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Thursday November 17, 2011 | 09:32 AM

The Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine wants Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to support legislation by Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey updating how chemicals are regulated by the federal government.

Neither Maine Republican is a supporter of Lautenberg’s Safe Chemicals Act, which currently has 12 co-sponsors, all Democrats. But Collins says she agrees an overhaul of how federal regulators oversee the safety of chemicals is needed and hopes negotiations going on over Lautenberg’s bill will lead to an agreement large numbers of senators can support.

The bill, which would overhaul the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act and require chemical manufacturers to offer more proof their products are safe before they can bring them to market, is getting a hearing today in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

The coalition of advocates and groups such as the Learning Disabilities Association of Maine and its Healthy Children’s Project were in Bangor Wednesday to rally in support of the bill in front of the federal building where Snowe and Collins have offices and call on the Maine senators to back the Lautenberg bill.

Collins isn’t willing to commit her support at this point, but noted that there are behind-the-scenes, talks reportedly going on between environmental and industry groups and staffers from the offices of Lautenberg and GOP Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the environment committee. A deal does not appear close at hand, however, according to the report by Environment & Energy Daily.

Neither Collins nor Snowe is on the environment committee.

Collins said in an email statement that many people believe the 1976 is “too outdated to reflect the needs of the current marketplace and the potential health and environmental dangers resulting from the tens of thousands of chemicals that have been put into use during the past 34 years.”

Manufacturers, too, “want the guidance of the federal government to help determine which chemicals are safe for use by consumers and in manufacturing processes,” Collins said. “Americans have the right to know that the products they use and purchase are safe and free of hazardous toxins.  I am encouraged that there are bipartisan discussions underway to develop legislation that could generate broad support.”

Comment is being sought from Snowe.

(Updated as of 10:20 a.m.:   Snowe said she hopes for an “improved bill” to emerge.

"I agree we must reform the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 to better reflect the scientific progress that has been achieved in the past 35 years, and assess high-risk chemicals in commerce,” Snowe said in a statement. “At the same time, we must be concerned any legislative fixes do not create new challenges through unintended consequences. Replacing the current broken system with needlessly burdensome reviews might produce inconsistent regulations throughout the United States, and may delay the availability of innovative products for the US consumer.”)


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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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