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Hogan misses Republican dad's lesson on pollution

Msryland Governor-elect Larry Hogan, left, a Republican, kisses his father Lawrence Hogan Sr. during his victory party.
Msryland Governor-elect Larry Hogan, left, a Republican, kisses his father Lawrence Hogan Sr. during his victory party. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun)

Early in his inaugural address last week, Maryland's new Republican governor invoked his father, Lawrence J. Hogan Sr., and the lesson the one-time congressman taught his son about "putting aside partisanship in order to do the right thing."

A member of the House of Representatives from 1969 until 1975, the senior Hogan became the first Republican to come out for the impeachment of the Republican president, Richard Nixon, for his role in the Watergate coverup.

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"He put aside party politics and his own personal considerations in order to do the right thing for the nation," Gov. Larry Hogan said of his dad. "He taught me more about integrity in one day than most men learn in a lifetime, and I am so proud to be his son."

It's an impressive story, and a sincere and great tribute.

But I wonder: What did the son learn from the father about clean water?

When the elder Hogan represented Maryland's 5th Congressional District, he voted in favor of the 1972 Clean Water Act, one of the most important environmental laws in the nation. In so doing, then-Rep. Hogan voted against his president.

Nixon might have established the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, but two years later, he opposed the $24.6 billion Clean Water Act as too costly.

However, on Oct. 18, 1972, both the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to override Nixon's veto. Maryland's two Republican senators, Mac Mathias and Glenn Beall, voted with the majority. So did two of the Republican congressmen, Gilbert Gude and Lawrence J. Hogan Sr.

They put aside party politics and personal considerations in order to do the right thing for the nation.

Which gets me back to our new governor and the father whose example inspires him.

Forty-three years ago, the father voted for clean water.

The son, as governor of Maryland — so far, not so much.

Last week, Larry Hogan did the state's poultry industry a big favor by withdrawing new rules, years in the making and informed by science, to reduce the amount of pollution from chicken manure seeping from farm fields into tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. The manure is rich in phosphorus, one of the nutrients that causes algae blooms and dead zones in the bay. The rules were designed to prevent farmers from spreading chicken manure on fields already saturated with the stuff. They were developed to meet Maryland's obligations to reduce pollutants under the Clean Water Act.

As a candidate for governor, Hogan bad-mouthed another state effort to comply with the Clean Water Act — the reduction of stormwater runoff, another source of pollution of the Chesapeake Bay.

Hogan has ridiculed the program as a "rain tax" — use of that disingenuous term is required of Republicans — and vowed to repeal it. Some local officials have been hacking away at the effort, too.

In Harford County, for instance, the new executive, Barry Glassman, also a Republican, got the County Council to repeal Harford's annual $12.50-per-household stormwater fee. "While the rain will no longer be taxed in Harford County, I look forward to working with [Governor] Hogan and the Maryland General Assembly to find common-sense solutions that help protect the Chesapeake Bay," Glassman said.

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I'm sure he's eager to get out there and build rain gardens.

Can $12.50 a year really be a burden on homeowners? I doubt that Glassman believes that. So if it's not the money, then it must be the principle: That government should not require us to pay more than we already do to solve a problem.

Or maybe Republicans don't see a problem. Maybe they regard stormwater as just "dirty water," a natural phenomenon that God created along with impervious surfaces and lawn fertilizer.

I know: These guys are conservative, and they need to make sure we all know it. But conservatives should be about conservation, and they once were.

There are a lot of theories about the Republican shift on the environment. Here's part of it: As Democrats in the Clinton era moved closer to the center, appropriating Republican causes such as welfare reform and deregulation of the financial sector, Republicans had an identity crisis and pushed further to the right for definition. That move away from the compromising middle crowded out a lot of the moderates who, among other things, supported environmental protection.

Larry Hogan's father was in that crowd.

So were Mathias and Beall. So were the first EPA administrators — William Ruckelshaus and Russell Train — and the founder of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Arthur Sherwood. Pennsylvania had a governor, Dick Thornburgh, who helped establish the multistate bay restoration effort in the 1980s. They were all Republicans who knew how to "put aside partisanship in order to do the right thing."

Larry Hogan should do the same. Instead of grandstanding on manure regulation and the "rain tax," he could be the Republican who finally makes progress on the stalled Chesapeake Bay restoration. What a great way to honor his father.

Dan Rodricks' column appears each Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. He is the host of "Midday" on WYPR-FM.

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