Chanting, singing, and waving signs proclaiming “Clean Water Is Our Right!” more than 150 advocates of legislation that would reduce pollution from stormwater, sewage treatment plants, and sprawl rallied this morning at the Maryland State House in Annapolis.
The protesters urged state lawmakers to pass bills to increase funding for wastewater plant improvements through the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund (or “flush fee”). The advocates also asked for approval of legislation that would require 10 urbanized counties and municipalities to create fees to build stormwater pollution control systems. Both of these sources of funding are critical if Maryland is to meet new federal pollution limits for the Bay. The group also urged lawmakers to pass a bill that help limit sprawling development.
Governor Martin O’Malley and legislative leaders pledged to keep fighting for these initiatives as the General Assembly heads into its final few weeks of the session. “With your help, we are going to secure even greater investments in our Bay Restoration Fund, because we believe in clean water,” O’Malley told the cheering crowd.
Will Baker, President of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, led the activists –- many holding pictures of what they love about the Bay, such as fish and children playing on beaches -- in a shouted call and response. “Will we fail?” “No!” “Will we leave our children a legacy of polluted water?” “No!” “We will succeed! This is the moment in time for the Chesapeake Bay.”
Dr. Robert Summers, Maryland’s Secretary of the Environment, said that it is important for the legislature to double the Bay Restoration Fund so that the state can meet its commitments to upgrade all of Maryland’s 67 large municipal wastewater treatment plants. The fund today includes a fee of $30 per year for most households, and was approved with bipartisan support in 2004.
“It’s absolutely essential that the bill (to increase the fund) make it through” the legislature, Dr. Summers said. “We can’t let the fee stay where it is if we are going to complete the job.”
State Del. Maggie McIntosh from Baltimore, chair of the House Environmental Matters Committee, said that there is strong political support for increasing the fund. “When we began the year, looking at the budget situation, people’s tolerance for fees and taxes” was low, McIntosh said. “But the one area they had tolerance was for the flush fee….People understand that the environment was the one area where they were willing to invest in more, particularly in the Chesapeake Bay.”
State Senator Paul Pinsky of Prince George’s County, co-chair of the Senate’s Environment Subcommittee, said that people need to understand the connection between water pollution in the Bay and the loss of jobs among watermen and others whose livelihoods depend on clean water.
“When it comes to clean water ...this is a rights issue," Pinsky said, not an issue of "please" clean up the Bay.
Here are some more images from the event:
Photos and article by Tom Pelton
Chesapeake Bay Foundation