Sportsmen Voice Support for Maryland Healthy Air Act - Southern Maryland Headline News

Sportsmen Voice Support for Maryland Healthy Air Act

46 Fishing Clubs, Businesses Urge Lawmakers to Control Local Sources of Pollution

Annapolis, MD (March 24)—Forty-six Maryland fishing clubs and small businesses deeply concerned about the impact of the state's power plant pollution are urging state lawmakers to pass the Maryland Healthy Air Act, which would control emissions of mercury and carbon.

"Fishing in Maryland is negatively impacted by pollution from coal-burning power plants," says Scott Sewell, conservation director of the Maryland Bass Federation. "Failure to quickly address these problems will leave future generations of people and wildlife at risk from the harmful effects of mercury pollution and habitat impairment."

In a letter addressed to Governor Ehrlich and the General Assembly, groups including the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association and the Maryland Bass Federation point out Maryland anglers add as much as $1.6 billion annually to the state's economy, a contribution that is at risk. Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of air pollution in Maryland.

Evidence continues to mount that mercury pollution from coal burning causes harm to people who eat contaminated fish, as well as reproductive problems in many species of waterfowl, fish, mink, and otter. Scientists have found that the rate of sea-level rise in the Chesapeake Bay due to global warming will result in a dramatic loss of wetland habitat and coastal marshes that waterfowl and young fish depend upon for survival. Warmer waters also increase the number and intensity of algal blooms and marine bacterial diseases. The Maryland Healthy Air Act would address these problems by reducing mercury and carbon pollution from coal-burning power plants.

"If mercury pollution is allowed to continue to poison our Chesapeake and its tributaries, one of Maryland's great traditions—recreational fishing—could suffer further damage," said Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association Executive Director Rich Novotny. "It is unfair that big polluters continue receive a free pass, as they have for decades, and endanger human health and the health of our fish."

"The Maryland Healthy Air Act would ensure that future generations can catch and eat fish safely and breathe healthy air," says Sterling Buzzell, president of Antietam Fly Anglers. "Few experiences in life are better than witnessing a child who reels in his or her first fish, then proudly takes it home for dinner. Power plants need to reduce their pollution so the state can lift fish consumption advisories caused by mercury pollution."

"Clearly, sportfishing is a vital part of Maryland's economy, lifestyle, and culture," Novotny added. "Strong legislation is needed to upgrade these polluting plants, an important step to improving our living resources and protecting the health of the people who earn a livelihood and derive enjoyment from our natural bounty."

The Maryland Healthy Air Act has been approved by the Maryland State Senate and is expected to come up for a vote in the Maryland House of Delegates by Monday.

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