Warning that the Baltimore area's economic health depends...

January 28, 1992|By Timothy B. Wheeler

Warning that the Baltimore area's economic health depends on a clean environment, a report released today by Johns Hopkins University calls for creation of a "regional environmental forum" to tackle the smog and water pollution plaguing the city and its suburbs.

The report, written by a group of environmental, business and government leaders, urges the General Assembly to attack the Baltimore region's "serious" air quality problems by adopting California's strict tailpipe pollution standards for all cars and trucks sold in Maryland.

It also recommends adoption of statewide growth management policies that would encourage urban redevelopment and curb suburban sprawl. Concentrating new construction in areas already served by roads and sewers will minimize air and water pollution, the study says.

The report, titled "From Diversity to Unity," recites the familiar litany of local environmental woes. Baltimore's ground-level ozone pollution is the fourth worst of any metropolitan area in the country. Runoff from farm fields, city and suburban streets and lawns is fouling the region's streams, drinking-water reservoirs and the Chesapeake Bay.

While progress has been made in addressing these problems, the report says that efforts to date have fallen short, in part because of conflicts among business interests, environmentalists and others.

The aim of the report is to begin building a public consensus within the region for concerted environmental actions. It is the product of 18 months of meetings by a 23-member group brought together by Hopkins' Institute of Policy Studies.

"What is unique about this report is not so much what it is saying, but who is saying it," says Sylvia Eastman, director of the Environmental Working Group, as it calls itself.

Members of the group include representatives of labor unions, local and state government, civic and environmental groups and industry, including Bethlehem Steel Corp. and W.R. Grace & Co. The group's work was underwritten by a $150,000 grant from the Abell Foundation.

Factories have cleaned up or shut down, so smokestacks and sewage spills are less of the problem today than people are, the report says.

Cars and trucks release 57 percent of the volatile organic compounds that form the region's smog, the report says. Rainfall running off city streets dumps six times as much zinc, half as much lead and four times as much organic matter in the Inner Harbor as industry does.

"The fact that we cause these problems means that we can do something about them by changing our own behavior," the report says. Toward that end, the report recommends a public education campaign that tries to reach adults as well as schoolchildren.

It urges greater coordination of efforts within and between governments in the region, and more efficient use of funds, the report says.

Because air and water pollution do not recognize political boundaries, the report says creation of a "Regional Environmental Forum," would help coordinate efforts to combat smog and runoff.

Ms. Eastman said that the working group hopes to flesh out its proposal for the forum and other recommendations in coming months after the public has a chance to review the report. A final, fourth section of the report is to be written that will detail solutions, as well as specific commitments from affected groups, industries and institutions, she said.

Local spending on environment

BALTIMORE CITY Total budget .. .. .. .. .. .. .. $2,053,449,229

Environmental allocation .. .. ... ..$15,597,963

Percent of total .. .. .. .. .. ... .. .. .0.76%

ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY Total budget .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..$727,474,470

Environmental allocation .. .. .. .. $19,698,280

Percent .. .. ... .. .. .. .. .. ... .. .. 2.71%

BALTIMORE COUNTY Total budget .. .. .. .. .. .. .. $1,241,799,999

Environmental allocation .. .. .. .. $13,471,144

Percent .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ... .. .1.08%

CARROLL COUNTY Total budget .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..$145,749,595

Environmental allocation .. .. .. .. .$4,570,597

Percent .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 3.1%

HARFORD COUNTY Total budget .. .. .. ... .. .. .. .$251,519,255

Environmental allocation .. .. .. .. .$2,798,414

Percent .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..1.11%

HOWARD COUNTY Total budget .. .. .. .... .. .. ...$270,327,710

Environmental .. .. .. . ..allocation $3,537,993

Percent .. .. .. .. .. .. ... .. .. .. .. .1.31%

Attack urged on region's pollution

Good environment is termed key to good economy in report.

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