Mining firms, residents reach truce New legislation lauded by both interests

April 06, 1993|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

The Maryland General Assembly has unanimously passed legislation meant to balance the interests of mining companies and residents, and all involved say they're happy.

Carroll Del. Richard N. Dixon, a District 5A Democrat who has fought for the legislation for the past several years, said he is glad the battle is over. He said he doesn't plan to introduce any bills dealing with mining in the next session.

County resident David Duree, a member of the New Windsor Community Action Project, said he's optimistic that residents will have an easier time dealing with mining companies in the future.

Samuel W. Christine III, president of the Maryland Aggregates Association Inc., an industry trade group, said the industry is committed to working with residents.

Three bills that balance mining with other land uses passed the House and Senate this session. The House passed the bills Feb. 26; the Senate passed them March 31.

The bills set tougher requirements for restoring abandoned quarries, increase bonds used as security against damage and require the state to review local mining plans.

The legislation takes effect Oct. 1.

Residents and industry representatives insisted throughout the legislative process this year that the bills were a compromise worked out during joint meetings last summer. Mr. Dixon has said the bills are essentially the same as those introduced last year.

"The message is that lobbyists do not make the laws for the state of Maryland," he said in a phone interview yesterday.

Asked why the legislation succeeded this year, Mr. Dixon said mining representatives "realized it's time for them to stop playing games."

Mr. Duree said, "This represents the potential and promise of a new phase" of relations between the industry and residents. "There's been a lot of learning on both sides."

Mr. Christine said, "We really believe a more enlightened approach is the way to go, to try to work with the people. In the long run, it can serve all of us."

But casting shadows over the goodwill expressed by both sides is a lawsuit filed by the industry in July 1991 and pending in Anne Arundel Circuit Court.

The industry sued to kill a new law that protects residents from mining damage to their property. The law presumes mining companies liable for water supply depletions within a certain area.

The industry says the law is unconstitutional because it applies only to mining companies.

Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Warren B. Duckett Jr. suspended the law, which applies in Carroll, Baltimore, Frederick and Washington counties, pending the trial.

A trial date has not been set, but the trial is expected to be this fall.

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