Md. rural officials, lawmakers threaten tax revolt, mass exodus over environmental plan

Kenneth Timmerman President, Foundation for Democracy in Iran
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Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is threatening to ram through a sweeping new land use plan that imposes an environmentalist agenda on the state’s sprawling rural populations — a move that could spark a tax revolt and mass exodus unless it is rewritten, county officials and state legislators told The Daily Caller on Monday.

O’Malley has indicated that he intends to impose what some lawmakers are calling a draconian new environmentalist agenda, known as “Plan Maryland,” through executive order and regulation, rather than through the state legislature, even though his fellow Democrats dominate both chambers.

Plan Maryland’s expensive new mandates for rural home builders will make new residences prohibitively expensive. O’Malley also intends to withhold state funds from new road projects and even new sewage systems if they are proposed outside the “smart growth” boundaries designated by his state planning board.

“As rural legislators and county commissioners, we will do everything we can to stop it through legislative means,” Delegate Kathy Afzali, a Republican from Frederick County told TheDC.

“But if we can’t stop it, we are going to push back. We are going to tell the governor quite simply, we won’t pay for it,” she added. “People are calling for absolute disobedience. We’re not going to take it lying down.”

Republicans often call Maryland a “one-party state” because Democrats control all the levers of power. Democrats can achieve just about anything they want through the state legislature, and count on a Democratic governor to sign it into law.

But there have been limits in the past. During the most recent legislative session, for example, a highly touted bill to legalize same-sex marriage went down in flames after black Democrats balked at the last minute on moral and religious grounds.

Republican opponents of Plan Maryland are hoping O’Malley will take another look at the underlying assumptions of his “smart growth” blueprint. At a conference Monday afternoon in a suburb of Baltimore, they marshaled a host of U.S. and international experts to present data disproving the underlying assumptions of the plan, many of which were rooted in global warming orthodoxy.

The assembled experts argued that the first to suffer from Plan Maryland would be the underprivileged, primarily the urban poor and the aspiring middle class who would see housing prices shoot through the roof.

Representatives from 16 of Maryland’s 24 counties attended Monday’s session.

They were joined by state delegates, state senators, and the head of the state planning commission.

“We believe the issues we have raised here today are legitimate, and that reasonable people would agree that we have impeached the basic premises of the plan,” said Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild, the conference organizer.

“If the premises of the plan are false, the policies derived from those premises are false and the plan cannot promote the general welfare and therefore should not be signed by the Governor,” Rothschild said. “Therefore, we are asking the Governor to reconsider.”

If the plan goes through, he argued, “ironically those who will be hurt the most will probably be the disadvantaged members of our community.”

Additionally, he said, many business owners have told him, “If this plan goes through, they are going to move out of the state. They are afraid of it … because of extensive government overreach. We are scared.”

Lord Christopher Mockton, a former science adviser to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, presented an economic analysis of Plan Maryland — an analysis that he purposely based on flawed data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the much-criticized international panel of scientists whose leaked email exchanges discussing the need to doctor their raw data became known as “Climategate.”

“How much warming will Plan Maryland abate, and how much will it cost? They don’t say — and I’m going to show you why,” Lord Mockton said.

Even using the “flawed and one-sided” data from the IPCC, Lord Mockton found that it would cost 1884 times as much to shut down carbon-producing activity in Maryland over the next fifty years as it would to sit back and do nothing, only later mitigating the most catastrophic effects of global warming the IPCC is predicting.

“In less than 40 years from now, 90 percent of all economic activity in Maryland is to be shut down. That is in their proposal,” he said.

He based that calculation on Plan Maryland’s requirement that greenhouse gas emissions drop by 2050 to 90 percent below their 2006 levels, without any provision for building new power generating capacity.

Lord Monckton also presented complex data gathered by new weather satellites debunking the idea that the earth’s seas will rise by several feet over the next hundred years, as Plan Maryland claims.

Overall, he said, Plan Maryland amounted to “gesture politics.”

One of the plan’s most controversial measures is a dramatic reduction in the use of septic sewage systems throughout rural Maryland.

But county commissioner Richard Rothschild argued that septic tanks return filtered wastewater to the water table, and are more sustainable than sewage systems that deplete water underground.

“In rural counties, we feel we have a giant target painted on our backs,” Delegate Kelly Schulz, a newly-elected Republican from Frederick County, told TheDC.

Plan Maryland will require Frederick County to spend $2.3 billion to retrofit its storm drain system so it meets new standards issued by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. “When we asked the state how we were to pay for this, they told us we just had to raise county taxes,” Schulz said.

“This isn’t just a question of smart growth. Plan Maryland hits the core fabric of who we are as a community,” she said.

State Planning Commissioner Richard E. Hall showed up for the final session of the day, but refused to respond to critics’ concerns about Plan Maryland’s underlying global warming assumptions.

Hall tried to downplay the impact of the new regulations. “The Plan does not give us any powers we do not already have,” he said. “It’s a playbook, a game plan, to coordinate existing programs for land use.”