Maine Legislature Takes Strong Stand on Toxic Chemicals

Unanimous Vote Provides Bipartisan Support for Fixing Broken Chemical Safety System

Environment Maine

AUGUSTA – Reflecting an overwhelming bipartisan consensus, the Maine Legislature passed a Joint Resolution yesterday calling on Congress to modernize the federal Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. The vote was unanimous in both the Maine Senate and the Maine House of Representatives.

Senate President Kevin Raye sponsored the resolution (SP 679) with bipartisan support from legislative leadership, including Senate Minority Leader Barry Hobbins, Speaker Robert Nutting, House Minority Leader Emily Cain, and top members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

“We want to give as much support as we can to Senators Snowe and Collins in their efforts to modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act,” said Raye, the Washington County Republican. “All Americans deserve to know that our laws will protect them and their children based on the best science available.”

“Maine has been a leader in protecting children from the most dangerous chemicals in everyday products, but we can’t go it alone,” said Rep. Emily Cain, D-Orono, the House Democratic leader. “We are urging Congress to join us by fixing our outdated and broken national toxic chemical laws.”

The Joint Resolution does not call for passage of specific federal legislation but one pending bill, the Safe Chemicals Act (S. 847), would require chemical companies to demonstrate the safety of their products, while filling gaps in health and safety information provided to the public. The Safe Chemicals Act requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to use the best available science to protect pregnant women and children from all sources of exposure to a toxic chemical. The legislation also rewards businesses that innovate to develop safer chemicals and products, which supporters say would be good for Maine’s economy.

The Joint Resolution follows editorial support from five state newspapers calling on Senators Snowe and Collins to co-sponsor the Safe Chemicals Act. The federal bill will be voted on in Senate Environment and Public Works Committee at the end of April, and on the floor of the U.S. Senate soon thereafter.

Referring to recent legislative actions, including last year’s ban of bisphenol-A (BPA) in reusable food and beverage containers, State Senator Tom Saviello (R-Franklin), co-sponsor of the resolution and Senate Chair of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources said, “If the federal law had been updated already, Maine wouldn’t have had to spend so much time and energy dealing with the issue of toxic chemicals”.

Senator Seth Goodall (D-Sagadahoc), another co-sponsor of the resolution and member of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources agreed and added, “Both consumers and many in industry are looking to the federal government to provide some consistency and predictability to toxic substance regulation. It needs to be done.”

Public and environmental health advocates have long been calling for the overhaul of TSCA, a 35-year-old law they say is outdated and ineffective at protecting public health and giving businesses and consumers accurate information about chemicals used in everyday products. Only about 200 of over 84,000 chemicals now in commerce have been fully tested for health hazards, and only 5 have ever been restricted, despite widespread scientific evidence of harm from many chemicals.

“We’re thrilled that Maine leaders have united to send this life-saving message to Congress,” said Mike Belliveau, President of the Environmental Health Strategy Center. “They chose to stand with Maine moms, doctors, and businesses who have been calling for an overhaul to this outdated law that fails to protect children and families from dangerous chemicals in everyday products. Now we need Senators Snowe and Collins to forge a bipartisan fix to our broken chemical safety system.”

“The Safe Chemicals Act takes a measured, science-based approach to fixing this broken system,” said Emily Figdor, Director of Environment Maine. “It’s exactly the type of practical, common sense solution that our Maine Senators are known for, and that children and businesses around the country are waiting for. By taking the lead on modernizing TSCA, Senators Snowe and Collins can protect children’s health and bring clarity and safety to the marketplace. And that’s good for all of us.”

A new poll released Monday sought to discover what likely Maine voters want in a U.S. Senate candidate when it comes to the environment and public health. Ninety two percent said it was important for the U.S. government to require safer chemicals in consumer products. The NRDC Action Fund and Environment Maine sponsored the poll of 841 likely Maine voters, which was conducted March 27-28 by Public Policy Polling, a research firm based in North Carolina.

Figdor added, “There’s overwhelming public and political support in Maine for safer products. The consumer product companies want federal reform too. The only ones standing in the way are corporations like Dow Chemical and ExxonMobil Chemical. We need Senators Snowe and Collins to stand up to the chemical companies and be heroes in the U.S. Senate.”