Environmentalists credit Senate Republicans such as Saviello and Roger Katz, of Augusta, along with Bradley Moulton of York, Kimberly Olson of Phippsburg, Russell Black of Wilton, Dennis Keschl of Belgrade, and several other Republican House members with being instrumental in preventing the Legislature from doing away with LURC.
County regulation would have been "a fiasco," Saviello says. One county might be easy-going on development, another hard-nosed. There would have been no statewide standard.
In the end, the biggest change made to LURC is that large proposed developments will now go before the DEP. Environmentalists seem satisfied. The group Environment Maine is "pretty pleased" with the result, says director Emily Figdor.
"TAKINGS" BILL KILLED
The "regulatory takings" bill, a product of a corporate-legislator coalition, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), would have allowed people or corporations that could prove their property's value had been significantly diminished by a regulatory action, including environmental regulation, to be compensated by the state for their loss.
A "very substantial effort" to secure passage, Didisheim says, was mounted by a score of lobbyists representing forestry, farming, and other interests.
Senator Katz says compensating people for these losses is good in principle, but "it's virtually impossible to draft a law that would work well without generating huge amounts of litigation and costs." He adds: "Only the big developers" would be able to take advantage of it.
Republican Senators Katz, Saviello, Earle McCormick of West Gardiner, Christopher Rector of Thomaston, and independent Richard Woodbury of Yarmouth supported instead the creation of a legislative committee to study the issue. But House Republicans wouldn't compromise, so the bill died.
MINING OVERHAUL PASSES
The bipartisan passage of the mining bill was the environmental movement's biggest defeat in the 125th Legislature.
Supported by LePage, this bill overhauls the mining laws to help a company owned by the Canadian Irving corporate empire to develop an open-pit gold mine at Bald Mountain in Aroostook County, in the middle of the North Woods.
Critics see the law making it easier for open-pit mines to be developed elsewhere. Environment Maine's Figdor says such mines inevitably create water pollution, and under the law taxpayers could end up footing the bill for clean-ups. The outcome here was "really disappointing," she says.
Environmentalists will carefully monitor DEP rule-making under the new law. The Legislature will have to approve the rules.
LANDFILL TO EXPAND
The Legislature's permission to expand the Norridgewock private landfill represents "a change in the direction of the state" on waste disposal, says Senator Seth Goodall, of Richmond, the lead Democrat on Natural Resources. Previously, there was a ban on expansion.
Hillary Lister of Athens, the state's foremost anti-dump activist, says the expansion will encourage the importing of out-of-state waste into Maine, which has grown in recent years.
OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIONS
A $5-million Land for Maine's Future conservation bond issue is one of five bonds approved by the Legislature by the required two-thirds majority. It's unclear whether LePage will sign all or some of them. It's also unclear if the two-thirds majority will stick together to override a veto.
The Legislature decided to dismantle the State Planning Office — a LePage initiative. The office helped coordinate environmental policy, so now this coordination will be weakened, Didisheim says.