“First movers” in a regulatory field often need to recalibrate their approach. Maine is no exception as it seeks to implement the broadest reporting and use ban in the country addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”) chemicals in consumer products. With other states watching their experiment carefully, Maine’s legislature and Department of Environmental Protection (“MDEP”) are considering significant adjustments to the ground-breaking program.
Last August, the Maine legislature introduced broad and sweeping restrictions on a range of PFAS-containing products, representing the most aggressive state action to date against the so-called “forever chemicals.” In effect, the law would ban PFAS in most products in the state by 2030. Specifically, the law mandates that on January 1, 2030, “a person may not sell, offer for sale or distribute for sale” products where PFAS have been “intentionally added,” except in cases of “unavoidable use.” The law also required companies doing business in the state to begin reporting on the presence of PFAS in their products as of January 1, 2023.
In February, MDEP announced a highly anticipated proposed rule to provide not only additional guidance on the reporting requirements, but also seeking to define the magic words “intentionally added” and “unavoidable use” which govern the scope of the legislation and 2030 ban. MDEP proposed to define “intentionally added” to include PFAS that “provide a specific characteristic, appearance, or quality or to perform a specific function, as well as “any degradation byproducts of PFAS serving a functional purpose or technical effect within the product or its components.” “Intentionally added” would not include PFAS present in the final product as a contaminant.
The proposal also would restrict “currently unavoidable uses” to PFAS applications “that the Department has determined by rulemaking to be essential for health, safety or the functioning of society and for which alternatives are not reasonably available.” In short, the “unavoidable use” concept would not be up to the product manufacturer to determine but would require future MDEP rulemakings to dole out exemptions.
Now, at a public hearing last week, MDEP announced that, while it intends to proceed with the current proposed rulemaking, the agency is anticipating the need for further revisions due to pending legislation. Five different PFAS bills have been introduced in both chambers of Maine’s legislature, each of which could prompt MDEP to revisit the regulatory process and overhaul the pending rule, which is already months behind the January 1st deadline that required companies to begin reporting.
The pending bills, taken as a whole, would redefine the types of PFAS covered by the law, exempt businesses of 10 employees or less, and extend by up to one year the reporting deadlines for manufacturers and users of PFAS. The five currently pending bills are:
- LD 217, HP0138: An Act to Support Manufacturers Whose Products Contain Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances – Rep. Dick Campbell of Orrington
- LD 304, HP0202: An Act to Establish Statewide Standards for Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances – Rep. Benjamin Hymes of Waldo
- LD 1214, SP0495: An Act to Clarify the Laws to Combat Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances Contamination – Sen. Joseph Baldacci of Penobscot
- LD 1273, SP0510: An Act to Exempt Some Businesses from Certain Laws Relating to Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances in Accordance with the Size of the Business – Sen. Trey Stewart of Aroostook
- LD 1537, SP0610: An Act to Amend the Laws Relating to the Prevention of Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances Pollution and to Provide Additional Funding – Sen. Henry Ingwersen of York
Comments on Maine’s proposed regulations are due May 19, 2023.