TOP STORY, Dec. 16, 2014
Frosh says he supports proposed PMT restrictions
By JONATHAN CRIBBS
BALTIMORE — Maryland’s incoming Attorney General Brian E. Frosh said on Thursday that he supported the state’s proposed phosphorus management tool that would heavily restrict how much manure many Eastern Shore farmers can apply to their land, saying it’s necessary to restore the Chesapeake Bay’s ailing health.
“It’s really something that must be done,” the Democratic former state senator and delegate said.
As the guest speaker during a symposium at the University of Maryland’s law school, Frosh expressed sympathy for the increasingly difficult regulatory environment facing Maryland farmers but reiterated the commonly cited statistic that farmers contribute about 60 percent of the phosphorus leaking into the Bay, which causes algae blooms that threaten Bay life.
“I have a great deal of sympathy for people trying to make a living at [farming],” he said. “It’s important for us to ensure their well-being as an industry.”
Citing recent environmental disasters such as Elk River chemical spill that contaminated drinking water for several hundred thousand West Virginia residents earlier this year, Frosh voiced support for a strong regulatory environment while lamenting cuts to state regulators such as the Department of National Resources, which he said has been cut in half since the beginning of the recession.
“The polluters are responsible for these things, but each of those instances is a failure of government,” he said. “We are much more densely populated than the states that suffered these losses.”
But it’s a position that will likely put him at odds with incoming Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who said he opposes the phosphorus management tool and other regulatory measures such as stormwater management fees applied to property owners statewide — fees the GOP has cleverly labeled a “rain tax” in election campaigns.
Frosh said he believes he and Hogan will work well together and doesn’t believe the governor would endorse allowing companies or other parties to violate environmental laws and regulations.
“I think we’ll be able to find some common ground,” he said. “The attorney general does not make environmental policy. ... The main thing the attorney general can do to help the environment is to enforce the laws that are on the books.”
Regulations such as the phosphorous management tool are in the Bay’s long-term interest, he said, and the alternative is an increasingly lifeless Bay.
“The benefits of sound environmental regulatory policy far outweigh the cost,” he said. “I will fight like hell to protect the health and safety of Marylanders.”