House approves stormwater legislation in effort to put compromise into law

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Concerned that a compromise over new stormwater regulations is in jeopardy, the House of Delegates voted over the weekend to impose the compromise through legislation.

The compromise -- reached earlier this month through difficult negotiations among environmentalists, lawmakers, builders and county officials -- is currently locked in a joint General Assembly committee, and the committee chairman is 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 bill now goes to the Senate, where lawmakers are expected to consider it sometime within the final two weeks of the legislative session.

The final roster of the 127 delegates who voted for and the 13 delegates who voted against the legislation in the House has not yet been posted online. But click here to learn how members of the House Environmental Matters Committee voted. (Voting against the compromise were Democrats Liz Bobo, Anne Healey, Saqib Ali, Alfred Carr and Tom Hucker.)

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.

Click here to read the Washington Post's coverage of the House vote.

Click here to read the Associated Press coverage of the House vote.

Click here to read marylandreporter.com's article on the House vote.
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