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Volume 16, Issue 22 - May 29-June 4, 2008


O’Malley Fly-ash Veto Disses
Anne Arundel and All Our Counties

Starting in the early 1990s, Baltimore Gas and Electric dumped billions of tons of power plant wastes on private property in Anne Arundel County near Gambrills.

A great deal has been known for years about the underground migration of polluted water and hazardous wastes. Nonetheless, BGE persisted for more than a decade in depositing fly ash, which contains heavy metal contamination, into a landfill absent the sort of lining that would limit or prevent seepage.

Finally, spurred by local citizens, Anne Arundel County found worrisome contamination in the wells of homeowners and pressed for solutions. In short, the county did what people expect from their government, generating a $1 million state fine and a clean-up order against Constellation Energy, BGE’s parent company.

As early as 1998, the Maryland Department of the Environment was aware of elevated levels of sulfate concentrations near the dump site — a clue that harmful pollution was occurring.

But for reasons that remain mystifying, the state government did nothing about it — and BGE continued to dump in the leaky landfill.

Fast forward to just before Memorial Day, when Gov. Martin O’Malley took action on hundreds of pieces of legislation from the 2008 General Assembly. Maryland’s compliant Democratic governor vetoed just one of 745 bills sent him by the Democratic-run General Assembly: a tiny one reimbursing Anne Arundel County $100,000 for its BGE investigation.

O’Malley said he didn’t want to establish the precedent of counties tapping into the state treasury on an ad hoc basis.

Lame, we say. The General Assembly has ample opportunity to vet claims from counties and determine which are spurious. But in this case, the legislature even concluded overwhelmingly that that Anne Arundel’s request was worthwhile.

It would be easy — too easy, perhaps — to ascribe political motivations to the governor and his staff, seeing as how Anne Arundel’s government is now in the hands of a Republican.

There’s also the odor of turf warfare. State environmental officials seem to have resented being told what to do by upstart county officials — until the county was proved right.

Whatever the reason for this silly veto, Anne Arundel taxpayers are being saddled with costs of an investigation that the state should have been conducting all along.

It’s a bad message to send to counties trying to be vigilant regarding the health and wellbeing of their citizens when the state drops the ball.

© COPYRIGHT 2008 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.