Glendening signs several bills to bolster environmental efforts

He OK's 153 measures in his final such ceremony

May 17, 2002|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening capped an eight-year record of emphasizing the environment yesterday by signing bills to strengthen protections of the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland's coastal bays.

The governor struck a "green" theme as he also approved several other environmental measures among the 153 bills he signed. It was the final bill-signing ceremony of his two terms.

Nonenvironmental bills he approved included a measure providing legal immunity for people who leave newborn babies with responsible adults. Called the "safe haven" legislation, it is intended to discourage parents of newborns from abandoning them in places where they might not be cared for.

The governor also signed a bill giving consumers new protections against moving companies that refuse to deliver their customers' possessions because of billing disputes.

It was the environment that dominated the day, however.

Dru Schmidt-Perkins, an environmental lobbyist with 1,000 Friends of Maryland, said that despite some painful budget cuts it turned out to be "a pretty good session."

Environmental advocates were especially cheered by the signing of a bill strengthening the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Protection Program, which had been eroded by recent court rulings in favor of property owners. The program makes it more difficult to develop lots along the waterfront.

Another measure signed yesterday extends those protections to the bays between the Eastern Shore mainland and the barrier island that includes Ocean City. Water quality in those bays -- Assawoman, Sinepuxent, Isle of Wight and Chincoteague -- has come under heavy pressure from rapid development in Worcester County.

"The only way we're going to save the coastal bays is if we preserve the open space around them from development," Schmidt-Perkins said.

Other environmental bills signed yesterday include:

The water conservation measure, which requires public water systems to spell out their conservation practices when they apply for permits to begin or expand operations.

A measure giving citizens the right to know about hazardous materials stored in their communities.

Legislation allowing Maryland to keep higher drinking water standards than provided under federal regulations.

An extension of the statute of limitations for violations of air and radiation pollution laws from one year to three.

For a complete list of bills signed yesterday, go to www.sunspot.net/bills.

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