Three bills that will be good for state's environment, citizens

Posted on February 19, 1999 at 21:05:48:

Three major bills addressing environmental concerns have currently been introduced in the General Assembly. One I have sponsored, the others I am strongly supporting. I believe they will be both beneficial to our environment and to the health of Maryland's constituents.

After serving this past summer on the Governor's Task Force on Waste Management, I grew to understand how important it is to our environment how effectively we manage our landfills, transfer stations, water treatment plans and recycling efforts.

A bill I'm proud to sponsor, Senate Bill 599, would amend the Maryland annotated code's environmental laws. It clears up some nebulous language, but more importantly ensures that property owners who have land 1,000 feet near a proposed landfill system or incinerator for public use will be notified by certified mail that a proposed waste management system might be located near their land. Additionally, the bill requires county or state officials to post a notice stating when an informational meeting or hearing will be placed in a an easily noticeable spot on the site of the proposed incinerator or landfill.

This bill would force more accountability from public officials to inform the public of what is many times a divisive issue. I have yet to run across one person who enjoys having a landfill built near their property. They deserve adequate notification and the chance to give their public input about something of great import to them. Senate Bill 599 clears up very ambiguous language previously included in the annotated code which said that property owners adjoining a proposed site of "a rubble landfill" would be notified by certified mail.

My proposed legislation changes the strict definition of "rubble landfill" and changes it the more commonly used and recognized word "landfill" which holds many types of waste. More importantly, my bill also expands the area in which a property owner would be notified of a proposed landfill from just adjacent to the landfill to 1,000 feet from the landfill. This significantly expands the area and includes more property owners to be adequately notified of a proposed landfill.

Another bill I am supporting is SB91. It would make it easier for residents concerned about permits issued by the Department of Environment to attend public meetings on such issues closer to where they live. These meetings, public hearings and contested case hearings, according to SB91 would be held "at a location in the political subdivision where the permit applies."

This means citizens interested in attending these public hearings and giving their valuable opinions on such matters would not have to travel long distances to attend the meetings. The meetings in which officials will discuss issues relevant to local citizens will be held nearby.

This is a perfect example of user-friendly government and I think it's a great piece of legislation.

Another source of concern among Southern Maryland residents is how to manage sludge and it's easy to see why. Let's face it, sludge is an unpleasant subject no matter how you look at it. Managing it, is even more unsavory, yet it must be done no matter how distasteful it is to us.

Senate Bill 208 would prohibit the Department of the Environment from issuing a permit to install, materially alter, or materially extend a sewage sludge storage facility until the facility meets all county zoning and land use requirements.

This will go a long way towards making sure that the MDE does not irresponsibly store sludge unless it meets strong, government mandated requirements. I applaud this broadened oversight.

I can't emphasize enough how important these bills are. Waste management is an unpleasant issue as I've mentioned, but it is one we must live with and address. Through pro-active legislation such as the bills I have sponsored and support, I believe we will have better management over locating our landfills and incinerators, more public awareness and better quality control.

If you have any questions or concerns about any of these bills, please do not hesitate to contact my district or Annapolis office.

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