Above: Del. Liz Bobo and Attorney General-elect Brian Frosh
By Len Lazarick
The annual awards ceremony by Maryland’s environmental community was tinged with trepidation Tuesday night as they worried about what was in store from the new Republican governor.
“These are uncertain times,” said Marcia Verploegen Lewis, board chair of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, which puts on the awards dinner. “We need to protect the regulations we have in place” and “maintain our legacy programs.”
“We must have resolve,” Karla Raettig, the league’s executive director told the dinner crowd of about 300 in Annapolis. “We’re going to stand together and protect our programs.”
Will Hogan be like Ehrlich?
Gov.-elect Larry Hogan Jr. took few detailed positions on environmental policy during the campaign, but he has emphasized getting Pennsylvania and New York to pay their fair share to clean up Chesapeake Bay pollution caused by the Susquehana River watershed. Hogan has criticized policies such as the “rain tax” that push too much of the costs of bay cleanup onto Maryland taxpayers.
A subtle reminder of what happened under the last Republican governor, Bob Ehrlich, was a lifetime achievement award to Verna Harrison, retiring executive director of the Campbell Foundation. Before that job, she spent 20 years as assistant secretary of natural resources in Maryland, but was asked to leave on the first day of the Ehrlich administration.
The award to Harrison was presented by John Griffin, Gov. Martin O’Malley’s chief of staff and former secretary of natural resources.
“We’re going to get through these choppy waters,” Harrison said.
One of the louder applause lines Tuesday evening was for O’Malley’s executive order last week to mandate “phosphorus management tools” that will restrict the use of the abundant chicken manure by farmers as fertilizer on the Eastern Shore.
The regulations will go into effect just before Hogan’s inauguration, and it is not clear what he could do about them afterward.
Awards to Bobo, Hubbard, Eastman and Davis
Other lifetime achievement awards went to two retiring members of the House of Delegates with long environmental records, Liz Bobo of Columbia and James Hubbard of Bowie.
Bobo was introduced by Attorney General-elect Brian Frosh, the Montgomery County senator who had received the league’s top honor in 2003.
Bobo “was for smart growth before it was called smart growth,” Frosh said. He was referring to Bobo’s time as Howard County executive, and the environmental regulations she implemented that may have cost her reelection, Frosh said. “She is fearless, she is tough.”
Bobo, a 20-year veteran known for her liberal positions and her large laugh, took a conciliatory tone.
She urged the audience to “respect each other,” including people who “say all kinds of outrageous things” even though “we may be tempted to call them stupid.”
Hubbard noted that he had only missed one vote in the League of Conservation Voters annual scorecard during his years as a delegate.
He observed that “bad bills go through in 90 days, good bills take three or four years.”
The league gave its top honor, the John V. Kabler Award, to two of its founders 35 years ago, Ajax Eastman of Baltimore and Nancy Davis of Columbia, both longtime advocates for environmental legislation at the State House.