Senator relents, schedules hearing on stormwater compromise

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The chairman of the General Assembly committee charged with reviewing new state regulations has agreed to consider the compromise on stormwater rules, planning a hearing for this week.

But supporters of the compromise, concerned that the General Assembly’s Administrative, Executive & Legislative Review Committee might still decline to act on the regulations before the end of the legislative session, are continuing to keep open the possibility of forcing the stormwater compromise into law through a bill.

Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Prince George’s County Democrat and the Senate chairman of the joint AELR committee, has scheduled a hearing on the compromise for Tuesday at 4 p.m. If the committee does not act on the regulations, then a Senate committee will likely move ahead with its plans to hold a hearing on the separate bill Thursday afternoon.

The stormwater compromise — reached last month through difficult negotiations among environmentalists, lawmakers, builders and county officials — is currently locked in the AELR committee, and Pinsky has been threatening to block the compromise because he believes environmentalists gave up too much.

Under the stormwater regulations that are currently set to go into effect in May, builders have been concerned that projects that are underway — but do not yet have final permits — could be forced to go back to comply with new, stricter regulations, potentially costing millions of dollars. Many county officials have also been critical of the stricter regulations, warning that the rules could undermine their Smart Growth redevelopment efforts by making it prohibitively expensive to launch projects in older existing neighborhoods.

The compromise extends deadlines for complying with the new stormwater regulations and outlines alternatives for builders. Some environmental groups, including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, have supported the compromise, but others have opposed it.

The ultimate goal of the stormwater regulations is to help the state reach a federally-mandated deadline of 2020 for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. The stormwater regulations would significantly curtail the amount of nitrogen pouring into the Bay, according to state environmental officials.

The House of Delegates has already approved a bill that would put the compromise into place through legislation. Should the AELR committee not act on the regulations, supporters of the compromise believe they have enough support in the Senate for the House bill to pass before the end of the session.

Click here to see the roster of the 127 delegates who voted for and the 13 delegates who voted against the legislation in the House.

Click here to read previous Center Maryland coverage of the General Assembly's stormwater debate, including a more detailed explanation for House Environmental Matters Chairman Maggie McIntosh is moving ahead with a bill to put the compromise into law.
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