Open Letter to Governor O’Malley to Protect the Bay

We are writing to you, Maryland’s three top elected leaders, to express our disappointment and concern with the recent, and repeated, delay in adopting the now long overdue, science-based Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT) regulation.


The Honorable Martin O’Malley, Governor of Maryland
100 State Circle, Annapolis, MD 21401
The Honorable Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr., President, Senate of Maryland
State House, H-107, Annapolis, MD 21401
The Honorable Michael E. Busch, Speaker
Maryland House of Delegates State House, H-101, Annapolis, MD 21401


November 22, 2013

Dear Governor O’Malley, President Miller, and Speaker Busch:

We are writing to you, Maryland’s three top elected leaders, to express our disappointment and concern with the recent, and repeated, delay in adopting the now long overdue, science-based Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT) regulation.

Our organizations – and the hundreds of thousands of Maryland voters whom we represent – recognize and appreciate the financial and political investment that the O’Malley/Brown Administration and the many members of the Maryland General Assembly have made to improve Maryland’s waters and the Chesapeake Bay. Our concerns in no way diminish our gratitude for these investments.

Nonetheless, we are dismayed by the repeated delays in the regulatory adoption of the PMT.

Maryland committed to developing and implementing the PMT in its 2010 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan. The PMT is a critical element of this Plan as it will address a legacy of phosphorus overload on Maryland farmland. Agricultural experts and environmental scientists across the country now understand that the historic application of manure to farm fields has led to a buildup of soil phosphorus often to excessive and damaging levels, contaminating nearby surface and ground water.

The PMT will replace the existing, outdated Phosphorus Site Index (PSI), which is now more than ten years old. The PMT, unlike the PSI, recognizes the danger of phosphorus pollution migrating from these saturated fields and polluting Maryland waters. It will restrict the use of manure on these fields, stopping the historic dumping of unnecessary phosphorus onto the soil.

There is no dispute that the PSI is a flawed tool, that the science underlying the updated PMT is sound, and that continued use of the PSI threatens Maryland’s waters and the Bay.

Thus, our concerns with the repeated delays in the implementation of the PMT. We have seen delays in the initial release of the PMT regulation. We have seen delays with the confusing withdrawal of two sets of regulatory proposals. Most recently, we have seen a delay in the form of a retreat from a negotiated consensus agreement, when local electoral politics came to be a part of the decision-making process.

These repeated delays – delays in which you have played a major role – restrain progress and cause us to question the continued commitment of Maryland’s elected leadership to clean water and healthy waterways.

These delays are especially frustrating in light of the O’Malley/Brown Administration’s leadership role in brokering the aforementioned consensus agreement. That agreement provided farmers with a phased- in approach, allowed for an additional year for implementation, and dedicated significant state, tax- payer funded resources to help farmers adjust.

When the agricultural industry reneged on this consensus agreement, in an unusual response, executive and legislative leadership chose to reward this behavior by conceding to demands for even further delay. Instead of continuing to move forward to protect the health of Maryland families and of Maryland rivers from the degradation caused by manure pollution, previous commitments were ignored and delay was once again embraced as the modus operandi.

According to BayStat, agriculture is the single largest source of pollution to the Bay with more than half of the phosphorus pollution in Maryland coming from farms. How much more delay will occur before we tackle the ongoing problem of dumping excess manure on farm fields that leak phosphorus pollution into our waters?

Maryland’s number one contributor to its economy is clean water. And all Marylanders are being asked to do their fair share to help restore their health. Urban and suburban taxpayers are paying to reduce polluted runoff, builders are limiting pollution from new development, and rural areas are limiting septic system installations. Moreover, Marylanders are dedicating millions of dollars in taxes each year to fund farmer efforts to reduce pollution.

How can our leaders demand more of everyone else but not from the single largest source of pollution, agriculture?

We appreciate that the O’Malley/Brown Administration has stated it remains committed to adopting and implementing the PMT. The Administration’s most recently proposed deadline for submitting the PMT regulation to AELR for review is 2014. Our organizations and our members expect you, in your roles as the leaders of the executive and legislative branches of our government, to keep the commitment made by Maryland in 2010 and ensure this 2014 adoption of the PMT. A start-up implementation of January 2015, as established by the consensus agreement, fits within the Administration’s new 2014 deadline.

Each year we delay implementation of the PMT not only makes a pressing problem worse, it makes the problem more difficult to solve while allowing for the ongoing degradation of Maryland’s waters and the Bay. We respectfully ask you to honor the January 2015 implementation date, end the cycle of repeated delay, and put a halt to the scientifically indefensible practice of dumping excess manure on Maryland farmland to the detriment of the Bay and our local waterways.

We would welcome the opportunity to meet with each of you to discuss the PMT further. Please contact Roy Hoagland, coordinator of the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition, at (804) 221-0404 or [email protected] for more information.


Tommy Landers Policy Director
Maryland & DC 6930 Carroll Ave, Suite 720
Takoma Park, Maryland 20912

Abel Russ, Attorney
1000 Vermont Avenue NW, Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20005

Joanna Diamond, Director
3121 St. Paul St., Suite 26
Baltimore, MD 21218

Michele Merkel, Co-Director
Food & Water Justice
1616 P St. NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036

Karla Raettig, Executive Director
86 Maryland Avenue
Annapolis, MD 21401

Hilary Harp Falk, Regional Executive Director
706 Giddings Avenue, Suite 1B
Annapolis, MD 21401

Josh Tulkin, State Director
7338 Baltimore Ave, Suite 102
College Park, MD 20740

Betsy Nicholas, Executive Director
1625 Primrose Road
NW Washington, DC 20012

Robert Gallagher, Chairman
Board of Directors Suite 6, 4800 Atwell Rd.
Shady Side, MD 20764

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.

Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition