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Maryland lawmakers move fast to brace for Trump actions

ANNAPOLIS — Moving swiftly, a Maryland Senate committee voted Wednesday for a resolution to enable the attorney general to sue the federal government should the Trump administration take harmful actions against the state.

The panel voted 9-3 along party lines for the resolution, which will be on the Senate floor Thursday. The resolution would give the attorney general the authority to sue the federal government without permission from the governor for actions that may pose a threat to the health or welfare of residents.

Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat, cited the “erratic and impulsive” nature of Republican President Donald Trump’s recent executive orders as examples for why the resolution is needed. Frosh also said there were reasons to believe that Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, does not support the Chesapeake Bay Program.

“I think there is good reason to fear that we will be facing hostile action from that agency — at least action that poses a threat to the Chesapeake Bay, to our clean air, our clean water, and we respectively request that you grant the authority for us to participate in those issues,” Frosh told the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee during a hearing before the vote.

Under the Maryland Defense Act of 2017, the attorney general could sue to protect the health, public safety, civil liberties, economic security of Maryland residents, as well as the environment. It also would enable the attorney general to sue over federal immigration and travel restrictions.

Environmental and health care advocates testified in favor of the resolution. They expressed concerns about potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act and actions that could harm the Chesapeake Bay.

Elaine Lutz, staff attorney for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said the foundation is concerned the Trump administration won’t enforce the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load. The EPA created the TMDL in 2010 to put the bay on a “pollution diet” to restore clean water in the bay and the region’s streams, creeks and rivers. It relies heavily on cooperation from other states and the federal government to limit such contaminants as nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution.

“To the extent and with the possibility that the federal government is going to back down from upholding the TMDL, we believe that it is in Maryland’s best interest to have all the tools available to encourage and enforce that law,” Lutz said.