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Group Accuses LePage Administration of Dragging Feet on BPA Enforcement
07/11/2011   Reported By: Susan Sharon

Six months before a new law requires the hormone-disrupting chemical Bisphenol A to be phased out from certain products in Maine, an environmental group is asking the attorney general to investigate whether the LePage administration is deliberately trying to skirt the law. Gov. Paul LePage had earlier proposed to repeal it. But the agency tasked with enforcing the Kid Safe Products Act says the state remains committed to its adoption.

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Group Accuses LePage Administration of Dragging Fe Listen

At news conferences in Portland and Bangor, the Environmental Health Strategy Center said it was asking for an investigation into whether the the LePage administration is violating two of Maine's chemical safety laws.

In the past two weeks the group says the state has ignored two statutory deadlines: one that requires manufacturers of reuseable food and beverage containers containing BPA to submit compliance plans for ending its use in their products; and one that requires industrial and commercial facilities to develop plans to reduce the use of cancer-causing chemicals under the Toxics Use Reduction Act.

"As far as we can tell there's no intent or preparation by the LePage administration or the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to enforce the BPA rule. That's shocking to us," said Mike Belliveau of the Environmental Health Strategy Center.

Belliveau said says the governor has a "continued, hostile pattern" of policies that are contrary to the health of Maine families. In January, the governor announced a list of proposed rollbacks of state health and enviromental protections, including a proposal to repeal the BPA rule and relax the Kid Safe Products Act.

The Legislature refused to go along. But a few weeks ago Belliveau says the governor proceeded to eliminate and reassign professional staff at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection charged with implementing and enforcing the BPA phaseout that takes effect in January.

"That goes too far and Maine families, Maine parents won't stand for it," Belliveau said. "We need a governor who enforces the law, who protects Maine families, and we are asking the attorney general to step in and compel compliance with the law."

Attorney General William Schneider had not had a chance to see the group's letter and was not prepared to address it specifically. But Schneider says, in general, when it comes to enforcement there are multiple considerations.

"When the legislative branch passes a law, we're obligated to enforce, it but the Legislature also has to provide funding for that; we have to find the right people to do that; so it's a complicated process," Schneider says.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the DEP which is charged with implementing the BPA rules says there's been no change in the state's position.

"The department remains wholly committed to protecting public and environmental health, and in that, is committed to upholding and enforcing the ban on the sale of products containing BPA and other chemicals of concern," says Samantha Depoy Warren.

Depoy Warren says there's a logical explanation for why the state missed the two statutory deadlines. In the case of BPA, she says the Maine Board of Environmental Protection didn't have a chance to adopt a final rule until June 16th. That's because the BEP's meetings had been suspended during an investigation into possible conflicts of interest. With the board's calendar in limbo, Depoy Warren says the acting DEP commissioner decided to postpone the BPA reporting requirement until October 1st.

As for staffing changes in the program, she had this to say: "I can't comment on personnel issues. What I can say is, given how important the priority chemical programs are right now, we actually elevated management of our priority chemicals programs directly to the director of the Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management, and this ensure that we'll be able to meet these timelines moving forward."

As for missing a July 1st deadline under the Toxics Use Reduction Act, Depoy Warrren says a new law requires the DEP to narrow a list of more than 1,700 chemicals of concern to ten. She says the DEP is trying to be as thorough as possible and the process takes time. The deadline for the regulated community to submit plans for compliance with that new list is July of next year.


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