Pending Phosphorus Management Tool Regulations Remain Controversial

A December 14 Washington Post article highlighted the ongoing controversy of proposed Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT) regulations that will govern how much poultry and animal manure and sewage sludge can be applied on farmlands. Over-application of manure or sewage sludge can lead to an excess level of phosphorus in the soil.  Excess phosphorus can then migrate into nearby waterways and the Chesapeake Bay, increasing their nutrient their pollution levels.  Governor Martin O’Malley introduced the regulations on the last possible day for the regulations to take effect prior to the inauguration of Governor-elect Larry Hogan.  As previously reported on Conduit Street, Hogan has pledged to make the repeal of the PMT regulations his “first fight.”

The Post article showed the split between the environmental and agricultural communities on the need for the PMT regulations:

Environmentalists warn that major action is needed now and cannot be delayed.

“We’ve done the low-hanging fruit. We’ve done all of the first steps. We’ve done all of the easy things,” said Alison Prost, the executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Maryland office. “If we want it to be clean — not just status quo, but clean — we need to do the hard things.”  …

Eric Schaeffer, the executive director of the Washington-based Environmental Integrity Project, puts it more bluntly: “Farmers will give you a list of all the things they say they’re doing — it’s not enough.” …

[Wicomico County farmer] Lee Richardson said switching out chicken manure with commercial fertilizer would cost at least $115 more per acre.  …

“Are we going to haul tons and tons of manure across the Bay Bridge? Are we going to be holding it in cavernous storage bins?” said outgoing Sen. Richard F. Colburn (R-Dorchester).

There’s also the worry that Perdue Farms will move elsewhere. (A spokeswoman for the company said Thursday that they do not have a position on the new phosphorus regulations.)

The article also cited Maryland Senator Paul Pinksy, who is the co-chair of the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive & Legislative Review – the General Assembly committee tasked with reviewing the regulations.

A legislative committee that weighs in on new regulations could hold a hearing, but the chairman said Friday there are no plans to do that. …

Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), chairman of the regulations committee and the Senate’s environment subcommittee, said he is optimistic that Hogan will work collaboratively to reach a compromise without setting off a nasty legislative fight.

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