Higher fines proposed for water, air polluters

Governor gives Assembly package on environment

January 24, 2002|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

Companies that dump toxins in the water or pollute the air would face a tenfold increase in fines under proposals Gov. Parris N. Glendening has submitted to the General Assembly.

The increases are part of the governor's environmental package, which includes bills to protect coastal bays from development, bolster drinking water standards and better monitor companies that store hazardous chemicals.

Although the plan is less ambitious than some of his previous environmental initiatives, Glendening said he hopes the bills will cement his legacy as a governor who protected the environment.

One of the most ambitious proposals would extend to coastal bays in Worcester County the same protections from development in place along the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

The package has been praised by environmental groups, but is being criticized by business leaders who vow to aggressively fight certain aspects of it. "What I am telling my members is that this is one of the largest business tax increases I have seen in my 20 years" in Annapolis, said Michael Powell, a lobbyist for a group of manufacturers.

Glendening said fines for air and water pollution need to be raised because they are much lower than those in other states.

Many state criminal fines for air and water pollution are up to $2,500 per day, but cannot exceed a total of $50,000. Under the governor's proposal, many of the maximum fines would increase to $25,000 a day - with no limit on the total. Civil and administrative fines would also be raised.

"I think you have to create a realistic deterrent for violators, and obviously those fees should do that," said Theresa Pierno, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Business groups are also concerned about a bill proposing to levy a fee of up to $20,000 on companies that store hazardous chemicals in the state.

A portion of the money would be used to create an electronic database of the chemicals and where they are stored. That information is stored on paper, said Pat Williams, the program manager.

The governor is also seeking legislation that would allow the state to impose drinking water standards that are more strict than the federal government's.

Sun staff writer Heather Dewar contributed to this article.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.