Groups Voice Concerns and Call for Public Hearing
PORTLAND—Several of Maine’s leading environmental and public health advocacy organizations today called on the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to hold a public hearing on the LePage Administration’s proposal to weaken an important clean air standard on smog pollution from industrial sources.
Maine DEP is proposing to eliminate the review of any major new or modified industrial sources of smog under the Ozone Transport Region (OTR), a regional effort to control cross-border pollution. According to the groups, such a step by Maine could lead to increased air pollution that threatens the public health of Maine people, particularly senior citizens, children, and individuals with respiratory difficulties.
The groups claim that DEP’s proposal has major implications for efforts to control air pollution from throughout New England and the mid-Atlantic states extending to Washington D.C., and they are calling on DEP to bring the issue out into the public so that Maine people can see what is being proposed by the LePage Administration’s DEP.
Public notice was only provided through a published notice in the Kennebec Journal and a posting on the DEP website that was extremely difficult for any member of the interested public to find. No notices were mailed to interested parties in Maine.
“The public has a right to know and should have the opportunity to voice their opinions about any attempt to weaken the state’s hard-won clean air health standards,” said Glen Brand, Sierra Club Maine Chapter’s Director.
The EPA currently requires each state in the OTR to regulate new major stationary sources in the same manner. Maine’s proposal would make it the only state to be exempt from these uniform requirements.
“DEP’s proposal could set a terrible precedent that increases the threat of air pollution to Maine people. This proposed weakening of our clean air protections is yet another example of the LePage Administration’s attacks on our environmental laws,” said Pete Didisheim, Advocacy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
“Ground level ozone is created when certain pollutants from industrial sites combine with sunlight and heat. Ozone pollution harms everyone, especially the young, those with respiratory illness and the elderly. With increasingly warm summers, Maine should not look to repeal laws designed to protect public health without public hearing,” said Ivy Frignoca, Staff Attorney, Conservation Law Foundation.
Maine has experienced significant air pollution problems in the past and continues to suffer from high ozone days during the summer. Maine is at the receiving end of upwind pollution sources, many of which have been required to reduce emissions through the requirements established for Northeastern states.
Pursuant to the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, Maine is part of the OTR, as are the six other New England States, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and the metropolitan region of Washington, D.C. The OTR was created to establish a mechanism and requirements for regional controls on air pollution that crosses state borders.
If Maine were to succeed in eliminating its participation in the OTR as proposed, then other states could request similar waivers and the result could be a reversal of progress that Maine has made over the past 20 years in securing reductions from upwind states.
The groups believe that the DEP proposal violates the concept of a level playing field that has been a cornerstone of clean air policy throughout the region.
Hidden on DEP Website: Notice of the DEP proposal is accessed through the DEP Rulemaking page by selecting an obscure link “Opportunity for Comment” located in a box in the upper right corner. www.maine.gov/dep/rules/
Most interested parties and members of the public would never have known to select this link to find a major proposed change in regulating air pollution in Maine.
The DEP has faced significant scrutiny in recent months as part of an investigation that appeared on June 16, 17, and 18 in the Maine Sunday Telegram and Portland Press Herald. The investigation revealed a decline during the LePage Administration in enforcement of Maine’s environmental laws, intimidation of DEP employees by senior political officials, failure by DEP to meet a key relicensing deadline, and connections between out-of-state corporations and actions by the DEP to weaken or simply not implement Maine’s environmental laws.