A number of regulations set to be published and take effect on Friday were pulled back just hours into the new administration of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.
Hogan quietly withdrew the regulations, including the controversial phosphorous management tool, after being sworn in Wednesday as Maryland’s 62nd governor.
“The Governor has directed all agencies of state governmentt to begin a comprehensive review of all pending regulations,” said Shareese Churchill, a Hogan spokeswoman. “This review process is to allow public input, public hearing and full due process before regulations are finalized. All regulations that were scheduled for final publication on January 23 will not be published.”
Churchill could not immediately provide specifics on which proposed regulations were affected but confirmed that the phosphorous management tool was among those that will not go into effect. Those regulations, which are favored by environmental groups, would have limited the use of chicken manure on Eastern Shore farms as a way of controlling the amount of phosphorous that seeps into the Chesapeake Bay.
Farmers and the poultry industry opposed the regulations.
The news met with swift rebuke from groups such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition.
“Agriculture is the largest source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay, and is also the cheapest to reduce by far,” said Alison Prost, Maryland executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “Many farmers deserve credit for their efforts to stem pollution from their barn yards and fields. But just as those who live in our cities and suburbs are doing more to clean the Bay, so must farmers.”
In a statement, the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition called Hogan’s decision worrisome.
“Just hours after being sworn in as Maryland’s governor, reports say he has turned his back on clean water and sound science, the group said in a statement. “He has ignored Maryland’s leading agriculture scientists, who have been working on updating this tool for more than ten years and who have repeatedly stated how its adoption is needed, now.
“Phosphorus pollution from manure is getting worse, not better in the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland rivers. The Governor’s action is a threat to the health of Maryland families and to our economy that depends on clean water.”
O’Malley announced late last year he would move forward with the regulations which are favored by environmental groups but opposed by the poultry industry and farmers.
The notice of final action was signed by the Department of Agriculture late last week and the final regulations could be published in the Maryland Register on Jan. 23, making them official, unless they are withdrawn by Hogan and his Agriculture Sec.-designee Joseph Bartenfelder.
But a letter of advice written by the Office of the Attorney General in mid-December gave Hogan cover to stop the regulations from taking effect.
Governor Hogan needs to rethink this action. The Bay is a multi-billion dollar asset for the region. Do the interests of farmers outweigh the health of the Bay, boaters, watermen, homeowners, and future generations? I certainly hope he can see the light and do the right thing.