The Chesapeake Executive Council — the top policy making body for the Bay restoration effort — will undergo its greatest turnover since the signing of the 1983 Bay Agreement as the result of the November elections.
When the six-member council meets next year, it will have four different members from this year’s meeting — new governors from Pennsylvania and Maryland, a new mayor from the District of Columbia, and a new chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission.
But one of those — the District’s Mayor-elect Marion Barry — had previously served on the council during an earlier 12-years stint as mayor. During his previous terms of office, Barry signed the 1983 Bay Agreement, which generally called for a cooperative effort to restore the Chesapeake, and the 1987 Bay Agreement, which began setting cleanup goals, such as the 40 percent nutrient reduction. Next year, Barry will be the only council member to have signed either document.
Meanwhile, two new governors will replace William Donald Schaefer in Maryland and Robert P. Casey in Pennsylvania, both of whom were barred from seeking reelection after serving two terms.
Pennsylvanians gave Tom Ridge, a Republican Congressman from Erie, 45 percent of the vote in a three-way race. In Maryland, Parris Glendening, the Democrat county executive from Prince George’s County, narrowly defeated his opponent with 50 percent of the vote.
Glendening was strongly backed by several state environmental groups. His opponent, state House minority leader Ellen R. Sauerbrey, was considered to have one of the worst environmental records in the legislature, having voted against almost every major initiative, including the phosphate detergent ban, the state critical areas legislation, and the Chesapeake Bay and Endangered Species Checkoff, which allows people to make voluntary donations on their income tax form.
Though sometimes criticized as being too close to developers, Glendening contends he has worked to protect the environment while promoting planned growth, noting that his county has worked to maintain a 100-square-mile area on its eastern side as open space.
While he served as county executive, Prince George’s was the first municipality in Maryland to sign up with the EPA’s “Green Lights” program which promotes energy-efficient lighting, an action that saved the county $167,000 in its first year. Prince George’s also had the highest recycling rate in the state, and established a program to protect trees in the county. Glendening also served as vice chair of the state Critical Areas Commission, which protects the land around the Bay, and previously served as the chair of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Regional Environmental Policy Committee.
Glendening made support for the environment a major part of his campaign, proclaiming at one news conference that, “I intend to be forceful in the protection of the Bay.” In a position paper, he said the Bay was “of critical importance to Maryland’s economy” and said that the state must “work closely with Maryland communities and with Pennsylvania, Delaware, the District of Columbia and Virginia to protect the Bay and the waters that feed it so that they will be preserved for multiple use in an environmentally sound way in the future.”
Glendening supports growth policies that would protect farmland, forests and wetlands by directing development to areas that already have infrastructures — highways, sewage treatment, water, electricity — in place.
He opposes centralized state planning, but in an interview with the Baltimore Sun, Glendening said he would like each locality to devise a plan that directs growth toward existing centers while protecting outlying areas, and then use various incentives and disincentives to help make the plan work. The state, he said, should not pay for schools or highways that are not consistent with the plans. In addition, he supports tax breaks to promote investment in older, developed areas as well as efforts to improve mass transit and alternative transportation.
Glendening, in the Sun interview, said he supports more funding to provide technical assistance for farmers to control agricultural runoff, a major source of Bay pollution. Then, he said, the state would have “moral justification” to make nutrient reduction goals for farmers mandatory if they fell short of voluntary goals.
Glendening supports full funding for the state’s Program Open Space which helps preserve farms and natural areas. In recent years, the fund has been used to pay for other programs.
At the same time, Glendening said the state’s system of environmental rules and regulations needs to be simplified so they do not place undue burdens on businesses and private citizens.
He suggested merging tax policies with environmental objectives, through such things as lowering the sales tax or registration fees on energy-efficient vehicles.
In Pennsylvania, environmental issues did not play a major role in the campaign, but Ridge distributed a detailed environmental position paper that focused on the breakup of the state Department of Environmental Resources, which he criticized as being “out of touch with modern environmental protection methods and the public.”
Environmentalists generally gave Ridge low marks for his voting record in Congress and for co-sponsoring legislation that they said would weaken wetlands protection. The state Sierra Club broke with its tradition of not endorsing gubernatorial candidates and backed Ridge’s main opponent, Mark Singel.
Ridge called for breaking the DER into two agencies: a Department of Environmental Protection and a Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The Department of Environmental Protection would be responsible for enforcing pollution laws; protecting wetlands and streams; coastal zone management; regulating nonpoint sources of pollution; and stormwater management planning.
Ridge calls for improving educational efforts to encourage compliance with environmental laws while taking “tough” enforcement actions against those “who do not care.”
To help accomplish that, he calls for a new of Office of Pollution Prevention and Compliance Assistance in the department. The office would develop plans to help the regulated community comply with each new regulation as well as promote pollution prevention and toxic reduction strategies among business.
At the same time, Ridge’s policy calls for state environmental laws and regulations to be consistent with those of the federal government “and only more stringent where required to address unique Pennsylvania problems. Tom Ridge will not be afraid to stand up to federal bureaucracies and tell them when something does not make sense for Pennsylvania.”
Ridge promises to issue an executive order setting “specific deadlines” for the review of permit applications, but promised that such deadlines should not compromise opportunities for public comment or good environmental decisions.
Ridge said the new department would also promote “green technologies” to reduce and eliminate pollution; review state laws and work with local governments to encourage environmentally sound and long-term sustainable growth; and to use “good science” and “sound risk assessment” in decision-making. Some non-environmental activities now carried out by the DER, such as restaurant inspections, shellfish inspections, and vector control would be transferred to other agencies.
The new Department of Conservation and Natural Resources would be responsible for managing the state’s 2.3 million acres of forests and parks, both to promote tourism and the forest products industry. The agency would also house the Bureau of Conservation and Recreation, now in the Department of Community Affairs, which coordinates recreation programs, grants and technical assistance for local governments throughout Pennsylvania.
Ridge called for speeding up spending on parks and recreation projects with funds approved by voters in a ballot initiative last year. In addition, the governor-elect promised to host a “Governor’s Conference on Greenways and Trails” to initiate a statewide planning process to promote greenways and trails in both urban and rural areas. He also promised to encourage local action to protect rivers in addition to the Scenic Rivers Program.
Ridge also called for the creation of a “21st Century Environmental Commission” to identify environmental problems that will pose the greatest risks to the public and the environment and to report back with a series of actions recommended to address them.
The November election also brought change to the Chesapeake Bay Commission, which represents the legislatures of each Bay state. Each state has five members chosen by legislative leaders, one appointed by the governor, and one citizen representative.
One member, Mike Bortner, a Democrat from York County, Pa., was defeated. And because the GOP took control of the Pennsylvania House, the new leadership is expected to name different commission members, replacing Reps. Jeffrey W. Coy, Stephen H. Stetler, and P. Michael Sturla.
In addition, three Maryland members are retiring: Del. Gerald W. Winegrad, Del. James E. McClellan, and Sen. Bernie Fowler. The governor’s appointees from Maryland and Pennsylvania will likely change with the election.
That means nine of the commission’s 21 members will be new in 1995. The commission selects a new chairman each year. In early 1995, it will choose a replacement for the current chair, Virginia Sen. Elmo Cross Jr. That person will then become a new member of the Executive Council.
Seif named to head Pennsylvania DER
Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Tom Ridge has named former EPA Region III Administrator James Seif to become the new secretary of the state Department of Environmental Resources.
One of Seif’s primary roles will be to oversee Ridge’s plan to “completely overhaul” the DER, according to a press release from Ridge’s transition office. Ridge has called for splitting the agency into two cabinet-level departments, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Seif is an environmental lawyer and a member of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s Board of Directors.
He served as EPA’s Region III administrator from 1985 to 1989, during which time he helped develop the 1987 Bay Agreement which committed the Bay states and the federal government to achieving a 40 percent reduction in the amount of nutrients reaching the Bay by the year 2000.
Previous to that, Seif held several other public sector positions with both the EPA and in the administration of former Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh. His private sector positions have included serving as the regional manager for government relations at AT&T in Washington, D.C., and as the assistant general counsel for the Rohm & Haas Company in Philadelphia.