application for a small-scale wind energy development.
Sec. 5. 38 MRSA §632, sub-§4 is enacted to read:
Sec. 6. 38 MRSA §634, sub-§3, as amended by PL 2011, c. 655, Pt. MM, §21 and affected by §26 and amended by c. 657, Pt. W, §5 and c. 682, §38, is further amended to read:
The Except as provided in subsection 5, the commissioner shall circulate the application among the Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Department of Marine Resources, Department of Transportation, Maine Historic Preservation Commission, Governor's Energy Office, Public Utilities Commission and the municipal officials of the municipality in which the project is located. The Governor's Energy Office and the Public Utilities Commission shall submit written comments on section 636, subsection 7, paragraph F. For projects within the jurisdiction of the Maine Land Use Planning Commission, the director may request and obtain technical assistance and recommendations from the staff of the department. The Commissioner of Environmental Protection shall respond to the requests in a timely manner. The recommendations of the Commissioner of Environmental Protection must be considered by the commission in acting upon a project application.
Sec. 7. 38 MRSA §634, sub-§5 is enacted to read:
Sec. 8. 38 MRSA §635-A, as amended by PL 1989, c. 890, Pt. A, §40 and Pt. B, §185 and PL 2011, c. 682, §38, is further amended to read:
§ 635-A. Time limits for processing applications
Whenever the commissioner receives a properly completed application, the department shall make a decision as expeditiously as possible.
When the proposed project lies within the jurisdiction of the Maine Land Use Planning Commission, decisions shall must be made within 105 working days except that decisions delegated to the director shall must be made within 60 working days. Following one extension of up to 45 working days, the director may waive the time limit requirements of this section only at the request of the applicant.
The department shall make a decision on a proposed microhydropower project within 60 working days.
Sec. 9. 38 MRSA §636, first ¶, as affected by PL 1989, c. 890, Pt. A, §40 and amended by Pt. B, §187, is further amended to read:
The department shall approve a hydropower project that is not a microhydropower project when it finds that the applicant has demonstrated that the following criteria have been met.
Sec. 10. 38 MRSA §840, sub-§1, as amended by PL 2011, c. 653, §25 and affected by §33, is further amended to read:
Notwithstanding the provisions of this subsection or subsection 1-A, after an order establishing a water level regime or minimum flow requirement requirements has been issued pursuant to this section or former Title 12, section 304, the commissioner is not required to hold a hearing to establish a new water level regime or minimum flow requirement requirements for the same body of water in response to a petition from littoral or riparian proprietors unless the commissioner determines that there has been a substantial change in conditions or other circumstances materially affecting the impact of water levels and minimum flows on the public and private resources identified in subsection 4 since the order was issued.
Sec. 11. 38 MRSA §840, sub-§1-A is enacted to read:
This bill requires the Commissioner of Environmental Protection to issue a decision on an application for an expedited wind energy development within one year of the date the department accepts the application as complete. It repeals procedures related to the review of an application for a grid-scale wind energy development. It provides permitting requirements for small-scale wind energy developments. It requires parties to a water level dispute to attempt to resolve the matter through mediation before the department proceeds with an adjudicatory hearing. It establishes standards for microhydropower projects and requires the department to adopt rules ensuring that a microhydropower project will not have an undue adverse effect on the natural environment and will not violate water quality standards.