Maine’s Board of Environmental Protection begins its deliberations over the permit applications of Nordic Aquafarms, LLC. That company hopes to construct a large-scale indoor salmon breeding facility in Belfast, and is looking for project approval from the BEP. The deliberative session is an opportunity for board members to discuss the record and the licensing criteria with one another and Maine Dept. of Environmental Protection staff.
In June 2019, the BEP agreed to take over permit review of Nordic Aquafarms, and in November, issued its schedule. After months of hearing testimony for and agains the indoor-salmon farm, the BEP is ready to discuss it.
The deliberations are scheduled over two days, May 20 and 21, and will be conducted via Zoom.
The meeting begins May 20 at 9 a.m.:
Cynthia Bertocci, BEO executive analyst, issued the following Staff Memorandum to the BEP, on the applications for
Chapter 115 Minor Source Air Emissions license
Site Location of Development Act and Natural Resources Protection Act permit
Maine Pollutant Discharge Elimination SystemWaste Discharge License permit
Background, per the Bertocci memo:
On June 13, 2019, the Department accepted Nordic’s applications to construct and operate a land- based Atlantic salmon aquaculture facility in Belfast and Northport as complete for processing pursuant to Chapter 2, § 11(B) of the Department’s rules. The Board assumed licensing jurisdiction over Nordic’s applications on June 20, 2019 and held a hearing on the applications in Belfast on February 11 through February 14, 2020.
At the close of the public hearing, the record was held open to receive the following information:
- Additional air emissions modeling by Department staff and the parties’ comments thereon;
- Comments on DEP staff member Dr. John Hopeck’s memorandum dated January 27, 2020 pertaining to groundwater;
- Coastal wetland boring logs taken by Nordic’s consultant;
- Comment on DMR’s memorandum dated February 5, 2020 from David Russell and Marcy;
- Nelson to Gregg Wood, entitled “Preliminary Review of Nordic Aquafarms’ discharge as it pertains to pathogens; and
- DMR’s Assessment of the impacts of Nordic’s proposed dredging in the coastal wetland,
This deliberative session is an opportunity for Board members to discuss the record and the relevant licensing criteria with one another and Department staff. Because the record is closed, the Board does not receive further comment from the parties or the general public. In addition to discussing the evidence in the record, Board members may provide some direction to staff regarding the staff’s examination of the record and certain aspects of the formulation of a draft license decision. No final votes are taken at this deliberative session. Further deliberation and a vote may occur when the Board has before it a staff recommendation in the form of a draft license decision.
Board participation in the deliberative session is limited by 38 M.R.S. § 341-C(8).
Accordingly, Board Chair Mark Draper is not participating in review of Nordic’s Air Emissions and Waste Discharge applications, and Board member Susan Lessard is not participating in review of the Waste Discharge application. In addition to being recused from review of Nordic’s Air Emissions and Waste Discharge applications pursuant to 38 M.R.S. § 341-C(8), Board member Mark Dubois is not participating in the proceeding because he was not able to attend the public hearing.
Organization of the Deliberative Session
As with the hearing, the deliberative session is organized by application type: in this case Air, followed by Site Law and Natural Resources Protection Act (NRPA), and then Waste Discharge. To assist discussion, Department staff members have prepared the following briefing memos, which have been provided to the Board in the packet:
- Air: Memorandum from Jeff Crawford, May 12, 2020
- Site Law and NRPA: Memoranda from Bureau of Land Resources, May 13, 2020
- o Introductory Memorandum
o Proposed Groundwater and Surface Water Usage o Proposed Impacts to Natural Resources
o Proposed Seawater Access System (Pipelines)
- Waste Discharge: Memorandum from Gregg Wood, Kevin Martin, and Commissioner Reid, May 13, 2020.Additionally, Board members should note that the parties’ responses to DMR’s Assessment of dredging in the coastal wetland include commentary on DMR’s hearing process. The Presiding Officer ruled in the Fifteen Procedural Order that comment on DMR’s process will be disregarded by the Board and, therefore, will not be discussed at the deliberative session:
- Comments on DMR’s process are not comments on the substance of DMR’s April 7, 2020 Assessment for which the Board’s hearing record was held open.
These memos focus on some of the major issues in dispute and will be the starting point for deliberations. However, Board members may ask questions of staff and comment on any of the licensing criteria and issues, some of which the parties have highlighted in their post-hearing briefs. While the Board may touch on the issue of Title, Right or Interest, I do not anticipate spending a significant amount of time on this issue as the Board devoted its April 16, 2020 meeting to hearing oral argument on and considering the issue of TRI.
Board will not direct DMR or judge the process it undertook before providing its Assessment. While many of intervenors’ objections to DMR’s process are woven into the comments filed by the intervenors and cannot be readily redacted, the Board will disregard them in its assessment of Nordic’s applications.
Conduct of the Deliberative Session
As noted above, the deliberative session will be organized by application type. I will lead the Board through a discussion of the issues for each application. Department staff will be available to respond to Board members’ questions regarding the relevant licensing criteria, the evidence in the record, staff analysis of that evidence as summarized in their briefing memos, and any other licensing issues that the Board wishes to discuss.