Belgrade Lawmaker Conveys Clean Air Resolution to Senator Collins

Unanimous vote in Maine House and Senate calls on Congress to defend the Clean Air Act

AUGUSTA, ME (July 9, 2013)

In a legislative session marked by a host of partisan fights, Democrats and Republicans found unanimous common ground in a Joint Resolution calling for Congress and the White House to protect the federal Clean Air Act from roll-backs and delays and to fund the air monitoring and pollution enforcement efforts that ensure healthy air for Maine people.

“We need a strong Clean Air Act now more than ever,” stated Ed Miller, Senior Vice President of Public Policy for the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “When people are healthy, children do better in school, workers are more productive, and businesses can add jobs because their health costs are lower.“

In a ceremony at the State House Welcome Center on Tuesday, Representative Dennis Keschl (R-Belgrade) officially transferred the Joint Resolution to Bobby Reynolds, who represented Senator Susan Collins and read remarks from Maine’s senior Senator.

“Few things are more critical to our health and our economy than clean and healthy air,” said Representative Dennis Keschl, a Republican from Belgrade and former Director of the Maine Air Bureau. “The Clean Air Act has been working for more than four decades to reduce air toxins and improve public health. It’s only right that Maine’s Congressional delegation continue the fine Maine tradition of leadership on clean air.”

Maine is often referred to as “the tailpipe of the nation” because air pollution that originates in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic drifts into Maine.  Air pollution can have serious health effects, including asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, cancer, reproductive and developmental harm, and even premature death. Economic impacts of unhealthy air include increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits as well as missed days of school and work. 

“When the Clean Air Act is allowed to work as intended, much of the health and economic impacts of unhealthy air could be prevented,” said Vickie Purgavie, Director of the Homecare & Hospice Alliance of Maine and Leadership Board Member of the American Lung Association in Maine. “For example, if the EPA adopts the new clean gasoline and vehicle standards that have been proposed, it would be like taking 33 million cars off the road. That translates into thousands of lives saved, millions of school and work days attended, and billions of dollars in economic and health benefits across the nation.”

Two students from Portland’s King Middle School, Phoebe Howland and Eddie Sylvester, also spoke at the ceremony and shared what they learned about air pollution during the last school year.  Howland, Sylvester, and their classmates just completed a semester-long interdisciplinary project entitled “Oceans of Air.” In this project, students learned about the causes and health impacts of air pollution, how scientists monitor the air, and how they can help to improve air quality. 

Scott Cowger, owner of Maple Hill Farm Inn & Conference Center and also a Lung Association Leadership Board Member said in a statement, “A large part of Maine living is enjoying the outdoors. People come here for our clean air and water, our abundant natural resources, our healthy and educated workforce, and our enjoyable way of life. Unhealthy air is a serious threat to the Maine brand.”

Air pollution is considered dangerous for everyone, but a particular risk for children, the elderly, and people with chronic diseases, including the more than 22,700 Maine children and 92,700 adults with asthma and other lung diseases who may require expensive medical care on unhealthy air days.

“Let’s face it, we all pay the price for every asthma attack, every trip to the emergency room, and every heart attack that is brought about by unhealthy air,” added Purgavie. “These costs are just spread across the system.  Maine families and businesses need healthy air to grow and succeed. And that’s why we mustn’t delay taking action to clean up our air.”

Miller added, “The path to healthy air is clear.  We need to clean up smokestacks and tailpipes.  We need to adequately fund research and enforcement to monitor our air and protect the health of our communities.  And most importantly, we need to defend the Clean Air Act from being undermined and weakened by industry polluters. If Congress would focus on these four things, we’d make tremendous strides in improving health and lowering health costs for families and businesses.”

The Maine Healthy Air Coalition, a group of 60 statewide and local health care and public health organizations led by the Lung Association, has called on Maine Senators Collins and King, and Representatives Michaud and Pingree to endorse the Healthy Air Agenda and start taking immediate action in Congress to limit the dangerous air pollutants that cross state lines and drift into Maine.