2014 Maryland dossier: part 6 (War on Rural Maryland)

I suspended this process for several days in the incorrect belief that Larry Hogan would jump into the race and give me some direction on where he stands with the various issues I’ve already covered. But since he’s passing until January I will continue to vet the others without him.

The definition of “War on Rural Maryland” is rather broad to me, but generally focuses on land use, environmental, and agricultural issues. In many ways, the three are intertwined but over the last seven years the prosperity and freedom rural denizens of the state enjoy has been significantly eroded by decisions from on high in Annapolis. This is an effort to grade the candidates on how they would react and reverse some of these ill-considered ideas.

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David Craig:  As Governor, I will return land use decisions to local government where they belong and will replace a punishment and control regime with a conservation agenda. I will work with the Governors of New York and Pennsylvania to clean up the Susquehanna and reduce that major source of Bay pollution.  I will end the practice of Maryland bearing the brunt of responsibility for cleaning up the Bay and being responsible for a 64,000 square mile watershed that includes surrounding states.

(snip)

I will work with local governments to promote sound planning but leave the control of land use where it belongs, closest to the people. (campaign site)

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When asked “where will you stick PlanMaryland?” Craig answered back with, “where do you want me to stick it?” (WCRC meeting, July 22, 2013)

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What I’ve found is the best way is to actually listen to the farmers have to say and have them come up with solutions for what they think needs to be done, and then convince the other farmer this is the best way to go – it’s not government talking to you. (They’d say) I did this on my farm, it saved me money, it did this and saved me all these rules and regulations.

But we get all these people that are in environmental services, they have this job, they’re lawyers, they’re environmental – but they know nothing. I had a situation talking with the Maryland Department of the Environment, I said give me an example of this rain tax, I have two – or septic tax. I have two farms, tell me which one’s the worst. How will I be able to determine which one – one guy’s doing the good job, one’s a bad job? And the guy looked at me and said we can’t figure that out. (monoblogue interview)

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Perhaps the biggest environmental enigma about David Craig is Harford County’s on-again, off-again flirtation with ICLEI, or the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives. (It’s better known as ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability.) In 2010, to much fanfare, Harford County became one of Maryland’s ICLEI members, saying it had “taken another step towards achieving the goal of environmental stewardship” by joining the group.

But less than three years later, the county more quietly withdrew from the group, with the local Harford Campaign for Liberty taking credit along with an assist from the county’s Republican Party and a resolution it passed early this year. Perhaps they read the group’s charter?

Somehow, though, that notice of withdrawal has escaped the county’s Sustainability Office, which is instead in the midst of promoting another cherished leftist scheme, Car-Free Days, next weekend. (monoblogue, September 15, 2013)

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He called for a repeal of the state (“rain tax”) law, then went on to suggest that Maryland should back off from a range of measures adopted in recent decades to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. His proposals include elimination of the 1984 Critical Areas Act, a measure regarded by environmentalists as the crown jewel of the state’s Bay protection laws.

“Why don’t you get rid of all the previous bills?” Craig said. “Let’s get rid of of the Critical Areas Act.”

In addition to the critical area law, which restricts development on parcels within 1,000 yards of the bay and its tributaries, Craig said he would like to get rid of a 2007 law requiring developments to avoid any increase in stormwater runoff and abolish a 1998 law requiring farmers to limit the runoff of fertilizer and animal waste. (Baltimore Sun, September 17, 2013)

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“While I share the desire for a clean and healthy bay, as most of us probably do, I question the priorities of those in Annapolis who feel that no price is too steep to pay for only a marginal improvement in bay quality,” Craig said. “Our businesses and taxpayers expect us, as county government, to act as their last line of defense against over-the-top polices from the state and federal governments whenever possible, and that is what I intend to do.” (Washington Post, September 18, 2013)

Ron George: Ease Farm regulations that over reach while making large areas unprofitable.

Restore, Conserve and Preserve Our Natural Resources without punishing the very people who live, work and recreate here because  they love our beautiful state including businesses, homeowners, boaters, farmers,  watermen or taxpayers…or anyone who gets rained on.

Dredge the “silt pond” above the Conowingo Dam, which causes far more harm to the bay’s ecosystem each time it overflows or the dam is opened.

Encourage planting of Maryland’s tall deciduous tree species including Oaks and Maples.

Allow for the hunting of overpopulated species.

Giving the dollars for bay oyster restoration directly to River Keepers and their volunteers. (campaign site)

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In a past campaign, Ron George billed himself as the “Green Elephant.” Here’s a list of some of the environmental restrictions he’s voted for in the past eight years – many of which he cheerfully admitted voting for in his 2010 campaign. The number in parentheses afterward is the number of opposition votes in the House of Delegates.

All of these votes were graded in previous editions of the monoblogue Accountability Project.

Maryland Clean Cars Act of 2007 (17 votes)
Clean Indoor Act of 2007 (39 votes)
Chesapeake Bay 2010 Trust Fund (30 votes)
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – Maryland Strategic Energy Investment Program (25 votes)
EmPOWER Maryland Energy Efficiency Act of 2008 (33 votes)
Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area Protection Program – Administrative and Enforcement Provisions (15 votes)
Smart, Green, and Growing – Local Government Planning – Planning Visions (7 votes)
Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009 (30 votes)
Smart, Green, and Growing – Smart and Sustainable Growth Act of 2009 (12 votes)
Natural Resources – No Net Loss of Forest Policy – Forest Conservation Act (23 votes)
Agriculture – Lawn Fertilizer – Low Phosphorus Fertilizer (19 votes)
Smart, Green, and Growing – The Sustainable Communities Act of 2010 (27 votes)
Stormwater Management – Development Projects – Requirements (13 votes)
Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard – Solar Energy (31 votes)
Smart. Green, and Growing – Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission (20 votes)
Chesapeake Conservation Corps Program (27 votes)
Natural Resources – Forest Preservation Act of 2013 (27 votes)

I will note, however, that the majority of these votes came during Ron’s first term in office (2007-10) and he has moved somewhat away from the “Green Elephant” designation – one key example was voting against the Septic Bill in 2012. But how do we determine Ron’s line in the sand? (monoblogue, September 15, 2013)

Charles Lollar: I am committed to saving the Bay – and to doing it in a right and in a balanced way.

First, I will support full annual funding – $50 million – of the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund, created in 2007. Those trust funds must not be diverted to general and other purposes, as the O’Malley/Brown Administration proposed in FY 2010. Other budget needs and challenges will be addressed directly – and not bailed out by grabbing Trust Fund monies.

Second, we must find deal smartly with the sources of pollutions, including those coming from other states in water that flows into the headwaters of the Bay. Our approach to the public and private point and non-point sources of the pollutants that threaten the Bay must be prudent, balanced – not extreme. Our approach must avoid economic dislocations and injuries that can result from overzealous regulation.

As Maryland’s Governor, I will fully engage directly with the Governors of the other Chesapeake Bay states and federal officials at the Environment Protection Agency to determine the best approaches to be taken to continually improve the quality of the bay and protect its eco-systems. (campaign website)

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“This cronyism, and this opportunity to shut down the agricultural industry in this state, is going to come to a stop.” (YouTube video at Hudson Farm, September 8, 2013)

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Since the Democrats are the ones perpetrating the War on Rural Maryland it’s doubtful they will back off. In fact, Doug Gansler’s entire environmental platform seems to be one of making chicken farmers convert waste to energy, while the other two major candidates basically ignore rural needs.

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I think that, in order to give David Craig a fair evaluation, I have to know which one I’m talking to. Telling them to stick PlanMaryland, repealing the rain tax, and wiping out the Critical Areas Act would be a great start to restoring balance, although I guarantee the media coverage sensationalized what he said in the latter case just to make him look like he’s for dirty water. (I don’t fall for the hype, figuring local areas could have regulations which are just as strident, which is the beauty of local control. Or they could work toward something more reasonable.)

But then again, three years ago he was signing up for ICLEI and the county he runs still has a Sustainability Office. So I’m left to wonder just how serious he is about ridding us of overbearing government and over-the-top radical environmentalism. I think I’ll give him 8 points of 12 for now.

To a great extent, the same applies to Ron George. It’s worth pondering how he was pushed from being a “green elephant” to the point where he at least talks about easing farm regulations (but doesn’t provide a lot of specifics) and votes against an onerous septic bill. It seems to me that Ron is trying to skate a middle ground between what he thinks people want to hear and actions which would potentially help farmers and rural counties but can be portrayed negatively by the major media outlets (as Craig was.) So I can only give him 6 of 12 points, right in the middle.

In listening to Charles Lollar speak at the Hudson farm, I was struck by his passion. But when I read his brief statement on environmental matters – one which accepts the premise that the state has to spend $50 million (or more) a year in a vain attempt to coddle an environmental group which will never be satisfied, I wonder what his real plan is. Certainly it needs more study, but I can’t see at this point where he would make a bold statement on repealing legislation or rolling back regulations. If he can accept the status quo on the trust fund, what else will he leave in place? So I can give him just 5 of 12 points.

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I haven’t decided if I will double back to Obamacare before tackling the higher priorities or not. Only one candidate has answered me directly on the subject, while another is promising me more information. With this being a holiday week I will likely make the decision for Friday, since I already have a book review planned for Saturday.

More on the environment

I was thinking about the appearance by Charles Lollar at the Hudson farm earlier this month, particularly in the wake of a federal judge’s decision allowing the EPA to continue with its assault on our agricultural livelihood. U.S. District Court Judge Sylvia Rambo, a Carter appointee, ruled the EPA is within its rights under the Clean Water Act to “partner” with the six states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed in cleaning up the Bay. Yes, Judge Rambo, putting a proverbial gun to our heads is truly partnership from the federal government.

While we know a little bit about where Charles stands on environmental issues, how do his GOP opponents weigh in?

Perhaps the biggest environmental enigma about David Craig is Harford County’s on-again, off-again flirtation with ICLEI, or the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives. (It’s better known as ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability.) In 2010, to much fanfare, Harford County became one of Maryland’s ICLEI members, saying it had “taken another step towards achieving the goal of environmental stewardship” by joining the group.

But less than three years later, the county more quietly withdrew from the group, with the local Harford Campaign for Liberty taking credit along with an assist from the county’s Republican Party and a resolution it passed early this year. Perhaps they read the group’s charter?

Somehow, though, that notice of withdrawal has escaped the county’s Sustainability Office, which is instead in the midst of promoting another cherished leftist scheme, Car-Free Days, next weekend. (I’ve discussed this before because the CFD date always falls on my birthday and I have better things to do than worry about going without the freedom of having the means to go where I wish on my own schedule.)

So the question is whether the ICLEI withdrawal was a fig leaf designed to burnish Craig’s conservative credentials at a time where he has to “run right” to win a primary election. Seeing that the Office of Sustainability is still in operation leads me to believe David is making that a priority. There’s no question efficiency is important, and “waste not, want not” is a valid way to approach government. But I draw the line at advocating for those entities in which I have no say dictating how my life and time should be spent, and a group like ICLEI falls into that category.

Unfortunately, Ron George also has a reputation for this type of issue advocacy. In a past campaign, Ron George billed himself as the “Green Elephant.” Here’s a list of some of the environmental restrictions he’s voted for in the past eight years – many of which he cheerfully admitted voting for in his 2010 campaign. The number in parentheses afterward is the number of opposition votes in the House of Delegates.

All of these votes were graded in previous editions of the monoblogue Accountability Project.

  • Maryland Clean Cars Act of 2007 (17 votes)
  • Clean Indoor Act of 2007 (39 votes)
  • Chesapeake Bay 2010 Trust Fund (30 votes)
  • Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – Maryland Strategic Energy Investment Program (25 votes)
  • EmPOWER Maryland Energy Efficiency Act of 2008 (33 votes)
  • Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area Protection Program – Administrative and Enforcement Provisions (15 votes)
  • Smart, Green, and Growing – Local Government Planning – Planning Visions (7 votes)
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009 (30 votes)
  • Smart, Green, and Growing – Smart and Sustainable Growth Act of 2009 (12 votes)
  • Natural Resources – No Net Loss of Forest Policy – Forest Conservation Act (23 votes)
  • Agriculture – Lawn Fertilizer – Low Phosphorus Fertilizer (19 votes)
  • Smart, Green, and Growing – The Sustainable Communities Act of 2010 (27 votes)
  • Stormwater Management – Development Projects – Requirements (13 votes)
  • Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard – Solar Energy (31 votes)
  • Smart. Green, and Growing – Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission (20 votes)
  • Chesapeake Conservation Corps Program (27 votes)
  • Natural Resources – Forest Preservation Act of 2013 (27 votes)

I will note, however, that the majority of these votes came during Ron’s first term in office (2007-10) and he has moved somewhat away from the “Green Elephant” designation – one key example was voting against the Septic Bill in 2012. But how do we determine Ron’s line in the sand?

It goes without saying that the Democrats won’t refuse any restriction couched in such a way as to “save the Bay.” To me, the problem is that we have no idea what approaches work best because we don’t give them any time to work. My thought is that we need, at the least, a five-year moratorium on new regulations in order to better gauge the success of what we already have. An even better case scenario would be rolling back restrictions to the level of, say, a decade ago and telling the EPA to go pound sand and pick on the states which are really causing the problem upstream. Dealing with their sediment behind the Conowingo Dam would be a good beginning.

What we don’t need is to keep the trend line going in its current direction, lest there be no agricultural industry remaining in Maryland.

Is so-called sustainability more important than growth?

Last week before Irene burst onto the scene I read an interesting article by Ann Miller, a Baltimore Examiner.

Apparently the folks in Carroll County have regained a dose of common sense and are trying to apply the brakes to the steamroller called Plan Maryland. Obviously this is a cause which Wicomico County should sign up for as well, given how much the state has attempted to bully local governments into giving up control in the recent past. As we have seen in its dealings with the poultry industry, Annapolis (and by extension, Washington) does not know best.

After all, the goals of Plan Maryland are:

…centered on growth, preservation and sustainability. The “growth” goal is to concentrate development and redevelopment in towns, cities and rural centers where there is existing and planned infrastructure. The “preservation” goal is to preserve and protect environmentally sensitive and rural lands and resources from the impacts of development. And the “sustainability” goal is to ensure a desirable quality of life in our communities and rural areas while preserving the significant natural and cultural resources that define Maryland.

Given that goal, one could reasonably ascertain that the “war on rural Maryland” is far from over. Just because Governor O’Malley didn’t get his initiative of banning septic systems for large developments through the General Assembly doesn’t mean he won’t try an end run like this document, which notes:

With Smart Growth, many thousand fewer septic systems would be installed since the same number of households would connect to community systems with far better treatment, preventing tons of nitrogen discharge into Maryland’s waters.

(snip)

Smart Growth limits additional wastewater and stormwater pollution by reducing the addition of septic tanks, limiting the amount of forest and wetlands removed for new development, encouraging smaller lawns, and preventing impervious surfaces.

Of course, they forget to mention that what growth does occur becomes much more expensive.

And what the state can’t get through legislation they get through regulation. They already would like to get us out of our cars:

Land use decisions at the local level and housing policy programs need to more effectively consider infrastructure capacity and need to manage demand for travel, to make decisions that will be financially wiser for Marylanders. Moreover, a smarter linkage between where we grow and how we get around has the potential to reduce greenhouse gases, cut air pollution, support the creation of more compact communities, and provide Marylanders with more options on how they move from place to place.

So don’t be looking for that wider road anytime soon – they’ll spend the money on a bus route no one rides.

And that’s the problem – I don’t believe that a one-size-fits-all solution dictated from on high like Plan Maryland is necessarily going to work in the best interests of our area. Continue reading “Is so-called sustainability more important than growth?”