Plan seeks to protect areas from industry

Governor to unveil state commission in Wagner's Point

March 09, 2001|By Joel McCord | Joel McCord,SUN STAFF

With the plight of the residents of industrialized Wagner's Point in mind, Gov. Parris N. Glendening is creating a commission to make sure poor communities aren't overwhelmed by noxious industries.

The 15-member Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities will be designed to give residents of Maryland's poorer communities a say in what happens in their neighborhoods, the governor said yesterday.

"There are communities that tend to be politically less powerful because the family members are too busy struggling for survival. And as a result, they get dumped on," he said.

Glendening is scheduled to announce the commission, the first such state-level body in the nation, in a ceremony today in Wagner's Point in southern Baltimore's isolated chemical belt. It is the first of several announcements on environmental issues expected in the next several weeks.

The city, state and federal governments and two local chemical companies bought residents' homes last year and helped them move to areas where the air is less polluted.

The neighborhood's 270 residents, determined to get away from the high cancer rates, foul odors and threats of industrial accidents, battled the City Council for more than a year over the future of their community.

Wagner's Point, the governor said, is only the most visible of "communities all across the state and all across the country" vexed by the side effects of environmentally adverse facilities nearby.

The commission is to create a process to review such problems and make recommendations to the governor.

"This is not just a case of I don't want the asphalt plant, or the new landfill, but a question of environmental justice," he said.

President George W. Bush hasn't mentioned these issues in the first weeks of his administration, "but his record in Texas is not good," Glendening said. "This is to strengthen our hand here."

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