General Assembly Holds Phosphorus Legislation Pending Agreement With Governor

The Maryland General Assembly has put a hold on passing legislation (HB 381/SB 257) that would have codified controversial phosphorus management tool (PMT) regulations for agricultural lands after reaching a tentative agreement with the Administration of Governor Larry Hogan.  The General Assembly has delayed discussion of SB 257, which is on  the Senate floor, until March 25, pending the Administration modifying regulations it introduced several weeks ago.  (HB 381 has not moved from the House Environment and Transportation Committee.)  The bills would have adopted PMT regulations that had been introduced by the outgoing Administration of Governor Martin O’Malley but withdrawn by Governor Hogan shortly after his inauguration.  Hogan subsequently introduced his own version of the PMT regulations.  From a March 18 Washington Post article:

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has agreed to a firmer deadline for fully implementing regulations that limit the amount of chicken manure farmers can use as fertilizer — ending tense negotiations among his administration, state lawmakers, Eastern Shore farmers and environmentalists worried about pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. …

By 2022, all farmers will have to abide by the new rules, although some farms could be granted an extension until 2024 if major problems arise. An advisory committee will oversee the phase-in process and must approve any extensions.

“We have agreement on a solution that represents one of the most important steps forward in environmental policy in the last decade,” said Doug Mayer, a spokesman for Hogan. “We thank all parties for their hard work on this critical issue.”

Further coverage from a March 18 Baltimore Sun article:

Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Prince George’s County Democrat, introduced [SB 257] after Hogan — in one of his first acts as governor — withdrew the anti-pollution regulations before they became final.

Pinsky said his negotiations with the governor’s office are getting to a point where the substitute rules are strong enough to deal with the problem of phosphorus runoff into the Chesapeake Bay.

“I think we’re close if not at consensus,” Pinsky said.

While acknowledging that agriculture must meet its federal and local water pollution requirements, MACo had opposed the bills, citing the negative impact on agriculture and the ability of county governments to apply sewage sludge on agricultural lands.

MACo HB 381 Testimony

MACo SB 257 Testimony