ANNAPOLIS – Last week Governor Larry Hogan withdrew pollution regulations which were set to go into effect early next month in a move one Chesapeake Bay advocacy group says could harm the state’s water supply.
The Phosphorus Management Tool, or PMT, is a set of regulations aimed at reducing the effects of pollution from phosphorus in fertilizer made from poultry manure, which is widely used by farmers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Researchers at the University of Maryland developed the proposed regulations, which would require the removal of excess phosphorus, over a 10-year period. The state’s Department of Agriculture first introduced the regulations in 2012.
“It’s well established by science that the soil of the Eastern Shore is saturated by too much phosphorus,” said Tom Zolper, Maryland communications director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “That phosphorus soil seeps pollution into the creeks, the river, and into the Chesapeake Bay. All of that extra phosphorus is killing fish and having a profound effect on the waters of the Eastern Shore. There is a manure crisis on the Eastern Shore and Governor Hogan’s actions have rejected a common sense scientific solution to that crisis.”
Some farmers on the Eastern Shore have expressed concern that the PMT would impair their livelihood by restricting the amount of fertilizer which they can use. A study conducted by Salisbury University’s Business, Economic, and Community Outreach Network (BEACON) estimated the cost of implementing the PMT at around $22 million.
“We don’t dispute that farmers have concerns, but the PMT was delayed to help them,” Zolper said.
Zolper said the Department of Agriculture already subsidizes pollution removal efforts and would be willing to assist farmers in complying with the PMT.
“There was a lot of willingness to help them, but just as communities in western Maryland are taking extra steps to prevent water pollution, farmers have to be willing to do more,” Zolper said.
Officials from Hogan’s office said the decision was made in order to allow for a comprehensive review of all pending environmental regulations.
“Speaking solely as a Maryland resident living in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, I welcome the additional time Governor Hogan’s action has provided,” said BEACON founding Director Dr. Memo Diriker. “All the stakeholders involved can now use this time to come together and address some of the questions that may still need answers or further clarification.”
Zolper said it's likely a bill meant to achieve the same effects as the PMT will be introduced during the current legislative session.