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Tuesday November 08, 2011 | 02:32 PM

Saying Maine is at the end of the “tailpipe” to receive blasts of coal-fired power plant pollution, Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe will vote against a proposal to block a federal rule cracking down on such cross-state emissions.

The Maine Republicans spoke today in separate Capitol Hill interviews about their stands against a resolution authored by GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky that is set for a Senate vote later this week. While Collins and Snowe are proponents of scaling back or eliminating a number of federal regulations that they consider too burdensome and costly, both Maine Republicans said the benefits of the federal rule limiting the air pollution that can arrive in Maine from 28 other states outweighs the regulatory costs.

But Collins said that is looking into a proposal being crafted by GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee that would give utility companies an extra year to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency rule limiting the amount of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide that can be emitted by power plants and which wind up drifting into other states, particularly in the northeast.

Snowe said she wants the rule to go into effect, “Because we are downwind of those emissions and ultimately it increases the pollution in Maine and we feel it directly and adversely…We are sort of the tailpipe in the country, so it is critical from that standpoint.”

Collins said that she too is voting against Paul’s proposal because, “My concern is that a lot of the pollution from the coal fired power plants blows into Maine even though we use virtually no coal, there’s only one coal burning plant that I am aware of in the state. And it does create pollution for a state like ours that is at the end of the tailpipe. In this case, I think that the EPA is taking some reasonable steps.”

But asked by reporters about Alexander’s proposal to give utility companies an extra year to comply with the EPA cross-state pollution rule, which was finalized in July, Collins said that while she just learned about Alexander’s bill and is studying it, “I think that’s certainly a far more reasonable approach than Sen. Paul’s approach.”

Even if Paul’s resolution passes the Senate, and it needs just a simple majority of 51 votes, and then clears the House, President Obama has threatened to veto it.

“Each year, this rule would avoid tens of thousands of premature deaths, prevent more than ten thousand heart attacks and hospital visits for respiratory and cardiovascular disease, and alleviate hundreds of thousands of childhood asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses,” the White House said in the veto threat statement.  “The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that this flexible, commonsense rule will yield hundreds of billions of dollars in net benefits each year.”


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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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