Oral Arguments Begin Today; Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition Says Case Shows Need for Greater Transparency

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 5, 2014

Contact: Dawn Stoltzfus, The Hatcher Group, 410 990 0284, 410 562 5655 (cell)

 

(Annapolis, MD) – A coalition of nonprofit organizations working to reduce pollution and increase transparency from the agricultural industry said they support arguments before the Maryland Court of Appeals today challenging a lower court decision that permanently prevents public access to agricultural pollution control information. The organizations also worry that the lower court’s broad ruling could threaten other citizen requests for public information, not related to agricultural pollution.

“Maryland’s public information act laws are intended to protect the public’s ‘right to know’ – not to shield any one industry from public disclosure,” said Joanna Diamond of Environment Maryland. “We hope that Maryland’s highest court will take a closer look at the law and rule on the side of open, transparent government.”

“Agriculture is the single, largest source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland waterways,” said Bob Gallagher of the West/Rhode Riverkeeper, Inc. “Without access to information on whether polluting manure is running off a farm field or being managed properly to keep our streams clean, local communities and citizens cannot be assured that our rivers are safe for drinking, swimming, and fishing.”

Most Maryland farms are required to follow pollution control plans that specify allowable amounts of manure, where stream buffers must be built and other actions necessary to prevent pollution. Inaccurate, outdated or noncompliant plans lead to unhealthy waters. Maryland denies public access to many of these plans, as well as to information about whether or not the plans are being followed.

In June 2013, the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) filed a petition in the Maryland Court of Appeals on behalf of several Maryland Waterkeeper groups, challenging a May 2, 2013 Court of Special Appeals ruling. The ruling resulted from a series of challenges to the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s denials of Public Information Act requests related to agricultural pollution control plans.

View the plaintiff’s legal case history and additional information at: http://www.environmentalintegrity.org/news_reports/documents/PressReleaseFINAL.pdf.

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The Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition is working to improve Maryland waterways and protect public health by reducing pollution, and increasing transparency and accountability, from agriculture and other associated sources of water degradation.

Anacostia Riverkeeper – Audubon Naturalist Society – Assateague Coastal Trust
Blue Water Baltimore – Chesapeake Climate Action Network – Clean Water Action
Common Cause Maryland – Environment Maryland – Food & Water Watch – League of Women Voters of Maryland – Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper
Maryland League of Conservation Voters – Maryland Pesticide Network – National Wildlife Federation, Mid-Atlantic Regional Center – Patuxent Riverkeeper
Potomac Riverkeeper – Sierra Club, Maryland Chapter – South River Federation
Waterkeepers Chesapeake – West/Rhode Riverkeeper

Download this press release (PDF)