Maryland actions improve environment

August 29, 1996

I WRITE IN response to your Aug. 26 editorial on the enforcement policies of the Maryland Department of the Environment.

We agree with you that Maryland's environmental laws must be aggressively enforced and that the protection of the Chesapeake Bay must be of primary concern.

However, it was misleading and irresponsible for The Sun to interpret MDE's enforcement statistics in the narrow world of bureaucratic bean-counting. MDE's work is not based upon quotas for citations issued, fines collected or penalties assessed. Instead, we base our performance on what the citizens of Maryland care about most: healthy air to breathe, water safe to drink and land free of pollution.

We believe that the most effective way to protect public health and environment is to ensure compliance with environmental laws and regulations. Industry, like the general public, must understand what is expected and what can be done to comply with environmental requirements.

Each year MDE field inspectors spend thousands of hours working with individuals and small businesses to correct environmental problems before they become significant violations. These actions reflect compliance efforts that never make it to the enforcement charts, because the problems are corrected before enforcement actions become necessary.

MDE inspectors also help businesses identify ways to reduce or eliminate toxic pollution in the production process, efforts that prevent pollution from entering the Chesapeake Bay but are not measured in enforcement statistics.

These efforts to place priority on compliance with environmental requirements have yielded impressive environmental results. Consider:

Since the nontidal wetlands program was enacted over five years ago, Maryland is well on its way to achieving its goal of no net loss of nontidal wetlands. Because of compliance with the environmental requirements, 80 acres of nontidal wetlands were saved through avoidance and minimization, and 217 acres were replaced through creation and restoration.

As of fiscal year 1996, 95 percent of major municipal sewage treatment plants and 98 percent of major industrial facilities were in compliance with state and federal environmental requirements.

As of last year, Maryland achieved compliance with five of six national ambient air quality standards. EPA declared that both the Baltimore and Washington metropolitan areas have met standards for carbon monoxide, leaving ground-level ozone as the only remaining challenge.

At the same time, MDE will not hesitate to take decisive enforcement action against those individuals or companies who steadfastly refuse to comply with our laws and regulations.

ane T. Nishida


The writer is the Maryland secretary of the environment.

Pub Date: 8/29/96

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