I am responding to the newspaper’s May 8 editorial, “Mainers Lose as Formaldehyde Pulled from List.” The Department of Environmental Protection proposed elevating four chemicals to “priority” status under Maine’s Kid-Safe Product Act, potentially subjecting these chemicals to further regulation. In recent weeks, the department has decided to delay action on its proposed formaldehyde rule.
At the public hearing on this proposed rule, members of the business community asked that action be delayed in light of the scientific research that is underway at the federal level. Currently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Academy of Sciences both are working on evaluations of formaldehyde.
Instead of substituting its own judgment for that of legions of scientists, the state DEP has correctly decided to forgo additional regulation of formaldehyde until all the science is in. A prudent approach, and, until federal review is complete, formaldehyde will remain on Maine’s “chemicals of high concern” list.
No testimony was given at public hearings in support of this rule when it was first proposed. In fact, the Environmental Health Strategy Center, the leading interest group focused on chemical regulation in Maine, published a four-page analysis of the DEP’s proposed rules and stated that the “potential public health benefits of the proposed rules [including the formaldehyde rule] are negligible.” Additionally, this same group said that the “proposed rules would not produce new information on chemical use.”
This was one instance this year where the business community and the environmental community saw eye-to-eye, in agreement that the proposed rule was unnecessary. Unfortunately, some have decided to attack the department, seeing an election-year boogeyman behind this decision, instead of recognizing that the department has appropriately decided to rely on federal expertise before pursuing additional regulation for a limited public health benefit.
Ben Gilman is senior government affairs specialist for the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Augusta.