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Businesses seek delay in Maine's PFAS reporting law

The law goes into effect in January, and companies say more time is needed to test their products.

MAINE, USA — The Maine State Chamber, along with other businesses, is asking state regulators for a delay in enforcing a law requiring companies to report the use of toxic chemicals known as PFAS in products sold in Maine.

The law is supposed to go into effect in January of 2023, but dozens of companies say more time is needed to test their products, which in some cases can be in the thousands.

Environmental advocates are pushing back against the delay saying manufacturers should be aware of what's in their products already. 

Last month, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce sent the letter below to Gov. Janet Mills and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regarding the PFAS reporting law. 

Passed in 2021, the law requires companies with products on Maine shelves to report the use and quantity of PFAS chemicals by January of 2023. The chamber, along with several other organizations including the Manufacturers Association of Maine, want the law pushed back to January of 2024. 

Ben Lucas, the chamber's government relations specialist, was not available for an on-camera interview but told NEWS CENTER Maine the following in a statement:

“The Maine State Chamber of Commerce has been leading an effort to delay the implementation of the PFAS reporting requirement in this law for 12 months for several reasons. First, this became law in July of 2021, yet the Maine Department of Environmental Protection did not begin the rulemaking required under the law until just this month. With the delay in rulemaking, it makes it impossible for those in the regulated community to comply not knowing what will be required. Starting this process in July of 2022 will simply not give Maine businesses enough time to fully understand what needs to be reported by January of 2023. Given the time it has taken DEP to start this process, we feel the additional year is only fair to Maine businesses who have been waiting for guidance since July of 2021.

“Secondly, this is a massive undertaking that will have a significant impact on every business in Maine. The reporting requirement contained within this law will impact millions of products and thousands of companies who are based in Maine, do business in Maine, or sell products in the Maine marketplace. At the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, we have heard from some businesses who will have over 10,000 products to report -- we have heard from national companies who sell into Maine as well as all 50 states, wondering how they will be impacted – and we have also heard from manufacturers of the boat, motorcycle, and car engines who are not sure if their products have PFAS added, but will have thousands of parts they need to test.

“The Maine State Chamber of Commerce understands the concerns that have been raised around PFAS and have been engaged on PFAS policy for several years now – we understand that it is an emotionally charged issue. Our position has always been that we will remain engaged in every policy conversation dealing with PFAS because it is critical to find a solution to the PFAS problem in Maine and understand the stories of the individuals who have been negatively impacted by PFAS exposure. But we need to make sure policy is enacted in a way that does not negatively impact the way Maine businesses can produce and manufacture products to compete in a global economy. It is important to note that the intent of this legislation was to have a complete ban on PFAS products in Maine by the year 2030, and that asking for an extension until 2024 for the reporting deadline will have no impact on the original intent of the legislation. We are simply asking for an extension to give Maine businesses the best opportunity to comply with the law." 

Patrick MacRoy, the former deputy director of Defend Our Health who helped write the law, calls the pushback troubling. 

"The companies that are actually manufacturing, distributing products, don't actually know if they actually contain toxic chemicals, like PFAS," MacRoy explained.

The compounds are a class of about nine thousand chemicals, found in carpets, waterproof clothing, wrappers, food packaging, and firefighting foam. In federal studies, exposure to the chemicals has been linked to a number of health problems, including thyroid issues and organ cancers. MacRoy says the law is a wake-up call.

"We need to get the industry to better police itself and figure out what is in the products they are selling to people," MacRoy said.

Earlier this month, the American Chemistry Council along with more than two dozen nationwide manufacturing associations sent out the letter below supporting delaying the law because rule-making by the Department of Environmental Protection has just begun, and companies do not have enough time to be in compliance.

David Madore, a DEP spokesperson, told NEWS CENTER Maine the following in a statement:

"The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is now evaluating the recent request by a coalition of chemical manufacturers and businesses in Maine for an extension of the deadline for reporting products containing intentionally added substances defined as PFAS.

"The coalition's letter was sent one week after the DEP's first stakeholder meeting, which was held virtually on June 30 and attended by 275 people. During that meeting, the Department requested input from participants by July 18 on a variety of programmatic details, including potential criteria for evaluating extension requests. DEP will consider stakeholder responses before reaching a decision about the request."

The law also does allow the agency to grant extensions, but advocates say it should only be on a case-by-case basis only. A ban on PFAS in products sold in Maine is expected to go into effect by 2030.

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