Editorial misleading on brownfields bill

April 02, 1996

CLEANING UP abandoned contaminated sites, or ''brownfields,'' in Baltimore in a time of suburban sprawl is a crucial undertaking. Unfortunately, your March 26 editorial, ''Turning brown plant sites green,'' was misleading and irresponsible.

The reason we need a brownfields program in the first place is because of past industrial irresponsibility with toxic chemicals. Many urban sites are contaminated and abandoned, their previous owners long out of business.

It only makes sense to give incentives, such as limited liability and tax breaks, to new businesses that did not create the pollution but that want to clean up the site and locate in a prime urban area rather than clear-cut some trees in Harford County.

The Sun, however, insisted on siding with the lobbyists for companies like BGE and Bethlehem Steel, which shaped the bill passed by the House of Delegates.

They have toxic contamination problems of their own, and now they are trying to grab the tax breaks and liability relief for themselves so they can escape responsibility for their own pollution. They are even trying to gain these breaks for cleaning up a toxic spill they might create in the future.

Giving generous tax breaks and liability relief to polluters who can pay for their own cleanups isn't too popular with the public, so The Sun resorted to the false claim that the more limited program passed last month by the Maryland Senate has no incentives for redevelopment.

This, of course, is mistaken, and The Sun's recommendation is wrong as well. The General Assembly should enact a program which is designed to clean up and redevelop abandoned ''brownfields,'' not give government handouts to polluters.

Daniel Pontious

Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Maryland Public Interest Research Group.

` Pub date: 04/02/96

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