Environmental rules too strict, GOP hopefuls say CAMPAIGN 1994 -- THE RACE FOR GOVERNOR

May 05, 1994|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Sun Staff Writer

Hoping to score points with a large and politically powerful audience of Maryland business executives, the three Republican candidates for governor said yesterday that they believe Maryland has gone too far in adopting environmental protection laws and regulations.

U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, Del. Ellen R. Sauerbrey, the Maryland House minority leader, and 1990 GOP standard-bearer William S. Shepard told a Maryland Chamber of Commerce breakfast crowd of more than 500 that businesses have been hurt by excessive environmental and land-use protection efforts.

"Clearly, [state] environmental regulations go beyond what is required by federal law, and we shouldn't do that unless there is a good reason," said Mrs. Sauerbrey, who represents Baltimore County.

She said overzealous officials levy fines on businesses found to have violated environmental laws and then threaten to increase the fines if the businesses exercise their right to appeal. That is wrong, she said.

Mrs. Bentley accused the state of going "overboard" in adopting a reforestation law that requires builders to plant trees to replace ones cut during development. Heavily wooded counties such as Garrett and Allegany should be allowed to set their own standards, she said.

"We can't just blanket mandate everything," the 2nd District congresswoman said.

She praised a bill just passed by the General Assembly that would require future legislation to be assessed for its impact on small businesses. She also warned that Virginia is gaining an economic advantage on Maryland by loosening its environmental restrictions.

Mr. Shepard complained of redundant federal and state procedures for obtaining permits to build in wetlands and suggested that some Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts, such as restrictions on bay-polluting farming practices, be voluntary rather than mandatory.

In less forceful terms, three Democrats -- Baltimore state Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski, former Howard County Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer and former Baltimore Del. Frank A. Conaway -- agreed that the pendulum has swung too far toward environmental protection and suggested that the balance of state laws be changed more in favor of businesses.

Three other Democratic candidates -- Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening, Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg and state Sen. Mary H. Boergers -- said business development and environmental protection need not and should not be mutually exclusive.

"It isn't jobs or the environment," said Mr. Steinberg of Baltimore County. "It is jobs and the environment."

Mr. Glendening called it "a false dichotomy to say it is business and development or the environment."

"We must do both, and we must do them both well," he said.

Ms. Boergers, who represents Montgomery County in the legislature, said Maryland, which has three areas identified with excessive air pollution under the federal Clean Air Act and has the second-highest cancer death rate in the nation, obviously has environmental problems. Some of those problems can be rectified through innovative, sensible land-use planning, she said.

A 10th candidate and seventh Democrat in the field, Lawrence K. Freeman, a follower of Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr., was not invited to participate in the forum. But he and a representative interrupted opening statements by the other nine, demanding to be heard. Instead, hotel security men escorted them from the ballroom of the Inner Harbor hotel where the breakfast meeting was held.

The final field of candidates will not be determined until a July 5 filing deadline passes. The Democratic and Republican primaries will be held Sept. 13, and the two winners will face off in the general election Nov. 8.

Chamber of Commerce President Champe C. McCulloch, who quizzed the candidates, said Maryland businesses are interested in "tax restraint, government re-engineering and downsizing, and creative approaches to economic development." They also want to eliminate "redundant layers of environmental and other business regulation," he said.

In response to his questions:

* Mr. Glendening and Mr. Steinberg pledged to reduce taxes on businesses, and Mrs. Sauerbrey said she would lower capital gains taxes and would propose tax credits for businesses that create new jobs.

* Mr. Steinberg said he would establish an Office of Regulatory Review to determine whether business regulations were fair and consistent. Ms. Boergers said she would have a deputy secretary in each department serve as an ombudsman to work with citizens or businesses.

* Ms. Boergers, Mr. Conaway, Mr. Glendening and Mr. Kasemeyer said they were opposed to state takeover of troubled local schools. Mr. Miedusiewski said the threat of such an action is useful in prompting parents and alumni to help troubled schools.

* Mrs. Bentley, Ms. Boergers, Mr. Kasemeyer, Mr. Miedusiewski, Mrs. Sauerbrey and Mr. Shepard all pledged to do more for the state community college system. Mr. Conaway suggested that higher education funds be targeted "at the bottom, so the masses of people will be educated."

Mr. Glendening said he would try to abolish the legislative scholarship program.

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