By a vote of 89-48, the Senate concurred this morning on relatively minor House amendments to the Bay Restoration Fund bill, HB446, which would increase from $2.50 to $5 monthly the charge levied on most Maryland households and businesses to pay for upgrading the state's largest wastewater treatement plants.
The Senate also concurred by 32-15 in House tinkering with the septic bill, SB236, known officially as the Sustainable Growth and Preservation Act. The bill would require restrict large-scale development on septic systems in rural areas designated for farmland preservation, though it was softened to overcome local officials' objections.
Other major environmental bills remain in limbo, with time running out to act on them, notably O'Malley's proposal to encourage construction of wind turbines off Ocean City, HB441. The House passed the bill by a wide margin, 88-47, on March 27, but the Senate Finance Committee has yet to vote on it, as it reportedly lacks the six votes needed to send it to the floor.
"There's still hope," said Sen. Thomas M. Middleton, D-Charles, the committee's chairman. He said he's still trying to win over one of the opposing members of his panel, whom he wouldn't name.
Also hung up is a measure intended to pay for a state study of environmental impacts of drilling for natural gas in western Maryland using a controversial hydraulic fracturing technique. HB1204, which would have requird gas companies to pay a per-acre fee on all the land they've leased in Garrett and Allegany counties passed the House, but has yet to be voted out of committee. A related measure, HB907, which would levy a state severance tax on gas extraction also is languishing in the Senate after passing the House.