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I was pleased to take the lead on environmental bills this Session

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

Posted on April 23, 2004:

Senator Dyson Earth Day was celebrated April 22 by the President. He was cheered by environmental groups by saying he was dedicated to preserving precious wetlands all over the country. I was pleased to hear him commit to this extremely important environmental philosophy.

In this year’s General Assembly Session, I was pleased to sponsor three successful bills that will protect our Chesapeake Bay area wetlands, better known in Maryland as critical areas.

Senate Bills 482, 694 and 795 will all do a lot to ensure that our critical areas are protected against encroachment by developers and polluters of the Bay.

The bill with the most teeth is Senate Bill 694. In addition to raising fines against homeowners and developers who raze trees and build in critical areas, the bill does much more. It re-affirms the integrity and strength of the critical area bill championed and signed into law by Governor Hughes in 1984 as well as the critical area bill I successfully sponsored three years ago. Governor Hughes made it a point to testify on Senate Bill 694 before the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

Senate Bill 482 is a more modest, but also important bill. With support from the real estate community this bill provides language in a sales contract for the sale of real property to contain a conspicuous statement advising the buyer that the property may be located in the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area. It also specifies regulations apply in the critical area, and that a buyer may determine if critical area regulations apply by contacting the local planning and zoning agency.

This bill is crucial because some who have committed critical areas “violations” did so unknowingly because critical area laws weren’t in their sales contract. This bill, which passed unanimously in the General Assembly, deletes that possibility.

Senate Bill 795 addresses what “a dwelling unit” is and how many of them can exist on a property owners’ land in the critical area designation. This bill also passed both chambers of the General Assembly by a unanimous vote.

As the Senate member of the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation Task Force, I also sponsored several successful bills that were endorsed by MALPF (Senate Bills 327 and 367). These bills will help preserve farmland.

I was also pleased to sign on as a co-sponsor to Governor Ehrlich’s Brownfields legislation -- another pro-environmental bill.

Brownfields are abandoned or underutilized industrial or commercial sites, located primarily in urban areas, which are either contaminated or perceived to be contaminated by hazardous substances. This bill will make it easier for the state to clean up these sites by streamlining existing law which had been too bureaucratic.

I also stood by my vote last year to vote for the Energy Efficiency Standards Act that was vetoed by Governor Ehrlich, but subsequently overridden by the General Assembly. This bill will save Maryland consumers an estimated $600 million over the next 20 years while reducing air pollution and energy demand, according to the Maryland League of Conservation Voters.

One “environmental-friendly” bill I could not support was the Governor’s “flush tax” bill. In addition to being yet another onerous tax on both sewer and septic users, this bill is written so vague that it will take a year for the administration to find out how to put in place a way to tax septic users. The funds it will supposedly generate will not be used locally, but rather in the Baltimore metropolitan region of the State. While it’s good to see the governor making an attempt to clean up the Bay, this bill was fraught with so many problems that I could not support it. The calls to my office opposing this tax bill were virtually 3-1 opposed.

Overall, I believe many can say that the 2004 General Assembly Session was a very green year.

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

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