Sinkhole Bill Sunk

February 19, 1992

ANNAPOLIS — A New Windsor activist came here Monday to find out why a House committee rejected a bill intended to protect nearby residents from potential mining damages.

Linda S. Cunfer, a spokeswoman for the Statewide Coalition on Non-Coal Surface Mining, talked briefly with Environmental Matters Committee chairman Ronald A. Guns, D-Cecil, about the bill, which was defeated, 12-9.

"Some of those who voted against it certainly should have voted for it because they have constituents in the statewide coalition," said Cunfer, a leader of the New Windsor Community Action Project, whichmonitors mining is

sues in the Wakefield Valley.

The coalitionhas member organizations in seven Maryland counties.

The bill wassponsored by Del. Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll. It would have presumed quarry companies liable for sinkhole damages -- sudden depressions of land that can occur naturally or be caused by the extraction of ground water -- within a zone around their operations.

Last year, that provision was deleted from Dixon's legislation. That bill passed, making quarry companies responsible for water supply depletions.

The Maryland Aggregates Association has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of that law. The state's motion to dismiss the case will be heard Friday morning in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

"Sinkhole protection is important," said Cunfer. "We have the potential in Carroll County for catastrophic losses."

Mining officials have argued that the legislation would have unfairly assumed miningcompanies guilty for sinkholes and that demonstrating innocence would be impractical.

Other water users pump from the ground in the Wakefield Valley, they say.

Dixon said he may pursue other avenues during this session to achieve his objective, but he did not reveal them.

"Let's just say the battle isn't over," he said.

COCKFIGHT BILL PASSED

ANNAPOLIS -- The House Judiciary Committee yesterday passed, 21-0, a bill sponsored by Del. Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard, that makes it a misdemeanor to be willfully and knowingly presentas a spectator at a cockfighting or dog-fighting event.

The bill is intended to make it easier for law enforcement officials

to make arrests at the events, in which the animals fight to the death. Theevents usually involve gambling and other illegal activities.

Animal fighting laws allow police to arrest only those who own the animals or who are actively involved in conducting the events on misdemeanors.

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