This week, I decided to live-tweet a meeting I was covering — meaning that I was posting quick updates on Twitter during the event.
Twitter, for the uninitiated, is an online communications service where users post updates or messages that are no longer than 140 characters. Some call this “micro-blogging.”
At any rate, I didn’t plan in advance to do it. But it was something to keep me engaged as the meeting wore on and on. And on and on.
The meeting covered a controversial and complex topic: stormwater regulations.
The short summary for you, dear reader, is that developers are soon going to be required to do more to control stormwater pollution on their projects. The question is who should have to follow the new rules and when.
The meeting ended up stretching three hours and I had way more material than I could ever dream of using in my article for the next day. As such, I felt useful posting the mini-updates about the meeting — at least the quotes and information I was collecting were read by a few people. (Usually excess material that doesn’t make the final story never sees the light of day.)
I know at least a few people were following my tweets, mostly environmental activists who were keenly interested in the outcome of the meeting and who like the political minutiae.
So just for fun, I’m including my tweets from the meeting, followed by the story that was published in the newspaper. Even if you don’t know the players and the details of the debate, I think the tweets provide a glimpse into the sharply divided opinions on the topic. (Plus, you can make fun of my spelling and grammatical errors.)
First, the tweets:
- Packed house for hearing on #stormwater regs. #chesbay #mdpolitics
- MDE secy Wilson defending revised #stormwater rules, in response to pointed questions from Pinsky #chesbay#mdpolitics
- Now local govts are up, including Balto Co Exec Jim Smith. They are in favor of revised #stormwater regs. #chesbay#mdpolitics
- Smith: 80% of Baltimore Co developed before enviro/stormwater rules. Existing devpt is the bigger problem. #chesbay#mdpolitics
- Harford, Howard and Queen Anne’s also in favor of revised stormwater regs. Now to opponents #chesbay #mdpolitics
- Green Building Institue guy says he’s working on a project that will have negative SW dischrage #chesbay #mdpolitics
- CBF and 1000 Friends of MD in favor of revised SW regs #chesbay #mdpolitics
- K Coble, CBF: grandfathering will be ended in 2017, that is a good feature of revised SW regs #chesbay #mdpolitics
- Heavner, Environment MD: “we think it’s a step backward for the Chesapeake Bay”
- Md Municipal League in favor of revised SW regs #chesbay #mdpolitics “our concern has always been implementation”
- Senators and delegates are not asking questions of opponents or proponents of SW regs revisions. Interesting. #chesbay #mdpolitics
- Kensington mayor: SW regs could “make or break” vital redevelopment projects. Supports revised regs. #chesbay#mdpolitics
- Pinsky: some delegates & senators are coming and going due to JPR voting and budget conference cmte. #chesbay#mdpolitics.
- Current panel opposes revised regs due to public health concerns. Bernie Voith showed photo of his infected leg. #chesbay #mdpolitics
- Del Holmes just called Pinsky “Madame chair” –ooops! #chesbay #mdpolitics
- Now developers are up. Michael Powell is their lobbyist. #chesbay #mdpolitics
- Eliot Powell, homebuilders assn: “it’s not all black and white, there’s a lot of gray out there” #chesbay #mdpolitics
- Frmr. State sen Gerald Winegrad (oponent) says feels like he’s ata funeral for the #chesbay #mdpolitics
- Notable split from MACo?? PG council chairman Tom Dernoga is against revised SW regs. #chesbay #mdpolitics
- Heavy hitter up for opponents: former US Sen Joe Tydings #chesbay #mdpolitics
- Winegrad: CBF and 1000 Friends made a “bad mistake” in agreeing to stormwater compromise #chesbay #mdpolitics
- Pinsky allowing members to vote on paper now if they have to leave. We are on last panel. (developers=proponents) #chesbay #mdpolitics
- Last panel wrapping up, only about 9 senators/delegates left. Several have voted. (committee is appx 20? members) #chesbay #mdpolitics
- Few more ppl to testify before #stormwater vote. #chesbay #mdpolitics
- This is never going to end. More developers up now. 2 hrs 40 minutes is a lot of #stormwater. #chesbay #mdpolitics
- Pinsky calls last panel, says we are in homestretch. #chesbay #mdpolitics
- Pinsky said they’ll call JPR to let the three AELR members over there know when #stormwater vote will happen. #chesbay #mdpolitics
- Revised regs on stormwater pass
- Vote is not officially concluded, but the revised regs pass. #stormwater #chesbay #mdpolitics
And now the article:
Vote ends messy stormwater debate
Fewer projects to be subject to tougher pollution rules
The messy debate over stormwater pollution in Annapolis is resolved – for now.
A joint Senate-House of Delegates committee yesterday approved changes to stormwater pollution rules that will go into effect for construction sites beginning in May.
The result is that the tougher new rules will apply to fewer projects due to expanded grandfathering and waiver provisions.
The vote of the Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review Committee came at the end of a packed three-hour hearing.
Stormwater has been the most contentious issue during this session of the General Assembly. Environmentalists, politicians, lobbyists and developers have been going back and forth over the new rules for weeks.
Few people on either side of the debate were pleased after the hearing. Those who supported the changes seemed relieved to have the decision done, while those who opposed the changes were disappointed with the outcome.
In testimony before the vote, state Environment Secretary Shari T. Wilson said that even the revised stormwater rules – which go into effect May 4 – will be a big benefit for the Chesapeake Bay.
“In 30 days, Maryland is going to be a national leader on stormwater,” she said.
The new rules require projects to use what’s called “environmental site design,” which involves designing ways to allow rainwater to percolate into the ground instead of running off into the streets or giant stormwater ponds.
Poorly controlled and un-treated stormwater is a major source of nitrogen and sediment pollution in the streams and rivers that flow into the Chesapeake Bay. And according to state and federal environmental officials, it is the only major pollution source that is increasing.
State lawmakers passed a law back in 2007 requiring the new, stricter rules, and it took a few years for the Maryland Department of the Environment to work up the details in the form of administrative regulations.
But as the May 4 deadline approached, many developers and local government officials raised concerns that complying with the rules would be expensive and complicated, especially for urban revitalization projects.
Ultimately, a compromise was forged behind closed doors that largely keeps the rules intact but allows more projects that are “in the pipeline” to follow the old rules instead of the new ones.
Some environmental groups supported the compromise, while others didn’t – a rare rift in the environmental advocacy community.
With last night’s vote, potentially 1,000 to 1,500 projects could now be allowed to follow the old stormwater rules, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment.
It remains unclear how many lots or how many acres of land would be affected.
After the hearing, state Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George’s and co-chairman of the committee, was clearly frustrated. Among the 20 committee members, he cast one of just three votes against the changes to the rules.
“I think it’s bad public policy,” he said.
Pinsky echoed comments from opponents that the Chesapeake Bay is dying a death by 1,000 cuts. “Is it the worst one? No. But it’s symptomatic,” he said.
According to news reports, Pinsky considered preventing the revised rules from being approved by his committee. So, lawmakers who favored the compromise version of the rules pushed a bill forward in the General Assembly instead. Pinsky ultimately relented and allowed the hearing and vote.
The AELR committee reviews and approves all kinds of administrative regulations, but few draw as much attention and scrutiny as the stormwater rules. The meeting room was packed with a standing-room-only crowd and about 40 people testified for or against the changes.
Published 04/07/10, Copyright © 2010 The Capital, Annapolis, Md.