Environmental groups see disaster in Sauerbrey CAMPAIGN 1994 -- THE RACE FOR GOVERNOR

September 23, 1994|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Sun Staff Writer

Maryland environmental groups declared yesterday that Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey would be a disaster on environmental issues if she is elected governor.

Representatives of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and several other groups called a State House news conference to say the Baltimore County delegate's record on environmental legislation is among the worst in the General Assembly.

"In her 16 years in the General Assembly, Ellen Sauerbrey has voted consistently against the environment," said John Kabler of Clean Water Action.

In a prepared statement, the league said Mrs. Sauerbrey had voted "to weaken pesticide regulations, oppose recycling, protect strip mining operations, oppose setting higher standards for clean air, limit liability for corporations that spill oil in the Chesapeake Bay, and oppose legislation protecting forests from developers."

Since 1978, the league said, she "has voted against every key bill to protect the Chesapeake Bay," including the landmark 1984 Critical Area bill that designated a 1,000-foot strip along the bay's shoreline for special protection, and a 1985 bill that limited the phosphorus content in household detergents.

The groups, which also included the Sierra Club and Maryland Waste Coalition, said they fear she will try to roll back some of the environmental safeguards enacted over the last two decades.

They said they intend to back her Democratic opponent, Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening, in the Nov. 8 general election, whom they praised for his bay cleanup and forest protection efforts.

Mrs. Sauerbrey disputed the selection of some bills the environmentalists included in their annual legislative score card, defended her votes on several measures, and said she has tried to look at environmental issues in the context of jobs and the state's overall economy.

She said she could support most recommendations made by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, with the exception of one proposal that would make it easier for environmental groups to contest environmental issues in court.

"Fundamentally, I care about a clean environment. I care about clean air and clean water," she said. "But I also recognize there has to be jobs for people, and houses for people, and that if you are going to have the resources to have a healthy environment, you have to have a healthy economy."

She insisted she has worked constructively on environmental issues, such as work to keep metal-contaminated sewage sludge from being spread on farmland, and efforts to limit Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.'s tree-cutting program.

But Drew Perkins of Clean Water Action described her as an obstructionist, saying, "She sees her job as to get in the way of environmental bills, or to propose gutting amendments. . . . Fortunately, she was not effective."

Mrs. Sauerbrey said she and environmental groups "couch things" in different terms.

For example, she said, she does not regret voting against the Critical Area bill because it reflected her strong belief that private property rights should not be taken by the government without commensurate compensation.

She also disagreed with environmentalists who opposed giving the state sole responsibility to grant permits to build on wetlands.

She said the current system that requires duplicate approvals by the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is crazy and only adds to housing costs.

She said she voted against proposals to require that so-called "California cars" be sold in Maryland until the measure was made contingent on regional implementation.

She said she favored giving the Department of Agriculture comprehensive control over pesticide regulation, while environmentalists wanted to keep control at the local levels so citizens in each jurisdiction could impose stiffer regulations if they so choose.

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