BALTIMORE, MD (February 7, 2006) – Residents in a section of Easton will have a more structured approach to address environmental concerns in their community, Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick said in announcing the state’s latest Environmental Benefits Districts (EBD). Easton’s Ward IV was selected by MDE as an EBD after local officials filed an application in September 2005.
“Environmental Benefits Districts are an example of proactive government on behalf of communities,” said MDE Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick. “An EBD brings together government and stakeholders – citizens and business, for example. It identifies the range of issues that need to be addressed and focuses financial, technical, regulatory, administrative and policy resources to solve problems.”
Ten neighborhoods in the Monroe-Fulton corridor including Washington Village were also selected as an EBD this year. In 2004 MDE designated its first EBDs--in portions of central Prince George’s County and eastern Baltimore City. Since that time, MDE has infused a variety of program resources into those districts, including grant funding of nearly $1 million, to improve conditions in those areas.
Easton leaders identified elevated blood lead levels, high asthma rates, high incidences of autoimmune diseases, specifically sarcadosis, contaminated sludge and fumes from farmland among their concerns. Easton Mayor Robert C. Willey is hopeful that flooding related to stormwater runoff can be addressed under the initiative. “Assistance from the EBD program would go a long way towards making the necessary repairs a reality,” he said.
“I am delighted that Easton, especially Ward IV, has been designated an Environmental Benefits District,” added Easton Town Council member Moonyene Jackson Amis. “This designation will raise awareness of serious environmental hazards in our backyards that disproportionately harm the most vulnerable in our community. This designation moves Easton farther along the continuum in alleviating these hazardous conditions and their effects. State funding will be made available to assist us in clean ups improving the quality of life for all our citizens.”
An EBD can be a single town, several communities, or a region (of a county, for instance). Working with one or more state agencies (as well as local agencies), the district would identify problems that need to be addressed, whether local health issues, a lack of economic development, the existence of brownfield sites or decaying infrastructure. The lead state agency works with other agencies to identify programs that could help solve the district’s problems.
“This is a way for government to be proactive in helping communities identify problems and find solutions, rather than leaving it to citizens to figure out who to call,” Secretary Philbrick added. “It is also a way to make sure that government sets its priorities wisely and uses its resources efficiently.”
For more information on MDE’s EBD program contact Dorothy Morrison at (410) 537-3086 or via e-mail at:firstname.lastname@example.org
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