An important Maryland state senator and Governor Martin O’Malley this week turned up the heat on rogue counties that have refused to follow a 2012 state law designed to limit suburban sprawl and reduce water pollution.
To loud applause from the crowd of 400 environmental activists at the annual Maryland Legislative Environmental Summit meeting in Annapolis on Tuesday, State Senator Joan Carter Conway, chair of the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee, suggested she might support legislation to strengthen the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012 (also called the “septic bill”) to add penalties to counties that flout the law and fail to protect farmland and forests.
“I was a little upset about the way a number of counties had actually divided up their landscapes,” Conway told the crowd. “We need to be a lot greener….A carrot may be better, but I like the stick.”
In response to the “septic bill,” two of Maryland’s fastest growing counties –- Frederick and Cecil -– have submitted planning maps to the state that leave most of their farmland and wooded areas open to large developments on high-pollution septic systems. This is not in compliance with the law, which directs counties to allow large developments not in rural areas, but instead in towns and areas to be served by sewer systems and sewage treatment plants, which produce far less water pollution than septic systems.