Moore, Fernandes hail final enactment of phosphorus reduction
Legislation to help businesses and environment on way to Governor
August 24, 2012 ... A bill sponsored by Sen. Richard T. Moore, D-Uxbridge, and Rep. John V. Fernandes, D-Milford, that will reduce phosphorus runoff into the Charles River and other main waterways across the state cleared the last legislative hurdle today and is on its way to the Governor's desk. The legislation, which received broad support from a diverse group of stakeholders, is expected to support the environment while realizing millions in savings associated with stormwater runoff expenses for businesses and municipalities.
"Rep. Fernandes and I have worked very hard to move this bill through the Legislature because it will significantly improve the water quality in our rivers and save millions of dollars for families, businesses and communities in our Milford, Bellingham, Franklin region and across the state. This bill should reduce the cost of compliance with federal storm water runoff regulations by at least thirty percent," explained Sen. Moore.
Rep. Fernandes called passage of the bill a major victory for businesses, municipalities and environmentalist alike. "This legislation was written to prove to the EPA that there are cheaper alternative ways to achieve the common goal of a clean Charles River, alternatives that can save towns and businesses along the Charles River tens of millions of dollars the EPA would otherwise have required be spent," he said.
Fernandes and Moore personally coordinated a two year effort by a diverse work group of stakeholders who agreed to support a final bill that provides for a balanced approach to solving the problem of fertilizer nutrients choking our rivers and streams. "It was gratifying to successfully bring together this diverse group of environmentalists, municipalities and business leaders, retailers, manufactures and landscape companies to find common ground on how to improve the environment and help towns without hurting the fertilizer or landscape industry. This legislation will save taxpayer money and improve the environment at the same time," Fernandes stated.
The phosphorus reduction legislation largely restricts the use of fertilizer products containing phosphorus in areas that are most likely to cause environmental degradation due to runoff, and also creates civil penalties for violations of the law. Under the bill, retailers selling phosphorous containing fertilizer must sell product separate from non-phosphorus fertilizer and post signage indicating the rules.
Excepted from the provisions are individuals and businesses who apply phosphorus containing fertilizer to areas when a soil test indicates that additional phosphorus is needed for growth, or the phosphorus fertilizer is confirmed to be used for establishing a new lawn or non-agricultural turf area.
In addition to the decrease in water quality associated with phosphorus runoff, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is pursuing a mandatory reduction in such runoff by each city and town along the Charles River. A pilot program is already slated for Milford, Bellingham and Franklin, which has been estimated to cost businesses and municipalities tens of millions of dollars.
The EPA has since embraced the bill filed by the region's legislators which will enable it to reduce the target mandates for runoff of phosphorus into the Charles River, resulting in millions of dollars being avoided in stormwater runoff containment costs.
Throughout the legislative process, the effort received support from Sens. Steven M. Brewer, D-Barre, Karen E. Spilka, D-Ashland, and Rep. George Peterson, R-Grafton, along with other legislators who co-sponsored the original bill.
Upon final passage, Sen. Moore and Rep. Fernandes recognized the broad consensus that was achieved by various stakeholders including the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA), Mass Audubon, and the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP). The legislators also credited the 495/Metrowest Partnership who, through Deputy Director of Public Policy & Public Affairs, coordinated several meetings between special interests, helped with drafting compromise language, and worked tirelessly with legislative leaders and bill sponsors to maintain the movement of the legislation.
The bill now goes to the Governor for his approbation and signature of approval. If signed, the law will take effect on January 1, 2014.