BALTIMORE—The Maryland Department of the Environment will have fewer dollars to clean up illegal tire piles starting July 1, which actually is good news for the department. The state almost had no funding at all. Legislators voted to continue funding for Maryland's Used Tire Cleanup and Recycling Fund in the final 10 minutes of the legislative session, said Michael Kress, president of the Maryland Tire Dealers Association.
"It was right down to the wire," said Abigail Pascual, environmental specialist for the department's recycling systems section. "We were all sitting on pins and needles. We're really happy we got the fee back. Of course we would've loved a dollar."
The legislation calls for a recycling fee of 40 cents per tire sold starting July 1, 60 cents lower than the current fee of $1 per tire that was set in 1991.
The new funding will bring in $2 million per year for licensing of scrap tire processors and enforcement and cleanup of illegal tire dumps. The new legislation sunsets in 2004. The state already has cleaned up 7.1 million tires since the program started in 1991, according to Ms. Pascual.
"We've pretty much gotten rid of the huge piles," she said. "We're working diligently to get them all."
The new fee should generate enough money for the state to continue its efforts, she said. Under the old law, money from the fund was available to other programs. The funds are available to the scrap tire program only.
"They listened to us, they listened to the department, they listened to the environmentalists, and we ended up with something we could all live with and work with," Mr. Kress said.
Under the new legislation, the Department of the Environment agreed to resurrect a study group to come up with a better system of dealing with recovered tires. The department will present its findings to the General Assembly by Dec. 1, Mr. Kress said.
"We're looking forward to being able to put together some recommendations and some programs that will actually put in place a permanent solution to the problem," he said.