Lame duck Colburn still has fight to pick with PMT

Senior Editor

FEDERALSBURG, Md. (Nov. 25, 2014) — After Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley released the proposed new phosphorous management regulations to the General Assembly for final approval, State Sen. Richard Colburn, sitting at his desk in the Federalsburg town hall, decided he had had enough. Colburn strode from his lame duck seat on the state government sidelines and back into the PMT debate.
“It just isn’t right,” he said as he filed a request for hearing before the joint Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review committee of the House of Delegates and the Senate “The farmers have done their share, more than their share.”
A review of new legislation by the AELR committee is the first step on the path to promulgation.
Colburn, who returned to his post as town administrator, had been a key factor in the opposition to the implementation of the Phosphorous Management Tool for the past but retreated to the sidelines afte the election.
He had stood solidly on the side of Eastern Shore agriculture and its farmers through a 28-year career in the Maryland General Assembly and said he was not surprised when O’Malley began the effort to get the PMT regulations on the books before he left office.
The governor’s advisors tell O’Malley that if the proposal moves smoothly through the legislative process, he could sign the document on Jan. 16.
He leaves office five days later.
Colburn said he is angered by what a recent economic analysis figures it will cost the farmers of Maryland — an estimated $22.2 million — to replace phosphorous with commercial fertilizer and to truck out the banned poultry litter.
He said he has been told by scientists that some of the phosphorous that could be detected by the PMT could have been there for 50 years.
“I was hoping that there’d be some sensitivity displayed in all of this, ” Colburn remarked.
Colburn thus rejoined the Eastern Shore delegation until Jan. 21 to ask for a hearing and further study of the cost and effectiveness of the PMT regulations.
In letters to both to the governor and to Delegates Paul Pinsky and Samuel Erosenberg, co-chairmen of the AELR, Delegate and soon to be Senator Addie Eckardt, on behalf of the Eastern Shore delegation, wrote: “We have had concerns ... that the PMT is premature and that there has been insufficient data to support such a tool to be used to determine the movement of phosphorus in the soil.
“We are still not convinced that this study addresses the full economic implication to the industry and the relationship of any significant quantifiable changes to the Bay if in fact the tool is implemented.”
She added: “This is virgin territory for all involved as we strive to find the best actions to balance the economy and the environment and determine future projections. I would ask that you consider a pilot program to gain the useful information to assist in moving forward.
“Please proceed in a very deliberative manner to maintain the integrity of the process, the industry and the environment.”
Colburn’s musings touched on the future of O’Malley in the wake of the PMT squabble.
“Some people say he wants to run for president,” said Colburn. “I think he’s interested in the vice presidency.The campaign trail is going to take him to Iowa. I wonder what the farmers there are going to say when he’s cost the Maryland farmers $22.5 million.
“This thing is all politics.”