Read the full article by Mehr Sher (Bangor Daily News)
“One challenge with ‘forever chemicals’ is that the public can’t always know which products contain them, meaning people can’t decide for themselves whether they want to buy items with toxic substances.
That was the argument Maine lawmakers leaned on when they passed a law last year to require all manufacturers selling items in Maine — from cars to T-shirts — to tell the state whether their products contain the chemicals. Requiring disclosure was also a step toward Maine’s plan to prohibit the sale of products containing the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS.
As the deadline to make the information public approaches, however, the state has been allowing national lobbying groups to delay the requirement on behalf of their members, some of whom said they did not even know they had been granted an extension.
The Bangor Daily News spoke to 13 entities to whom the state gave a six-month extension. Of those, seven said they were not aware they had requested an extension, let alone been granted one. One company said it had been planning to meet the Jan. 1 deadline and was surprised when the BDN informed it that the state was giving it six months more.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is not relying on specific criteria to grant the extensions. Rather it is allowing entities to delay based on whether it would be difficult for them to comply with the law, Deputy Commissioner David Madore said.
The department ‘reviews the substance of each request. Reducing the demand on limited laboratory capacity is a priority consideration,’ Madore said.
So far the department has granted 1,010 companies, trade associations and nonprofits six-month extensions to make public whether their products contain the chemicals that have been associated with increased risk of kidney cancer, decreased infant and fetal growth, and decreased immunity.
Through landfill leachate, wastewater, land spreading and groundwater contamination, PFAS have found their way into drinking water, plants and animals in Maine and across the country.
To date, the state has rejected four extension requests, all from chemical companies — BASF, Chemours, 3M and 3M Marine, Madore said.
Others questioned whether the state was making it too easy for companies large and small to evade legal requirements that they have known about for 15 months and permit associations to apply for extensions on their members’ behalf.
‘I’m really disappointed that this is the direction in which the department is going in terms of granting these extensions,’ said Rep. Lori Gramlich, D-Old Orchard Beach, who sponsored the PFAS reporting bill, LD 1503. ‘To me it seems there are parties that are looking to get out of compliance with this law.’
The law requires manufacturers to report to the state the amount of each of the PFAS in their products, and the purpose they serve in the products, including any product components.
Katherine O’Brien, a senior attorney at Earthjustice, an environmental law organization based in California, said she was concerned about the lack of consistent criteria for extensions. The reporting requirements are a critical step toward effectively implementing the state’s ban on PFAS in products by 2030, she said.
‘The key concern with the department granting blanket extensions to many or all members of a trade association is whether it is making the required finding that each and every one of those companies qualifies for an extension,’ O’Brien said.” …