ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A Senate committee voted Friday to establish deadlines for fertilizer regulations — an issue of concern for both farmers and for environmentalists who are concerned about pollution.

Sen. Paul Pinsky, the legislation’s lead sponsor, said the stripped-down legislation is intended to set a hard deadline while also giving Gov. Larry Hogan the flexibility he needs for his administration to work out a plan to cut phosphorous pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

“All this bill does, it actually gives them flexibility. I’m not telling them step by step what to do,” he said.

In late February, Hogan introduced his Maryland Agriculture Phosphorous Initiative, which he said built on his predecessor Martin O’Malley’s proposed regulations, but pushed back the seven-year implementation schedule by one year.

Farmers have expressed concern that the proposed regulations would hurt their business.

Environmentalists stress that the pollution causes algae blooms in the Bay, which harm aquatic plants and animals.

Sen. Paul Pinsky, the legislation’s lead sponsor, defended the change, saying the stripped down legislation is intended to set a hard deadline while also giving Gov. Larry Hogan the flexibility he needs for his administration to work out a plan to cut phosphorous pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

“All this bill does, it actually gives them flexibility. I’m not telling them step by step what to do,” he said.

In late February Hogan introduced his Maryland Agriculture Phosphorous Initiative, which he said built on his predecessor Martin O’Malley’s proposed regulations, but pushed back the seven-year implementation schedule by one year.

Critics of Hogan’s initiative said they worried about the vague implementation deadline, something Pinsky echoed on Friday.

Hogan’s initiative would provide a tiered system for farms to build up the necessary infrastructure and resources to meet the phosphorous management requirements, but those bars would only be raised once a farm met the prior goal.

The result, Pinsky said, would be to continue kicking the can down the road.

But Republican committee members bristled at the idea of putting pressure on the governor so soon in his term.

“This governor has been in office two months,” said Sen. Gail Bates of Carroll County. “We had eight years of the previous governor who dragged his feet, and I don’t recall any pressure.”

The bill now heads to the Senate floor.

(Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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