– Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, is complaining that the rules state agencies must follow to qualify for federal disaster assistance are too burdensome.

The current requirement to hand over a new disaster preparedness plan every three years is difficult for resource-strapped state emergency managers, Michaud told the Federal Emergency Management Agency last week in a letter he spearheaded that was co-signed by a bipartisan group of 23 other House members.

The Maine Emergency Management Agency only has one full-time staff person devoted to helping communities shore up protections against flooding and other natural disasters and deal with the aftermath when disaster strikes, said agency spokesperson Lynette Miller.

“It takes a lot of time to put together a new preparation plan, but the risks faced from natural disasters don’t really change much over the years,” Miller said.

The agency’s “hazard mitigation” staffer wants to spend her time helping communities with projects such as upgrading culverts to stop roads from washing out, Miller said.

Michaud said he decided to lead an effort to pressure federal officials to adopt a longer time frame — five years — after Maine officials told him the current deadline was a problem.

Maine’s Republican U.S. senators last week voted against a proposal to block a rule cracking down on air pollution from coal-fired power plants and other sources that wafts into Maine, winning plaudits from the American Lung Association in Maine.

Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe and four other GOP senators joined 50 Democrats in rejecting a resolution authored by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.

Collins and Snowe are among a group of lawmakers who want to roll back a number of federal regulations, saying costs often outweigh benefits and get in the way of businesses hiring more workers.

That has drawn criticism from environmental and health groups.

But the senators won praise from the Lung Association for their votes against the Paul proposal.

“Air pollution doesn’t respect state borders and here in Maine we are the tailpipe for toxic pollution produced by coal-fired power plants, factories, cars and trucks to the west and south of us,” said Dr. Andrew Filderman, a Rockport physician and board member of the American Lung Association in Maine.

Snowe and Collins both used the tailpipe metaphor in separate Capitol Hill interviews last week.

Said Collins: “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.”

The Environmental Protection Agency could not treat minor discharges from small fishing boats the same as large-scale industrial pollution under a bill expected to come up for a House vote this week. The legislation prohibiting the EPA from regulating small vessel discharges — such as rain coming off decks or small amounts of “gray water” from bilges — is part of a broader Coast Guard reauthorization bill.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, was a co-sponsor of a separate bill signed into law last year that put a moratorium on EPA regulation of small-boat discharges until the end of 2013.

The permanent ban would apply to fishing boats and commercial vessels under 79-feet long for discharges such as gray water from laundry or galleys. The burden complying with discharge regulations would put on small-boat operators isn’t justified by harm to the environment, Pingree says.

MaineToday Media Washington Bureau Chief Jonathan Riskind can be contacted at 791-6280 or at:

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