Maine’s Board of Environmental Protection votes to oversee Belfast salmon farm state permit process
AUGUSTA — The Maine Board of Environmental Protection agreed June 20 to assume licensing jurisdiction over the application of Nordic Aquafarms to site a salmon-raising enterprise in Belfast. That means that the BEP will be holding a hearing or hearings to consider the four permit requests from the Norwegian company to site its facility in Belfast that have been filed with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
Maine DEP Commissioner Gerald Reid agrees the project has statewide significance and has asked the BEP to take charge of the application processing. So did project opponents Upstream Watch as well as Nordic Aquafarms itself.
The seven-member BEP consists of citizens appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Maine Legislature. The BEP meets monthly and provides an independent voice on administration and enforcement of Mine’s environmental policies and laws. The board handles appeals of DEP licensing and enforcement actions, and while part of the Maine DEP, the board is a separate body.
One BEP board member, James Parker, opposed the motion, which was based on the statewide significance criteria, saying he did believe it reached that measure.
There are specific criteria involved when the DEP, which is the normal licensing agency for all projects that require environmental scrutiny, hands over the application processing to the BEP.
According to state law, applications can be referred to the BEP when a commercial hazardous waste facility is proposed, or when it meets the definition of having state significance, and meets, “at least 3 of the following 4 criteria:
- The project will have an environmental or economic impact in more than one municipality, territory or county;
- The project involves an activity not previously permitted or licensed in the state;
- The project is likely to come under significant public scrutiny; and
- The project is located in more than one municipality, territory or county.
According to DEP Commissioner Reid, the justification for statewide significance follows:
“The proposed project would be located principally in Belfast; however, its waste discharge pipe would extend into neighboring Northport.... Among the issues raised by interested persons and the general public are the potential impacts of the facility’s wastewater discharge and pipe infrastructure on commercial fisheries and recreational activities in Belfast Bay and the wider environment of Penobscot Bay. Given its nature and scale, the proposed project may have an economic and/or environmental impact in more than one municipality.”
Reid added that the DEP received filings for Upstream Watch, the Maine Lobsterman’s Association and other interested persons, and more than 130 people have asked to be placed on the interested persons’ list.
Next in the process is for potential interveners to get their request for status filed with the BEP.
“When the Board accepts licensing jurisdiction, it will vote on whether to have a public hearing (but would not set a date for that) and would set a deadline for the filing of petitions to intervene,” according to the BEP’s executive analyst Cynthia S. Bertocci. “Under the Department’s Chapter 3 Rules Governing the Conduct of Licensing Hearings, section 11(A)(1), the deadline for the filing of a petition for leave to intervene is within 10 days of the Department’s publication of notice of opportunity to intervene, or such other time as may be specified in the notice.
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