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MD Legislature Kicks The Bay Can Down the Road

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It wasn't a big year for environmental legislation in Annapolis.  Looming EPA rules may mean lawmakers will make up for lost time next year.
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It wasn't a big year for environmental legislation in Annapolis. Looming EPA rules may mean lawmakers will make up for lost time next year.

By Sabri Ben-Achour

Maryland's General Assembly adjourns it's session today. Despite the everpresent problems with the health of the Chesapeake Bay, it wasn't a big year for environmental legislation.

It's not as if legislators ignored the problem of the Bay this year - they adopted some regulations on rainwater runoff, and they offered up some grant money for farmers to be less polluting.

But environmentalists such as Brad Heavner with advocacy group Environment Maryland say legislators didn't address the bottom line.

"We need strict standards on pollution and other policy changes that will make sure that everyone is reducing their pollution. Right now we're not getting that," Heavner says.

That may change next year. The Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of setting strict limits on how much pollution states can let into the bay - they'll be finalized in December.

The EPA is also developing expensive consequences for states that don't meet them -- possibly withholding development permits or even federal funding.

Ann Swanson is Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission.

"It's very likely that Maryland along with the other states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed will face very large decisions in the near future as they try to implent nutrient and sediment reductions," she says.

So, for example, states will have to make investments - costly investments - in stormwater infrastructure upgrades.

Farmers will likely have to change their planting habits or find innovative uses for manure. And we may see fees or tax incentives to discourage paved surfaces that don't absorb rainwater.

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