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Md. environmentalists split over stormwater pollution rules

More than 30 Maryland environmentalists--including a former governor, a former U.S. senator and a former congressman--held a press conference today in Annapolis to denounce efforts to revise rules on pollution flowing to the Chesapeake Bay through storm sewers.

The event, led by former U.S. Senator Joseph Tydings (D-Md.), was another sign of a fracturing in Maryland's green community over an arcane area of environmental law.

This year, land developers were supposed to face a new set of rules defining the ways that water could run off new or re-developed properties. Maryland would require them to do more to stop that water, and filter it naturally. Often, stormwater rushes off concrete and rooftops, carrying road grease and algae-feeding chemicals into the bay.

But developers objected to this plan, saying it was so restrictive that it would stop growth--or re-direct it into undeveloped areas, away from "smart growth" sites near urban cores.

To head off a battle, Del. Maggie McIntosh (D) brokered a compromise between developers, local governments, and environmental groups. The two at the table, reportedly: the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and 1,000 Friends of Maryland.

Under that deal, some un-finished projects could be "grandfathered" in, built under the old stormwater rules, if they received the right kind of permission. Also, some projects could face looser restrictions in "in-fill" developments.

At today's press conference, activists said that was giving developers too long a leash.
"The compromise was not a good deal," said former Maryland state Senator Gerald W. Winegrad (D). "This is an environmental outrage. Let's stop it now." Also speaking were former Gov. Harry Hughes (D) and former U.S. Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest (R).

Afterward, Dottie Yunger--whose title is Anacostia Riverkeeper--said that these groups had come together to disprove the notion that the two organizations in those meetings had achieved the best deal possible for the environment.

"No, you didn't," she said. "You negotiated the best deal you thought you could get, and you didn't represent the rest of the environmental community."

-- David A. Fahrenthold

By David A. Fahrenthold  |  March 24, 2010; 1:51 PM ET
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