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  • Congresswoman Pingree announces $552,211 in federal funding to purchase firefighting equipment in Maine

    Congresswoman Chellie Pingree on June 1, 2016 announced two federal Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) worth $552,211 to purchase firefighting equipment in Maine. The Sanford Fire Department will receive a grant to replace an aging pumper truck and the Maine Fire Service Institute will use funding to purchase equipment for a mobile training unit used around the state.
    “Maine firefighters depend on having the right equipment and training to protect the people they serve as well as themselves.  Tight municipal budgets, however, often make it difficult for them to get what they need,” Pingree said.  “I’m very glad these federal grants will help fill that gap and support local firefighters in their very important work of keeping our communities safe.”    
    The Sanford Fire Department will receive $301,819 to replace a pumper engine that is 31 years old. 
    The Maine Fire Service Institute will receive $250,392 for firefighting equipment, breathing apparatus, and protective clothing (also called “turnout gear”) to go with a mobile live-fire training trailer. Funded by a previous AFG grant, the trailer will be used for regional fire trainings throughout the state.
  • Congresswoman Pingree urges President Obama to create national monument in Maine

    Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (photo right) wrote to President Obama today to urge him to create a national monument in northern Maine.

    "I am writing today to express my strong support for the creation of a national monument on land owned by Elliotsville Plantation here in Maine.  I believe the case for the creation of a National Monument is strong and is supported by most people in the region and throughout the state," Pingree wrote.

    In her letter, Pingree cited independent polling that shows strong support for a national park or national monument in Maine as well as a recent study that found substantial economic growth in regions where a national monument has been created.

    "I've heard directly and indirectly from business owners throughout my District who benefit from the visitors who travel to Acadia National Park.  Hotels and motels, outdoor recreation equipment dealers, restaurants and other businesses around the state benefit from the millions of visitors headed for Acadia, and I have no doubt the same would be true if a national monument were established in northern Maine," Pingree wrote.

    Full text of Pingree's letter to President Obama is below:

    Dear Mr. President:

    I am writing today to express my strong support for the creation of a national monument on land owned by Elliotsville Plantation here in Maine.  I believe the case for the creation of a national monument is strong and is supported by most people in the region and throughout the state.

     As you know, Senator King recently invited National Park Director Jon Jarvis to a series of meetings and a public hearing in Maine.  Director Jarvis heard a range of voices, differing viewpoints and some legitimate concerns.  Most of the Mainers who turned out at the public hearing supported a national monument designation, which is indicative of the proposal's support across our state.  In fact, according to one recent public survey conducted by an independent polling company, by a 3-to-1 margin Mainers support the creation of a national park from the Elliotsville Plantation.

    According to a recent independent study conducted for small businesses by BBC Research and Consulting, in ten communities in which a national monument has been created during your administration over 1,800 jobs are being supported by the increase in visitors to the area.  And I've heard directly and indirectly from business owners throughout my District who benefit from the visitors who travel to Acadia National Park.  Hotels and motels, outdoor recreation equipment dealers, restaurants and other businesses around the state benefit from the millions of visitors headed for Acadia, and I have no doubt the same would be true if a national monument were established in northern Maine.

    The private landowner who has agreed to donate the land to the American people and provide a $40 million endowment for its operation has made an unprecedented and generous offer.  And as National Park Service Director Jarvis found when he visited the region earlier this month, the flora, fauna and culture significance of the land clearly meet the criteria for creating a national monument with that land.

    In addition, the landowner's offer to donate additional land nearby where traditional recreation uses like hunting, fishing and snowmobiling can take place further ensures the public will be able to enjoy this part of our state in many ways.

    The creation of a national monument in northern Maine would bring economic benefit to our state, is supported by the large majority of our citizens and would permanently protect a unique and beautiful area for the public to use and enjoy.  I urge you to use the authority that Congress granted under the Antiquities Act to create a national monument in northern Maine.

    Sincerely,

    Chellie Pingree

    Member of Congress

  • Belfast, Maine to receive $400,000 grant from the U.S. EPA for Brownfields Assessment Program

    The Belfast Shipyard has transformed the waterfront bringing needed economic development. The former site used to be a chicken factory, photo by Ramona du Houx

     

    The City of Belfast learned that it was recently selected to receive a $400,000 Brownfields Assessment grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which will be used to continue the City of Belfast Brownfields Assessment Program. 

    In all Maine will receive $7,340,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency Brownfield Program to assess and cleanup polluted properties throughout the state.

    “Brownfield grants have been absolutely critical in helping Maine communities move forward by cleaning up sites contaminated by former industrial uses so they can be redeveloped. Both directly and indirectly, they have created and supported many jobs throughout the state,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. “I’m very glad that these communities will receive funds to boost economic development and protect environmental health.”

    Under this program, owners, developers, and/or prospective purchasers of ‘brownfield’ properties - commercial and industrial properties in Belfast that have redevelopment potential, but which are currently vacant or underutilized due to known or perceived contamination from petroleum or other potential hazardous materials, can receive an environmental assessment and/or cleanup plan for that property, in order to provide environmental due diligence in support of bank financing, to document the environmental liabilities and associated cleanup costs, to help revitalize these properties, and/or to protect the environment and public health. 

    The City of Belfast Brownfields Assessment Program is a voluntary program, and the services are provided at no charge; however the information and reports that are generated by this program become available to the general public.  Owners, purchasers, and/or developers submit a brief application to the City’s Brownfields Selection Committee, who selects the brownfields to be assessed under this program.  

    The City’s program, launched at the beginning of 2012, has already resulted in the assessment of 19 brownfield sites, including ones where the assessments have been followed by environmental cleanup, such as the Old Waldo County Jail, the City-owned parcel located at 45 Front Street (known formerly as the Maskers’ Theater property), and 12-28 Washington Street.  To date, the City of Belfast has received a total of $1.0 million in brownfields assessment funding, with grants being previously awarded in both 2011 and in 2013. 

    The City plans to begin outreach and promotion for their program over the next few months, to find new sites to enroll and assess.  

    Persons with interest in the City’s Brownfields Assessment Program are encouraged to contact Thomas Kittredge, Economic Development Director, at (207) 338-3370, extension 16, or via e-mail at economicdevelopment@cityofbelfast.org, where they can have confidential, no-obligation discussions regarding the program and their site(s).  Information about the City of Belfast Brownfields Assessment Program can also be found at www.cityofbelfast.org/brownfields.

    EPA's Brownfields Program is designed to empower states, communities, and other stakeholders in economic redevelopment to work together in a timely manner to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse brownfields. 

     

  • New federal rules will require grocery stores to keep track of the sources of ground beef



    By Ramona du Houx

    New federal rules will require grocery stores to keep track of the sources of ground beef.

    Congresswoman Chellie Pingree said the regulations, she pushed for, will help track food-borne illnesses like the antibiotic-resistant salmonella outbreak linked to Hannaford Supermarkets in 2011. 

    "I'm glad USDA has issued these rules that will make it mandatory for retailers to keep track of where the beef they are grinding is coming from—this is something we have been pushing hard for and I'm glad regulators have agreed it's necessary.  As we learned the hard way, the voluntary guidelines that have been in place were just not sufficient when contaminated ground beef ended up in the grocery store," said Pingree.

    The Congresswoman had pushed the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to toughen up requirements for retailers to keep careful records of the sources of meat used to produce ground beef in their butcher shops. 

    Pingree, who sits on the committee that oversees the USDA's budget, had asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack pushing for better record keeping to allow quick tracing of food-born illnesses related to tainted ground beef.

    Pingree said while the record keeping will help find the source of illnesses from ground beef, the increased use of antibiotics in animal feed continues to put consumers at risk for antibiotic-resistant infections.

    "The particular strain of Salmonella found in the 2011 outbreak was drug resistant, something we are seeing more and more often," said Pingree. "The use of human antibiotics in animal feed has become more and more common and it's leading to new strains of infections that no longer respond to the antibiotics we have.  It's a pretty scary problem."

    The Salmonella linked to the outbreak four years ago was multi-drug resistant.  Although the infections traced to the ground beef responded to some drugs, a number of antibiotics normally used to treat Salmonella proved ineffective with that strain. 

    The incidence of drug resistant infections in farm animals has been on the increase since large-scale cattle, hog and chicken growers started adding antibiotics to feed.  The antibiotics help ward off some of the disease that comes when animals are packed into tighter quarters and fed lower quality feed.  But when antibiotics are given to animals on a daily basis, it doesn’t take long for new, drug-resistant forms of the disease to emerge.

    Pingree is a sponsor of a bill banning the use of antibiotics in animal feed unless they are medically necessary and has pushed federal officials to limit their use.

  • Pingree introduces companion bill to Sen. Kings to make it easier for asylum seekers to get a job

    Congresswoman Chellie Pingree in 2012 photo by Ramona du Houx

    Congresswoman Chellie Pingree introduced a bill on October 23rd that would make it easier for asylum seekers to get a job while waiting for their applications to be processed.

    "These are people who are fleeing persecution in their own countries—many of them were in fear for their lives.  And they come here to make a fresh start and they want to work and they want to do their fair share—but the rules prevent them from working," Pingree said.  "We should reduce the time so they can get to work to support their families and add their skills to the workforce."

    Pingree's bill, a House companion to legislation introduced by Senator Angus King, will allow asylum-seekers to apply for work authorization while filing their application for asylum, thereby helping them earn an income while also alleviating the pressure placed on municipal finances.

    The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) codified the current 180-day work authorization framework, complete with a "clock" that starts and stops so that the "180-day" period often occurs over a number of years.

  • NEA Chairman Chu visits Maine and tours with Congresswoman Pingree

    Over three days of events, Chairman saw many examples of the arts at work in Maine NEA Chairman Chu and Congresswoman Pingree meeting with volunteers, staff, and young writers at The Telling Room. Courtesy photo

    By Ramona du Houx

    National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu spent  three-days in Maine touring with Congresswoman Chellie Pingree visiting artisans and art organizations in Maine.

    “We’re very lucky that Chairman Chu came to see Maine’s thriving arts community up close. Having one of the country’s most critical arts supporters here was a tremendous opportunity for the state,” said Pingree.  “I think Chairman Chu not only got a sense of the impact our state has had on artists in the past, but saw many innovative ways in which that legacy is being carried on today. In Maine, the arts are inspiring students, helping our veterans, driving the creative economy, and bringing people back to our Main Streets.  Chairman Chu got to see a snapshot of that and I so appreciate that she took the time to do so.”

    Pingree joined Chu for two days, starting with a visit to The Telling Room in Portland on August 10th.  There, they met with a student who participated in the Young Writers and Leaders Program—which works with refugee and immigrant students to increase their English proficiency and capture their personal stories—as well as two young writers who worked with published authors through a fellowship program to write their own books.

    Also on Monday, they met with a group of veterans who are participating in the All the Way Home project to support their transition back to civilian life by allowing them to collaborate with artists to share their stories. 

    They wrapped up Monday’s events with a tour of the Portland Museum of Art and a town hall forum attended by nearly a hundred members of Maine’s arts community.

    On Tuesday, Pingree joined Chu for a visit to Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville, where they learned about the Maine International Film Festival, which drew several international directors and nearly a thousand attendees in July.  They also heard from Waterville Creates—a unique partnership that support the arts and economic development in Waterville.

    Many of the organizations Chu visited had won grants from the NEA.

    NEA Chairman Chu and Congresswoman Pingree on a tour of the Portland Museum of Art with Maine Arts Commission Executive Director Julie Richard, Mayor Michael Brennan, and PMA Director Mark Bessire

    Chu went on to make visits to the Bates College Museum of Art and the Somali Bantu Community Association in Lewiston on August 11th. The following day she visited Brunswick stopping at Spindleworks, the Bowdoin International Music Festival, and the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.  

    Pingree is a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, which oversees funding for the NEA.  Since joining the committee she has fought the protect funding for the agency, which supports numerous projects in Maine that make art accessible to more Mainers while boosting the economy.

    The Lewiston town hall forum with (left to right) Richard, Chu, and Pingree.

  • Pingree introduces amendment to stop DARK Act - the GMO promotion bill

    Organic farm tour, photo by Ramona du Houx 

    Congresswoman Chellie Pingree has introduced an amendments to strike parts of a controversial bill- the DARK ACT - that would limit the ability of states like Maine to require labeling of GMO ingredients in food.  What DARK Act would overturn laws in Maine and other states relating to GMO ingredients and GMO crops.

    "This is really an anti-consumer, anti-right-to-know bill that would prevent families from making intelligent choices about whether or not they want to buy food with GMO ingredients," Pingree said.  "It takes choices away from consumers and rights away from states and Congress should reject it."

    The bill, H.R. 1599, would make it illegal for states to pass laws requiring GMO labeling and would block laws that have already been passed from being enforced.  Maine was the second state in the country to pass a GMO labeling law, which takes effect if five other states in the region also adopt similar legislation.

    Pingree's amendment strikes the dangerous parts of the bill—effectively blocking the DARK Act from taking effect—while keeping the provision that requires USDA to create a non-GMO certification program and label. 

    "The DARK Act is just what Big Food and Monsanto want," Pingree said.  "But nine out of ten consumers say they support GMO labeling, so it sure isn't what the public wants.  GMO crops lead to the increased use of herbicides like Roundup and that's something a lot of consumers don't want to support."