This Week’s Headlines
New PMT regulations expected to be approved
By BRUCE HOTCHKISS
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (April 14, 2015) — New phosphorous management regulations are in a 30-day coment period in the General Assembly and, having already won the blessing environmental watchdog groups, are expected to sail through the legislative process.
The revised, new dictates, drafted by the Hogan administration, would authorize the immediate use of what is known as the Phosphorous Management Tool, offering a method for determining how much phosphorous is lurking in the soil of the Bay watershed and its potential of running into the Chespeake Bay.
The new regulations, as drafted by the Maryland Departnebtt of Agricukture, were published April; 3 The 30-day public comment period will end May 4.
The purpose of the regulations is to establish a multi-year process for farmers to transition from the Phosphorus Site Index to the Phosphorus Management Tool, which can better identify potential risk of phosphorus loss from farms.
“We appreciate the agriculture and environment communities collaborating on these phosphorus regulations,” said Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder. “The PMT reflects our best understanding, based on a national body of science, of how phosphorus moves from farm fields into our rivers and streams.”
The Hogan Administration and lawmakers, together with stakeholders from the agriculture and environment communities, reached consensus on the PMT regulations on March 18. The revised regs include two jet “enhancements.”
• Enact an immediate ban of additional phosphorus on soils highest in phosphorus. Upon adoption of the regulations, fields with a soil Fertility Index Value (FIV) of 500 or greater will be banned from receiving additional phosphorus until the PMT is fully implemented, currently scheduled for 2022; and
• Provide comprehensive information on soil phosphorus conditions statewide. Beginning in 2016 and every six years thereafter, soil test phosphorus data will be collected for all farms in Maryland subject to nutrient management plan requirements.
The proposal as published in the Register also includes two key changes that address concerns of legislators and the environmental community.
• The implementation schedule is more clearly defined and includes giving farmers no more than two, one-year extensions at set points. The new timeline also establishes 2024 as the deadline for full implementation.
• A new expert advisory committee will be formed to evaluate the infrastructure and capacity available to manage additional manure as farmers transition to the PMT. The advisory committee will make recommendations to the MDA secretary to provide any extensions and only if the infrastructure is not in place. The 20-member PMT Advisory Committee will be comprised of government, university, farmers, manure haulers, alternative use industries, biosolids, and environmental interests.
Within hours after MDA had released the new PMT provisions to the Register for publication, the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition, said it was “hoping the fourth time is a charm,” and welcomed the printing.
“Maryland pledged to start using the Phosphorus Management Tool in 2011. But although the tool is delayed, these revised regulations represent progress toward reducing pollution from agriculture — which we absolutely must do to protect the Chesapeake Bay and local waterways, as well as public health,” said Karla Raettig, executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and co-chairperson of the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition.
A statement released by the coalition said that the revised regulations “eliminate a significant loophole in the February 2015 draft regulations that advocates worried could have allowed for multiple delays, with no date certain for final implementation. They include a 2022 implementation date but still allow for up to two, one-year extensions.
“An advisory committee that will evaluate whether an extension is needed includes three environmental organizations and other state agencies. Advocates also applaud the (Hogan) administration’s ‘immediate ban of additional phosphorus on soils highest in phosphorus.’”
“We must ensure that these long-overdue regulations accomplish their purpose — to clean up our waters — and that they don’t get weakened or delayed in the months or years to come,” said Abel Russ, attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project.
“For too long, industrial farms have dumped excess animal waste onto oversaturated farm fields, compromising the health of our waters and our communities. We will be vigilant over the next seven years to ensure this science-based tool is working on the ground as intended.”