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ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS OPPOSE UNPRECEDENTED SENATE BUDGET AMENDMENT TO DELAY PHOSPHORUS REGULATIONS
Groups say the amendment is bad policy and unnecessary
(Annapolis, MD) — Environmental organizations are opposing a proposed amendment to the state’s budget that would prohibit the Maryland Department of Agriculture from continuing to develop regulations to reduce phosphorus pollution until the completion of an expansive economic study.
Advocates say passage of the amendment would set a dangerous precedent not only for this specific matter, but also for other future regulatory actions. The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee is set to vote on the proposed budget amendment this afternoon.
Governor O’Malley has committed to implementing the science-based Phosphorus Management Tool, which will reduce pollution by limiting the use of manure applied to farm fields oversaturated with phosphorus. The Administration has also already committed to conducting an additional economic study, making the amendment unnecessary. The study begins this upcoming Monday.
“Opponents to the phosphorus management tool are attempting to bypass both the legislative and regulatory processes by inserting into the budget new requirements on the development of this tool, ” said Joanna Diamond of Environment Maryland. “This undercuts the transparent, participatory way in which both bills and regulations are supposed to be adopted in our state.”
“This amendment sets a dangerous precedent,” said Karla Raettig of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. “Not only would it constrain funding for regulations essential to restoring the health of the Chesapeake and local waters, it could threaten other future regulations, whether they are for hospital safety or teacher certification or handicapped access or any new effort to protect human health, public safety, or our natural environment.”
“This amendment is political posturing at its worst,” said Betsy Nicholas of Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “Not only is it harmful, it’s entirely unnecessary.”
The Phosphorus Management Tool would replace the Phosphorus Site Index (PSI). University of Maryland scientists have firmly established that the PSI, an existing tool in use since 2001, is fundamentally flawed due to outdated science. The PSI tool allows for a far greater risk of farm field phosphorus polluting Maryland waters than previously believed.
The Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT) regulations have been repeatedly delayed due to objections from agricultural industry lobbyists and pressures from legislative leaders. They are already four years
late. Maryland’s 2010 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) committed the state to updating the Phosphorus Management Tool in 2011.
In November, the O’Malley/Brown Administration withdrew its proposed PMT regulations for the second time in four months but committed to implementing them before the end of O’Malley’s term.
The economic study is not the only concern that the Administration has accommodated in response to opposition to the PMT. The Administration has already agreed to:
• delay implementation for a year by conducting additional in-field testing of the PMT;
• phase-in the PMT over at least a three-year period; and
• provide additional funding for impacts arising out of PMT implementation (e.g., tweak the manure transport program to provide greater ease of access by farmers with excess manure).
The Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition is working to improve Maryland waterways and protect public health by reducing pollution, and increasing transparency and accountability, from agriculture and other associated sources of water degradation.
Assateague Coastal Trust – Audubon Naturalist Society – Chesapeake Climate Action Network – Environment Maryland – Environmental Integrity Project –Gunpowder Riverkeeper – League of Women Voters of Maryland –Maryland League of Conservation Voters – National Wildlife Federation Mid Atlantic Regional Center – Severn Riverkeeper – Sierra Club, Maryland Chapter – Stewards of the Lower Susquehanna, Inc. – Waterkeepers Chesapeake – West Rhode Riverkeeper