AUGUSTA, ME_ A public hearing on changes to the state's mineral mining rules is expected to draw significant comment this week- just like it did last year.
Environmental advocates say LD 146 is not a bill they wanted to see again.
"These are the same exact mining rules the legislature rejected last session." says Nick Bennett, staff scientist with the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Bennett says he's frustrated that the bill is back. He says the rules would relax restrictions and allow mines to operate in Maine that produce wastewater so dangerous that perpetual treatment could be required. "And these rules don't require mining companies to put enough money up front to cover a catastrophe."
Bennett says that means the state could be on the hook for significant clean up costs in the future.
But business development groups, such as the Maine State Chamber of Commerce which backed last year's bill, have said that expanding mining opportunity in places like Aroostook County could create some 700 jobs, a major boon for an area of the state that's seen its young workforce drift away over the last few decades for lack of employment options.
A public hearing on the bill is set for Wednesday.