EPA leader outlines plan to clean up bay


In what could become a long line of federal officials who come to Maryland to highlight the president's proposals alongside a Republican governor, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency landed in Annapolis yesterday to discuss environmental initiatives.

EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman sat with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. as she spoke about President Bush's proposals to curb childhood asthma and clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

Two weeks ago, President Bush joined Ehrlich and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele at a Prince George's County church in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

Whitman and Ehrlich spoke about provisions in Bush's fiscal year 2004 budget aimed at cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.

The president has earmarked $20.77 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program, a partnership among the federal government and Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia to clean up the bay.

"It's a robust budget for the bay," Whitman said, noting it was the largest request for the program since 1995.

She also spoke about Bush's Clear Skies initiative, which Whitman said would lead to fewer pollutants in the bay.

The Clear Skies program seeks national caps on power plant emissions such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury.

Whitman said that nationwide, sulfur dioxide eventually would be reduced by 92 percent, mercury by 85 percent, and nitrogen oxide by 80 percent.

In Maryland, nitrogen - a major source of pollution for the bay - would be reduced by up to 30 percent, Whitman said.

But Theresa Pierno, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, who attended the ceremony, said she remains skeptical of the administration's environmental priorities.

"We do see large gaps in the president's budget that are critical if we are going to clean up the bay," Pierno said.

Ehrlich also mentioned his environmental priorities, including his proposal to upgrade the state's wastewater treatment plants so pollutants don't leak into the bay.

The governor praised Bush's environmental policy and vowed to work closely with the administration.

"Administrator Whitman's presence demonstrates the administration's commitment to protecting our environment," Ehrlich said.

Whitman also spoke about several initiatives aimed at combating childhood asthma.

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