SCARBOROUGH – Last spring I testified before the Natural Resources Committee on legislation that would temper the massive and nearly unprecedented over-regulation of certain chemicals in Maine manufactured products.

I did so as a parent, a small-business owner and an elected official.

My family and I work hard to balance the needs of our state, our manufacturing company and our children.

The reforming legislation, L.D. 1129, “An Act To Provide the Department of Environmental Protection with Regulatory Flexibility Regarding the Listing of Priority Chemicals,” was a good start in that effort. L.D. 1129, which has now become law, was an act providing flexibility to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection regarding use of chemicals in manufacturing.

During the legislative process, we witnessed the unfortunate presentation of misinformation and rhetoric by those opposed to it.

More unfortunately, we are again witnessing similar misinformation and rhetoric in regards to the implementation of it.

Those of us who supported L.D. 1129 — which was ultimately a bill to correct the over-reaching flaws of the 2008 “Kids Safe Products Act,” a misleading title if ever there was one — worked very hard across the aisle to come up with a compromise agreement we could all live with. None of us got exactly what we wanted, but that’s how compromise works.

The previous bill went well beyond kids’ products and potentially affected every single item manufactured in Maine that a child could conceivably ever come into contact with.

For example, materials with unknown chemical content imported from China and used in the manufacturing of running shoes would be subject to testing.

Chemicals used in the manufacture of computer chips could have also been banned by Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection.

Should we make sure children are not unnecessarily exposed to dangerous chemicals? Absolutely. Does that mean we need to ban chemicals commonly used in the manufacture of products not meant for children’s use? That’s not exactly business-friendly.

Now, however, environmental activists who did not completely get their way are complaining that the implementation of L.D. 1129 is moving too slowly, that the rules were somehow changed and that people are putting up roadblocks. Such false rhetoric will not improve future negotiations or encourage expanded legislation.

Maine is working hard to implement the new regulations, coordinating with environmental interests and Maine businesses to make sure everyone is in compliance.

My family owns Volk Packaging Corp. in Biddeford, a box-manufacturing facility. Volk Packaging is in its third generation as a family-owned business.

Anyone who has worked at Volk will tell you that not only is family a priority, but our employees are part of the family.

Safety in the workplace and ensuring that our products and our customers’ products are as safe as possible are priorities. Complying with new regulations and rules comes with being a business owner and an employer.

When people and organizations with a national agenda begin to use the process in Maine as a political stepping-stone for the national stage, it is not in the best interest of our state. It is simply political posturing. The Environmental Health Strategy Center has been very public in criticizing the DEP, first claiming it was moving too slowly to implement the new law. Then, when DEP proved it has been working diligently on the issue, they did a victory dance, taking credit for having “nudged” the agency into action.

This kind of rhetoric is not productive; instead, it is playing politics with what we all should agree are very important regulations regarding chemicals, kids, businesses and Maine’s economy.

We must stay focused on what our goal is here: Maine. As a mother, a business owner and an elected official, I believe it is time to roll back the rhetoric, do what’s right for families and businesses.

We need to remember that Maine is not a guinea pig for national special interests. 

– Special to The Press Herald