Tuesday 26 March 2019

Phosphorous Pollution (19)

Bill would help implement the Phosphorus Management Tool, improve industrial agriculture permitting and reinstate Eastern Shore water quality monitors ANNAPOLIS, MD – The Maryland Senate voted 32-15 today to approve SB 546, a bill that would give the state more information about agriculture practices, manure transport and water quality on the Eastern Shore. It would also change the discharge permitting process for constructing new industrial agriculture Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) to ensure more transparency and discontinue the decades-long waiver of permit fees.  “We need to collect better data and ensure we are enforcing the laws we have to reduce pollution,” said Senator Paul Pinsky (D-22), lead sponsor of SB 546 and chairman of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. “Most Maryland farmers are doing their part to protect waterways, but the fact is that agriculture remains the single, largest source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay. We need to make sure the entire system is working effectively so we can protect clean water.” Maryland has several laws on the books to help prevent pollution from agriculture, including the Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT) regulations passed in 2015 to stop overapplication of manure on farm fields. However, advocates say that progress to reduce pollution is hamstrung by a lack of useful data, as well as a dysfunctional permitting system. “The Chesapeake Bay is showing signs of progress, but many threats remain,” said Betsy Nicholas, executive director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “The PMT and other nutrient management laws are our best chance…
Agriculture is the single, largest source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay, and it contaminates local waterways. Maryland is working on solutions, but our progress is hamstrung by a lack of information and a dysfunctional permitting system. Agriculture Tracking and Improvement Act (SB 546/HB 904) would help Maryland get information currently lacking about agriculture practices, manure transport and water quality on the Eastern Shore, and it would improve transparency and fairness in the State’s industrial agriculture permitting program.     Specifically, the bill would: help the agriculture industry comply with the state’s regulation to reduce the use of phosphorous (known as the Phosphorous Management Tool); create a voluntary system to track manure transport and land application by private companies; update the permitting timeline and fees for industrial poultry operations (know as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs); reinstate water quality monitoring stations on the Lower Eastern Shore. Take Action and send an email to your Maryland representatives to urge them to vote YES on SB546/HB904. All sectors of our state --  business, cities, agriculture, residents – need to do their fair share to reduce pollution in our local waterways and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. Click here for more information about the bill.
Dairy farmers, wastewater agencies seek easing of winter ban on spreading nutrient-rich wastes on fields The only objection voiced at the meeting to the changes came from the audience. Jeffrey H. Horstman, executive director of the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, said that the rule had been compromised enough. In 2012, he said, environmentally oriented lawmakers introduced the manure restrictions as legislation, and the department and farmers pushed instead for regulation to increase flexibility. Then, he said, the farmers received four more years to comply. “I’m not sure if this is a compromise, a rollback, or a (reneging) on the deal,” Horstman said. “A unilateral rollback of this regulation would be detrimental. And a lot of people have gone out and met these regulations. So, don’t (renege) on the deal. I know it’s not all about making it easy for farmers. It’s also about protecting our environment.” READ MORE: Bay Journal, July 6, 2016