QUEEN ANNE'S COUNTY, Md.– County officials say four commissioners signed a letter asking the Maryland General Assembly for a public hearing regarding the regulations of the Phosphorus Management Tool.
The commissioners are asking that the state hold off on enforcing the PMT regulation until there is more public comment.
The goal of the PMT is to reduce phosphorus runoff from farmland thereby reducing that pollutant from the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
The Maryland Department of Agriculture's PMT regulations were recently published in the Maryland Register.
Fertilizers contain phosphorus, which has been recognized as one of the major pollutants affecting the health the Bay, officials say.
Agriculture is the largest industry in Queen Anne's County.
“As commissioners, we recognize the importance of agriculture and related agricultural businesses on our local economy,” wrote the commissioners in their Dec. 23, letters to state officials. “We are concerned the proposed regulations will place additional economic and restrictive operational burdens on agricultural operations.”
The Board of Commissioners says they showed their support for the Chesapeake Bay and the improvement of water quality with their recent unanimous vote to approve membership in the Clean Chesapeake Coalition.
Some of the commissioners believe that the goal of the PMT and the results of the PMT may not match.
“As we understand, the Phosphorus Management Tool as currently proposed is not capable of determining how much less phosphorus will reach the waters of the state,” states the letter. “Without this data, we are concerned about the adoption of the regulation with obvious direct costs and requirements for state assistance especially in light of the state's current fiscal situation.”
Commissioner Stephen Wilson said he abstained from signing the letter, reflecting his recognition of opposition by a wide coalition of conservation groups.
County officials say the board's first request was to schedule a public hearing on the proposed Phosphorus Management Tool so those impacted by the proposed regulations have the opportunity to comment. Their second request is to place a hold on the proposed PMT regulations until the comments from the hearing can be reviewed and the environmental and fiscal impacts are determined.