Ehrlich and leaders of Va., D.C. discuss the bay over lunch

Officials pledge to keep reducing sewage runoff

December 03, 2003|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

The leaders of Maryland, Virginia and Washington pledged yesterday to continue reducing pollution from sewage treatment plants, but did not offer support for a leading environmental group's attempt to require strict limits on nutrients released into the Chesapeake Bay.

In their second capital region summit, Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner and Washington Mayor Anthony A. Williams touched on a variety of issues during a three-hour meeting and crab cake lunch in Annapolis. In addition to the environment, the subjects included homeland security, transportation and tourism.

Warner also made a pitch to the other two leaders for a "regional work force certificate" that he proposed in Virginia this fall. It would allow high school graduates to take an exam to demonstrate their proficiency in reading, math and reasoning for potential employers.

"The idea is, we will meet with Maryland and the District and develop a broad-based credential," Warner said during a press briefing after the meeting. "You might go out, pay a small fee and be tested. ... It makes sense in the capital region to have a shared credential. Today was a step in that direction."

In discussing joint environmental interests, Ehrlich said, all three agree that they should make a "joint pitch to the federal government ... for a permanent funding stream" to upgrade sewage treatment plants.

"Our goal here is to go far beyond any particular goal or mandate," Ehrlich said.

None of the three was willing to criticize the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for its decision to petition the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency yesterday for strict limits on nutrient discharges in permits for all sewage treatment plants and industries. If the agency rejects the petition, the foundation will be likely to challenge the decision in federal court.

Ehrlich said he hopes the nonprofit foundation "will act in partnership with us," arguing that "usually, litigation is not the answer in life."

Ehrlich and Warner will get together again next week in Fairfax, Va., at a meeting of the Chesapeake Executive Council, the leaders of the bay restoration effort. Warner pledged that the governors will have more to say at the meeting about curbing the flow of nutrients, which are blamed for helping deplete the bay's supply of oxygen and creating unhealthy conditions for marine life.

Taking a break during their meeting, the leaders shot an outdoor television commercial next to the State House promoting regional tourism.

They agreed to film additional commercials this spring and work on other joint efforts to promote the region. Although Washington lost its bid this year to be the site of a future Super Bowl, Ehrlich said the region is negotiating with the U.S. Golf Association about holding a U.S. Open at an area course.

While the leaders focused on working together yesterday, they acknowledged that there are some areas of disagreement -- such as where to play the Army-Navy football game and the Washington mayor's effort to impose a "commuter tax" on people who work in the District and live in Maryland or Virginia.

Sun staff writer David Nitkin contributed to this article.

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