Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Maryland Gets Bill for "Bay Diet"

Maryland officials have filled in the blanks on their draft Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan, and attached an eye-popping pricetag - $7.5 billion over the next five years, and nearly double that by 2025.

The cost estimates aren't a total shock, as state officials have previously ballparked restoration efforts at around $15 billion when all was said and done.

The plan calls for reducing in-state nitrogen discharges and runoff to the bay by 22 percent and curbing phosphorus nearly 15 percent. The reductions would not fall evenly, with a 30 percent cutback in phosphorus expected from retrofitting storm-water runoff controls in existing communities and a 38 percent drop in nitrogen from septic systems proposed.

Even though the O'Malley administration has given itself more time to finish putting bay cleanup measures in place - dropping its 2020 deadline back to 2025, with all the rest of the bay states - Maryland officials still project getting the lion's share of the pollution reductions under way in the next five years. The plan forecasts 78 percent of the nitrogen cutbacks and 98 percent of the phosphorus curbs will be set by 2017.
It's not clear to me from the article whether the bill represents only the portion the State of Maryland will have to cover, or contains costs incurred by counties, localities and farmers and private businesses and individuals.  My guess is the former.   Shockingly, not everyone seemed happy with the costs...

Builders poll shows little support for raising taxes to clean Bay:
In a survey commissioned by the Maryland State Builders Association, fewer than one-quarter of voters agreed the state should increase taxes and fees to pay for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. Of the 808 voters interviewed for the telephone poll, which was conducted by Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies from Jan. 9 through 15, 70.2 percent said the cleanup should be paid for with existing funds only; 23.4 percent favored raising taxes and fees. Although the interviewer asked respondents simply whether they thought the cleanup should be paid by new charges or only existing funds, 1.7 percent said both should be used, 1.5 percent said neither should be used, and 3.2 percent gave no answer.

Nearly 74 percent said they “agree” the state “needs to do more to help new construction in the state to create jobs and recover from the current economic downturn.” Almost 24 percent said they “disagree,” and 2.5 percent gave no answer.

Asked whether “Maryland government places too many environmental regulations and restrictions on businesses in the state,” 47.4 percent said they agree and 43.8 percent said they disagree. Almost 9 percent gave no answer.

Asked to choose whether “taking steps to clean up the Chesapeake Bay” or “taking steps to create jobs and improve Maryland’s economy” should be a higher priority for Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration, 84.4 percent chose creating jobs and 12 percent selected cleaning up the Bay.
I wouldn't accuse the Maryland State Builders of creating an objective poll (the questions are clearly slanted to evoke anti-spending emotions), but I'm not surprised at the results.  Everybody want to save the Bay, but nearly everybody hopes someone else is going to have to pay the bill and suffer the inconveniences.

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