Gansler ad touts his record on environment, but claims are overstated

A 30-second TV spot by Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler touts his record enforcing environmental laws, vowing that if he's elected governor he'll continue to fight for clean air and a clean Chesapeake Bay.

What the ad says: The spot opens with Gansler standing in front of a pair of smokestacks. He says as attorney general, he has forced utilities to install more than $4 billion in pollution controls. He then says he wants to "take on polluters" to save the bay and contends that Maryland currently "protects" companies that dump waste into the bay, keeping their identities secret. "Polluters bought that loophole," he says, and vows as governor to take them on.

The facts: The ad overstates Gansler's role in getting the pollution controls. An Ohio-based power company agreed in 2007 to install them on 16 coal-burning power plants in five states west of Maryland. The lawsuit that led to that agreement was filed in 1999 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Gansler and seven other state attorneys general joined the case later. The secrecy "loophole" Gansler refers to applies not to industrial companies but to farms. It is a provision in a 1998 law that bars disclosure of the plans farmers must submit for limiting how much polluting fertilizer washes off their fields into the bay. The state granted farmers confidentiality in hopes they would be more willing to comply with the anti-pollution measure.

Analysis: Gansler is appealing to environmentally oriented Democrats in the June 24 primary with an ad that buffs his record on the two issues he mentions. He not only overstates his role in the air pollution lawsuit, he pledges a fight to open up farm records that he's mostly declined to pursue as attorney general. Though he's repeatedly criticized the non-disclosure provision in the farm pollution law, he made only one attempt six years ago to get it changed. Only one environmental group has so far endorsed a candidate in the governor's race — the Sierra Club backed one of Gansler's rivals, Del. Heather Mizeur.


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