LIMESTONE, Maine (AP) – Maine’s Army National Guard did not obtain permits for vehicle spray-painting equipment at the former Loring Air Force Base because officials believed the amount of emissions was too small, a spokesman said.

“Based on the low emissions that we were putting out, we didn’t believe that a permit was necessary,” Major Peter Rogers said Tuesday. “Basically, it’s an administrative issue.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed fining Maine’s National Guard $194,500 in civil penalties for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act that took place from 1997 through 2003.

The EPA said the Guard’s Maine Readiness Sustainment Maintenance Center, which rebuilds, maintains and manufactures equipment for the military, failed to obtain or renew permits for nine boiler sand three spray-painting booths. The equipment had the potential to emit volatile organic compounds that can react with sunlight to form ground-level ozone.

The EPA said the maintenance center failed to obtain a state permit for a spray-painting booth installed in 2000 that could emit up to 114 tons of the compounds each year.

“We did an inspection of the facility back in 2002,” said Steve Calder, an EPA enforcement attorney. “We met with them last year and discussed the violations, so this is not new to them. They have secured the permits since we talked.”

The maintenance center’s licenses now limit its emissions of volatile organic compounds to 30 tons per year. The facility’s emissions “never posed any health threat to anyone,” Rogers said.

Rogers said that a judge advocate general officer was talking with the EPA on the military’s behalf. An agreement may be reached in six months.

AP-ES-07-21-04 0216EDT

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