Bills to protect environment advance in General Assembly

But proposal to raise fine for air polluters defeated

March 26, 2002|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

Several of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's environmental protection bills advanced in the General Assembly yesterday, including legislation to protect the state's five coastal bays from future development.

But a Glendening proposal to increase penalties for air polluters was defeated during the weekend by the House Environmental Matters Committee, the same panel that two weeks ago defeated the governor's attempt to raise fines for water pollution.

Glendening spokesman Michael Morrill said that overall, the administration is satisfied with the General Assembly's actions, particularly yesterday's votes on legislation to protect coastal bays and clarify the state's "critical areas" law.

The Senate voted 33-12 to approve a bill that would extend to coastal bays in rapidly growing Worcester County the same protections from development in place along the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The bill now goes to the House of Delegates.

If the measure becomes law, officials in Worcester County will have to develop plans for protecting the coastal bays and submit them to the Critical Areas Commission for approval.

Some elected officials in Worcester initially opposed the proposal, saying they feared it would cripple economic growth. But some of that opposition softened after the Senate approved an amendment to the bill last week giving Ocean City's mayor, or a designate, a seat on the commission.

The commission was established after the critical areas law was enacted in 1984 to protect the Chesapeake and its tributaries from development.

The House also approved a bill that would increase the amount of time the state has to pursue air polluters. The provision would raise the statute of limitations to three years from the date of an alleged illegal discharge, up from one year.

The bulk of that bill, however, was killed Saturday when the Environmental Matters Committee stripped the fine increases from the legislation. Some delegates said they worried that increasing fines would hurt the state's business climate.

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