Cumberland Times-News

September 1, 2013

Rural coalition played role in delay of phosphorous rules

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — A coalition of rural counties had a big win recently, when the organization teamed up with other groups to obtain a delay in a plan to introduce emergency phosphorous regulations designed to cut Chesapeake Bay pollution.

Allegany County commissioner and rural coalition chairman Michael McKay called it a win for the organization. McKay sent a letter to state officials on behalf of the organization on Aug. 23.

“The Maryland Rural Counties Coalition (MRCC) is a partnership of ten Maryland counties representing nearly one million residents and a formal chapter organization to the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo), and respectfully requests a delay in the implementation of the regulation to require the use of a new Phosphorus Management Tool set to be given an emergency hearing on Wednesday, August 28, 2013, by the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review (AELR),” McKay wrote.

Maryland’s Agriculture Department last week withdrew a request to accelerate implementation of proposed regulations aimed at reducing pollution from fertilizer in the bay after critics said the state was moving too fast.

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration had sought emergency status to get the regulations in place in time for the fall planting season. The regulations are designed to use new research to reduce the amount of phosphorus that gets into waterways. Phosphorus pollution is significant because it causes algae blooms that kill underwater grasses and harm aquatic life such as blue crabs, oysters and fish.

The coalition was concerned by the regulations because of the possible impact on farmers and chicken-raising operations.

“Agriculture is an $8.25 billion industry in Maryland and it is the position of the MRCC that the immediate implementation of the new Phosphorus Management Tool will cause severe hardship for the farmers who farm and reside in our ten counties and who raise poultry and livestock,” McKay wrote.

McKay said the state should move the proposed regulation through the normal processes required by state law and wait until the next Bay Model is released in 2017.

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.