House panel rejects Ehrlich plan on voluntary funding to aid bay

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. absorbed his first legislative loss of this year's General Assembly session as a House committee rejected his proposal to set up a voluntary funding program for restoration of the Chesapeake Bay.

The House Environmental Matters Committee's rejection of the bill came as the panel approved another item on Ehrlich's legislative agenda - a measure streamlining the state's "brownfields" program for reclaiming contaminated industrial sites.


That legislation, which has broad support from environmentalists and industry, goes to the House floor.

In contrast, Ehrlich's proposed Chesapeake Bay Recovery Fund was opposed by several leading environmental groups.


Opponents expressed concern that the voluntary fund, which would have financed some of the administration's priorities for cleaning up the bay, could be used as a means for special interests to curry favor with the governor.

Some critics also expressed the fear that the fund would compete with environmental groups for scarce dollars.

Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell called the 10-11 vote in the committee "a loss for the Chesapeake Bay."

"Governor Ehrlich put together a sensible plan to help clean up the bay, and the legislature decided to kill it - as simple as that," Fawell said.