- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2003

ANNAPOLIS Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has pledged to help ease the antagonism between environmentalists and groups of watermen and farmers by pursuing an approach to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay that balances jobs with water quality.
The new Republican governor said he learned of friction between the two sides on the campaign trail, when watermen bristled upon learning he had a friendly relationship with the head of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
"It was the us-versus-them, zero sum, they're on the other side, we can't deal with [their attitude] which, to their faces, I rejected," Mr. Ehrlich said.
Many watermen have opposed regulations intended to increase the blue-crab population imposed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Democrat, which they say threatens their livelihoods. But Mr. Ehrlich said many environmentalists are equally guilty of failing to appreciate the jobs at stake.
"When you combine the economics and the environmental aspects of the Bay, it is literally the future of this state," he told a crowd of about 300 environmentalists at their annual legislative summit.
Mr. Ehrlich also repeated his campaign promise to focus on upgrading the state's sewage-treatment plants to reduce the flow of polluting nutrients into the Bay. An overabundance of nitrogen and phosphorus in the Bay has been blamed for causing algae breakouts that kill fish and block sunlight from reaching the marine grasses that are critical habitat for crabs and small fish.
However, Mr. Ehrlich said the cost of fixing the problem hundreds of millions of dollars would far outstrip the ability of the state to pay for it. Mr. Ehrlich said he would lobby Congress to pass legislation this year to provide that funding. He co-sponsored a similar bill in the U.S. House of Representatives last year.
"Time is of the essence. This has to happen in the next five years," Mr. Ehrlich said. "It's not going to get better, and particularly nitrogen is our archenemy."
Mr. Ehrlich also reiterated his plan to increase the number of agricultural planners who help farmers take steps to lessen nutrient runoff from fertilizer and suggested that cleaning up "brownfields" would be a priority. Brownfields are abandoned or rarely used industrial or commercial sites contaminated, or perceived to be contaminated, by oil, chemicals, metals or other hazardous byproducts of manufacturing.
Cleaning up brownfields also is an environmental and economic issue, Mr. Ehrlich said, because such land is unproductive, and degrades urban areas while contributing nothing to the state's tax rolls.
As he campaigned, Mr. Ehrlich made it clear that environmental policies would be a lower priority for him than it was for Mr. Glendening. Some environmental groups endorsed his opponent, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, and ran ads attacking his environmental record.
To help make peace, League of Conservation Voters Executive Director Susan Brown brought a gift basket for Mr. Ehrlich containing a spiral light bulb and "The Lorax," Dr. Seuss' children's classic with an environmental message. Miss Brown said Mr. Ehrlich made a positive statement by appearing at the meeting, although she expressed concern that his budget called for the elimination of dozens of jobs left vacant because of a hiring freeze at the Department of the Environment.
Not filling those jobs will make it difficult to enforce compliance with regulations to limit pollution, she said. "It's not like those 57 people wouldn't have had a whole desk full of things to do if they were there," she said.

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