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Is 'Green Fund' about the bay or greenbacks?

March 27, 2007

Those who question the wisdom of measures proposed to clean up the Chesapeake Bay risk being labeled as foes of the environment.

It's a risk we'll take today to question the so-called "Green Fund" bill proposed by Del. Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore.

McIntosh's bill, which passed the House by 96-41 margin Saturday, would place a fee on the construction of any impervious surface, such as a building or a parking lot.

According to The Associated Press, the fee would be 50 cents per square foot, with charges on home construction capped at $1,500.

Interestingly enough, chicken houses and additions to existing homes would be exempt.

Exempt chicken houses? We've seen some mighty big structures in that category. Why would they rate an exemption, while, for example, a warehouse would not?

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We have other questions, including:

The bill would send the money, estimated at up to $100 million annually, back to local government for planning and conservation measures and to farmers and state agencies that are charged with bay clean-up projects. Isn't this what the so-called "flush tax" was supposed to do?

The $30-a-year fee for sewer customers and the 8-cents-per-gallon fee on pumped septic tank waste was supposed to raise $78 million a year.

Much of that was slated to upgrade the state's 66 largest sewer plants, which were sending too many "nutrients" into streams and rivers that empty into the bay.

Maryland's farmers are already required to keep extensive records on the fertilizer and manure they put on their fields. How will this bill help them do anything additional?

Developers who create "impervious" surfaces are already required to create holding ponds and other drainage measures to keep water from washing too quickly into area streams.

The bill states that builders who use environmentally friendly methods could see their fees reduced. If they're doing what's required by law now, how could that be considered environmentally unfriendly?

Our fear is that this bill will do little that existing legislation and local planning rules don't do now. If the General Assembly is going to remove another $100 million from the state's economy, we'd like some better answers than we've gotten so far about why that is necessary.

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