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Oysters 1; Crabs 0

Winners and losers in this year’s General Assembly

Not everyone made out well with environmental legislation this year.
    “This session started with a landmark legislative win for the environmental community when the offshore wind bill sailed through both chambers,” said Karla Raettig, executive director of Maryland League of Conservation Voters.
    “Unfortunately, the General Assembly killed or weakened many other environmental priorities.”
    The pieces will finally be in place for 40 wind turbines to rise 10 miles off the coast of Ocean City, starting in 2017. This wind will blow 1,000 jobs to Maryland plus enough homegrown renewable energy to power a quarter of the homes in Baltimore City. These turbines will help Maryland reach its goal of using 20 percent renewable energy by 2022, a big step toward breaking free from fossil fuels.
    The Forest Preservation Act of 2013 gives Maryland a policy allowing no-net loss of forests and a statewide tree canopy goal. This doesn’t mean you can’t trim the trees in your yard. It does mean family-owned forests may now bring bigger income tax credits.
    One person’s trash is another oyster’s new home. Every bushel of shell you recycle earns you $1 in income tax credit. Old shells are used as new homes for baby oysters to aid Chesapeake oyster recovery.
    On fracking, pesticides, bottles, bags, crabs and cows this year, environmental legislation stalled.
    The Agricultural Certainty Bill is a gray area; environmentalists aren’t happy with it, but it promises some immediate gains. It amounts to this: Some agribusinesses that get busy on controlling pollution right now get a free pass for the next 10 years.
    You probably don’t know what pesticides are sprayed across Maryland, and you won’t for now. Despite links between pesticides and human ill health, the General Assembly refused to write a law requiring an online database of pesticide sales and uses. Instead, they’ll study the idea.
    As states to our north and south continue fracking for natural gas, Maryland goes yet another year without developing a policy on this contentious new industry.
    We have a state dessert, a state crustacean and a state sport, but still no state sandwich. Making the soft-shell crab sandwich Maryland’s official state sandwich did not make it to a vote in the House, though the Senate was ready for lunch.
    Cows got nowhere this year. The Dairy Animal Boarding bill would have supported the local food movement and local farmers by allowing citizens to contract with local farmers to get milk from their personal animals boarded at that farm. Maybe next year.
    Bottles and bags will continue to proliferate. Five-cent bottle/can deposits and five-cent disposable bag fees would have boosted recycling and reuse. The bag bill was stopped short, and the bottle bill will go to summer study with the House Environmental Matters Committee. Expect to see these bills up for vote again next year.

A $1 per bushel tax credit for oyster shells is hardly a victory for the oyster and oyster restoration efforts when during the same session the General Assembly failed to pass legislation permitting watermen to cultivate the natural oyster bars in the upper Chesapeake Bay by way of power dredging. The enormous amount of sediment loading from the Susquehanna River into the Bay has smothered the oysters and SAV - Mother Nature's most efficient filters. As goes the oyster goes the health of the Bay. Due to the loss of trapping capacity in the reservoir above the Conowingo Dam (it's full), the upper Bay is experiencing an exponential increase in sedimentation. By not allowing watermen (at no expense to the taxpayers) to work the natural oyster bars and uncover the buried oysters and shells, the oyster has no chance. The success in the recent oyster harvest is in large part attributable to the power dredging allowed by DNR in certain parts of the Bay - just ask any waterman. With respect to the supposed shortage of natural shells, there are plenty buried under the sedimentation and muck in the upper Bay. Any celebration about a tax credit to collect osyter shells is muted by the State's abandonment of the upper Bay and some of the most histrocially productive natural oyster bars. State/DNR 1, Mother Nature and watermen 0. Chip MacLeod, Clean Chesapeake Coalition

Greetings: We'll print your letter for now and assign our reporter to follow up. Thanks, Sandra Martin, Bay Weekly editor