Maryland is leading Bay restoration

September 23, 2006|by ROBERT EHRLICH

This week I convened a summit of the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council, a partnership of mid-Atlantic governors, mayors and other environmental stakeholders dedicated to revitalizing the Chesapeake Bay. As this time of the summit, I'd like to share with you the progress made in Maryland to restore the bay's health, and how our success serves as a model for states in the bay watershed.

For decades, the bay has suffered from the flow of pollution from outdated wastewater treatment plants, runoff and airborne emissions. This pollution has depleted the bay's oxygen levels, threatened wildlife and endangered our seafood and tourism industries. To reverse this trend and restore the bay, my administration identified three priorities after taking office: water quality, air quality and land preservation.

To improve water quality, I introduced and signed into law the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Act, which the Chesapeake Bay Foundation called "the most significant environmental advance in Maryland in nearly 20 years." The Restoration Act will rebuild 66 outdated wastewater treatment plants, which currently dump millions of pound of pollution into our waterways. The upgrades will reduce nitrogen pollution into the bay by 7.5 million pounds per year, cutting current treatment plant pollution levels nearly in half. Upgrades to one-third of these plants are already completed, designed or under construction. The Restoration Act will also help Maryland farmers plant nearly 135,000 acres of cover crops, protecting their soil and cutting their share of nutrient pollution by 1 million pounds annually.


To improve air quality, I introduced the landmark Clean Power Rule and later signed into law the Healthy Air Act to cap emissions at seven coal-fired electric power plants in Maryland. These caps will cut harmful emissions by an historic 250,000 tons per year. It will also dramatically reduce nitrogen pollution entering the bay, 30 percent of which comes from the air. The Healthy Air Act was a hard-won achievement, but we worked with those on both sides of the aisle to craft a plan that cleans the air without threatening our electricity supplies.

To better preserve environmentally sensitive land, my administration reformed the state's land preservation policies. Rather than spend money on land of questionable environmental value, as did previous administrations, we have targeted land that is scientifically determined to improve the health of the bay and its tributaries.

To that end, we have preserved 70,000 acres of pristine landscape since taking office. For two consecutive years, I made record investments in Maryland's signature preservation initiative, Program Open Space. I am proud to report that one in every five acres in Maryland is permanently protected.

Of course, there is more to do. I intend to rebuild every sewage plant in Maryland to further reduce sewage pollution in the bay. I will preserve an additional 50,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land in the next few years to help contain sprawl and protect the bay and its tributaries. Finally, I will introduce a "development roadmap" to effectively plan for growth in the watershed while protecting the bay's ecological balance.

As our mid-Atlantic partners gather in Annapolis, you can be proud that Maryland is the leader in Chesapeake Bay revitalization efforts. Our work is not done, but our progress is historic. You can find more information on my Web site at:

Robert Ehrlich is governor of Maryland.

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