Governor Signs Inlet Study, Drilling Bills

OCEAN CITY — Maryland Governor Larry Hogan this week signed into a law a handful of local impact bills including the state’s share for the proposed Inlet dredging study and protections against proposed offshore drilling.

Senate Bill 1260, sponsored by Senator Jim Mathias, provides the state’s share of the cost of a proposed study conducted by the federal Army Corps of Engineers to begin determining a long-term solution to the chronic shoaling issues in the Inlet.

Before any major investment in the Inlet is made, the Army Corps of Engineers wants to conduct a feasibility study to determine the most effective solution. The study comes with an estimated $1.2 million price tag, which will be shared by the federal, state and local government. The federal government would fund half, or $600,000. The remaining $600,000 would be funded by a combination of state and local sources including $300,000, or 50 percent from the state.

Hogan and state House and Senate leaders on Tuesday signed Senate Bill 1260 into law, providing the state’s requested share in the Inlet study.

The remaining $300,000 local share remains in question, however. Worcester County has committed to providing the $300,000 local share and has asked the town of Ocean City to contribute half of that amount. However, the county’s request thus far has largely fallen on deaf ears in Ocean City officials, who continue to contend the Inlet shoaling problem is largely a county issue.

Another bill signed into law by the governor this week addresses the ongoing battle against proposed offshore oil and gas drilling and exploration off Maryland’s Atlantic coast. In January, the Trump administration announced a plan to open roughly 90 percent of the nation’s coastline to potentially dangerous offshore drilling and exploration including three sales of offshore oil and gas leases off the coast of Ocean City to private sector interests beginning in 2020.

Mathias sponsored the Offshore Drilling Liability Act, which calls potential offshore drilling and exploration an “ultrahazardous and abnormally dangerous activity” and essentially establishes that a person or entity that causes an oil or gas spill while engaged in offshore drilling and exploration activity in strict liability for any and all injury, death and property damage.

Also introduced by Mathias was Senate Joint Resolution 11, which calls for strong and unequivocal opposition from the General Assembly to the proposed lease of offshore areas to drilling. Delegate Mary Beth Carozza introduced House Joint Resolution 13, which achieves the same desired results. Both joint resolutions were passed by their respective chambers and signed by Hogan Tuesday.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.