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Monday October 03, 2011 | 06:15 PM

The American Lung Association has gone from thanking Sen. Susan Collins for opposing a bill permanently banning the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions to expressing disappointment in Collins’ support for a trio of bills aimed at delaying or reducing other federal regulations.

In response, a Collins spokesman said that, “Senator Collins has a record of support for the landmark Clean Air Act.  She was the only Republican to vote against an amendment to prohibit EPA from ever regulating greenhouse gas emissions.”

Earlier this month, the lung association met with Collins staffers, as did a Maine family with an asthmatic son, to talk about Clean Air Act-related bills the Maine Republican is co-authoring or supporting.

The bills include a bill Collins co-authored with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon delaying boiler emission rules from going into effect and giving businesses more time to comply with them once they are in effect, and Collins’ “regulatory time out” bill placing a one-year moratorium on many new regulations deemed to be overly burdensome to the economy. The lung association also isn’t happy that Collins is supporting a bill co-authored by GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas that requires federal agencies to offer more evidence and go through more steps before being able to put regulations judged as costly to businesses into effect.

Collins and other proponents of regulatory overhaul bills contend that excessive federal regulations is harming the economy and holding many businesses back from creating more jobs. Opponents say the backers of such legislation are over-estimating the costs to businesses and not taking into account the economic benefits regulations create, from protecting public health and safety to spurring new technologies.

Collins spokesman Kevin Kelley said in response to the criticism by the lung association that the senator has said that “no business owner she knows questions the legitimate role of government in protecting the health, safety, and well-being of the public and employees. However, many small business owners tell her that, far too often, they are buried under a mountain of paperwork, driving up costs and impeding growth and job creation.” Kelley said.

It is on the topic of public health that the lung association stepped into the fray. After a meeting with Collins staffers and a recent column by Collins in the Wall Street Journal arguing for her regulatory time out bill, the lung association has concluded the bills Collins supports can’t be fixed, from its perspective.

“In light of your firm commitment to protecting health, especially your work this spring to stand up to special interests and stick up for Maine’s kids, we are most disappointed in your recent sponsorship of legislation that would delay and block the implementation of sciencebased safeguards that protect every family and business in Maine. Jeffrey Seyler, CEO of the American Lung Association of New England.

That is a reference to the fact that while the American Lung Association isn’t happy with Collins’ federal regulatory reduction bills, it recently issued a public “thank you” to the Maine Republican for her vote against the recent Senate GOP leadership attempt to permanently ban the EPA from regulating climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions.

Seyler’s letter added that, “Each of these bills creates delays and additional barriers to the implementation of lifesaving safeguards and health protections. After careful review and consideration, it is clear to us that these bills cannot be modified in order to meet our simple public health test: Will the legislation provide greater or equal health protection in both the near term and the long term as compared with the current law? Sadly, the answer for all three bills is a clear and unequivocal no.”

Earlier this month, the Conley family of Raymond participated in a news conference held by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Cal., the chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, asserting that the Clean Air Act is under attack by congressional Republicans who want to limit or halt entirely various Environmental Protection Agency regulations. The lung association also participated in the news conference and was responsible for the Conley family’s presence.

The news conference is being held by and will include public health experts from the American Lung Association and Physicians for Social Responsibility

Mark Conley, the father of 11-year-old asthma sufferer Jake, said in an interview that he and his family had their chance to air their problems with the Collins/Wyden boiler emissions bill to a Collins staffer during a meeting at Collins’ office.

A similar boiler emissions bill is pending in the House, and sponsors include Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd.

He said the family came away convinced that Collins would listen to their concerns about the health impact of delaying new EPA boiler emission regulations, and work to fix potential problems for businesses while taking into account the need to maintain standards that cleaned up the emissions.

That is not the view of the lung association.

“Please put the health of Maine people and all Americans first and withdraw your support for these bills,” Seyler wrote in his letter.

While Collins’ time out bill would “impose a one year moratorium on ‘significant’ new rules from going into effect, if those rules would have an adverse impact on jobs, the economy, or America’s international competitiveness, the moratorium would not apply to rules that address imminent threats to human health or safety or other emergencies, or that apply to the criminal justice system, military or foreign affairs,” Collins spokesman Kelley said. 

When it comes to the boiler bill, Collins contends that she and Wyden are merely giving the Environmental Protection Agency a 15-month delay the agency itself sought.

“This legislation would help the EPA protect the environment and public health while ensuring that manufacturers in Maine and throughout the country are not faced with needlessly onerous burdens at a time when many are struggling to maintain jobs,” Kelley said.



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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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