California Padre Dam Demonstration Facility Looks to Recycle Wastewater Into Drinking Water

An April 22 Sustainable City Network article reported on the efforts of the Padre Dam Municipal Water District, located in San Diego’s east county in California, to recycle wastewater into drinkable water.  If fully implemented, the water recycling facility could increase the region’s practical water supply by 20 percent. The article explored the technical process used by the Water District in building and purifying wastewater:

The Padre Dam Advanced Water Purification Demonstration Facility in Santee, Calif., is expected to produce approximately 100,000 gallons of purified water every day, but it won’t be put into the drinking water system just yet.

“The demonstration facility is treating water to prove to California regulators that Padre Dam has the ability to produce and treat this kind of water,” said Melissa McChesney, the dam’s communications officer, adding that the facility will do this using a four-step process that includes free chlorine disinfection, membrane filtration, reverse osmosis and advanced oxidation.

The fourth step should give the facility additional credits for removing more constituents from the water, with the goal of shortening the environmental buffer time – or the amount of time the treated water needs to sit in the Padre Dam aquifer before being reused as potable water.

The article also noted the importance of public outreach for such a project:

“This is just as much an engineering project as it is a communication project,” said Albert Lau, Padre Dam director of Engineering. “We have to communicate to the general public about the technology and about the benefit of reusing that water. Once we explain to them and educate them about the process, they get excited about it.”

While the Padre Dam Demonstration Facility is in response to California’s ongoing severe droughts and water-poor desert location of Santee, such facilities are likely to become increasingly common throughout the United States as other states, including Maryland, begin to stress or fully allocate existing water supplies.

As other regions of the United States continue to struggle with drought conditions, Lau said projects like the one at Padre Dam will likely become more common. …

“I suspect we’ll probably get more interest from folks out of state,” he said, adding that tours of the demonstration facility are filling up quickly.

The prospect of being able to both conserve water and provide a more reliable supply are two of the most exciting aspects of the new project, McChesney added.

“We’ve never had an opportunity to provide a local water supply for our customers, and to be able to provide that reliability is fantastic,” she said.

 

Baltimore City Sustainability Commission Recommends “Smart Cans” & Developer Trash Plans To Combat Litter

An April 21 Baltimore Brew article reported that Baltimore City’s Sustainability Commission has developed a series of recommendations to address the City’s challenging litter and trash problem. The recommendations include:

  1. Increasing the number of “smart cans” given to residents;
  2. Increasing the number of “corner cans” on public streets;
  3. Require developers to create a trash plan for building sites that must be submitted for approval to the City’s planning department;
  4. Creating a “Clean Up Baltimore” Peer-to-Peer Network;
  5. Launching a new anti-littering media campaign on social media, buses, and trash cans;
  6. Supporting statewide legislation to create a bottle deposit program; and
  7. Developing a stronger litter, trash and dumping code enforcement process for the City.

From the article:

Currently operating in two Inner City neighborhoods, the [smart can] program gives residents a sturdy city-owned trash can, equipped with an attached lid and wheels to make it easy to move. The purpose of the cans is to reduce garbage and rat problems in communities where residents don’t use trash cans or can lids or don’t use them efficiently.

The new cans are equipped with a chip that the city can use to determine where the can belongs. Taking a can from a property is considered theft and may be subject to law enforcement action. …

Corner cans are somewhat controversial in Baltimore because the traditional municipal wide-mouthed trash receptacles are subject to misuse by those who stuff them with bags of household garbage.

Better designed narrow-rimed cans are less prone to abuse, and more efficient, but are also more expensive to purchase. …

Another proposal the commission supports is requiring developers to provide a trash plan for approval at site review meetings with the city Planning Department.

Maryland Reporter Summarizes Final Fate of Proposed Environmental Taxes in 2015 Session

An April 21 MarylandReporter.com article summarized the final fate of new taxes and fees, mainly in the environmental area, considered by the Maryland General Assembly during the 2015 Session:

Chicken Tax

The “Chicken Tax,” or “Bay Equity Tax,” proposed a five-cent fee on every chicken provided by poultry owners to farmers in the state, totaling an estimated $15 million annually. As proposed, the bill would have shifted bay restoration funding and resulted in a spending cut to cover crops and increased funding for septic upgrades. …

However, the House Environment and Transportation committee gave the bill an unfavorable report and it was withdrawn. …

Bag Tax

The “Bag Tax,” or the “Community Cleanup and Greening Act of 2015,” would ban plastic bags on “most retailers” statewide, with a 10-cent fee put on the sale of paper bags.

“It’s an elegantly simple idea…Over 180 municipalities around the country already do this,” said bill sponsor Del. Brooke Lierman, D-Baltimore City. “They recognize that we are spending millions in clean up costs, cleaning up litter all over our streets, our waterways and our playgrounds.” …

[The legislation] received an unfavorable report by the House Environment and Transportation committee. …

[Bottle Tax]

Also being held back by the Environment and Transportation committee was the “Bottle Tax,” or the “Maryland Redeemable Beverage Container and Litter Reduction Program,” which would create a committee to regulate a 5-cent tax on bottled beverages that could be redeemed if the bottle was returned.

Rain Tax, is it truly a repeal?

Also on the governor’s desk is the repeal of the 2012 Stormwater Remediation Fee, or more publicly known as the “rain-tax.”

“This bill is not perfect, but it does change ‘you shall charge a tax’ to ‘you may charge a tax’,” [Delegate and House Minority Whip Kathy] Szeliga said.

The Bottle Tax legislation was sent to summer study by the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. Lierman indicated that she plans to reintroduce the Bag Tax legislation next year.

The article also covered the failure of proposed $1 a pack increase on cigarettes (tobacco tax) and the passage of legislation modifying how the hotel tax applies to online travel sites.

Calvert County Considers Annual Stormwater Fee

An April 22 SoMdNews article reported that the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners is considering a proposal to implement an annual $25 fee on property owners to assist the County in meeting its stormwater pollution reduction goals that are mandated under the federal Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and Maryland’s Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP).  The proposed fee would generate approximately $750,000 a year.

While much recent news has focused on the “repeal” of the State-mandated stormwater remediation fee for large urban counties subject to a Phase I municipal separate storm sewer system permit, many counties must also confront significant stormwater runoff targets under the Bay TMDL and the WIP.  From the article:

Danielle Conrow, project engineer in the county Department of Public Works, presented to the commissioners April 14 the idea to implement a $25-per-year property owner fee that would begin to fund the county’s stormwater management plan.

“It’s our responsibility to make sure this program is in place,” said Rai Sharma, director of the Department of Public Works. …

Commissioners’ Vice President Evan Slaughenhoupt (R) asked if the county needs state approval to implement such a fee. If it is a regulatory fee imposed on all property owners, the county has the authority, said county attorney John Norris.

“It is not a rain tax,” Sharma said. …

Commissioner Tom Hejl (R) said he would rather spend some money now than get fined later for not meeting WIP goals.

“When the federal government fines, it’s no joke,” Hejl said.

The article noted that the commissioners have not yet made any decision regarding the fee.

 

Even After “Repeal” Stormwater Costs and Fees To Remain

Among the widely-hyped topics of the 2015 General Assembly session was the so-called “rain tax repeal,” nominally waiving state requirements that ten affected counties impose dedicated fees to target stormwater pollution problems.

The Sun writes of the expected follow-through for the year ahead by the affected counties – who all still bear massive responsibilities under federal stormwater permits, and who mostly will continue to levy fees dedicated to tackle these challenging requirements.

From the Sun:

While the General Assembly agreed to lift the demand that Baltimore and the nine largest counties charge the fees, state law still requires them to come up with the money for projects to safeguard and improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

Baltimore County cut its fees by a third. Two attempts to eliminate them in Anne Arundel County fell short. Howard County is waiting at least a year to make changes. And there’s been no move to make any changes in Baltimore City.

Carroll County instituted a $0 fee before the election. Officials there agreed to dedicate a portion of the county’s property tax revenue to stormwater cleanup projects.

Republicans who chafed at being told how to pay for stormwater projects can still claim a victory on principle. Baltimore and the counties still are required to restore streams, plant trees and do other work to fight the runoff of pollution to the bay. But now they can decide for themselves how to pay for it.

Read the full Sun coverage online.

Read MACo’s detailed coverage of the final bill: What’s In the Stormwater Fee Bill?

Sun & Times Editorials Offer Their Perspectives on Stormwater Fee “Repeal”

An April 15 Baltimore Sun editorial opined that the 2015 Session was actually a good session for the Chesapeake Bay, with most of the benefits centering around the so-called “repeal” of the 2012 stormwater remediation fee or “rain tax” mandate:

Here’s a sentence that nobody expected to be written this week: The 2015 legislative session turned out pretty well for the Chesapeake Bay and some other environmental causes. How that happened almost defies logic. …

No single piece of legislation proved as unexpectedly beneficial to the cause as the so-called “rain tax repeal” — a description that requires quotation marks because, frankly, not a single word within them is accurate.

First, there was never a tax on rain, and second, there was never a need for repeal as the counties involved already had the option of using other funds to pay for federally-mandated stormwater pollution reductions. But finally, and most astoundingly, the legislation actually strengthens the law. Strange but true: It now imposes stricter reporting requirements and greater accountability. Now there will be potential penalties if Baltimore and the nine counties fail to demonstrate how they can meet remediation goals.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation issued a statement this week calling the “repeal” a “major victory for the Chesapeake Bay.” That’s a pretty telling love letter coming from the advocacy group that pushed so hard for the “rain tax” in the first place.

An April 16 Carroll County Times editorial also stressed that the “repeal” bill only removes the stormwater fee mandate but not a county’s underlying need to pay for stormwater projects under the requirements of their federal stormwater permits:

In a nutshell: About the only thing that changed is that all the lawmakers who have been taking heat from people who bought in to the lie that rainfall on their property was being taxed can now point to their vote repealing the measure, even though the rain was never being taxed and local governments are still going to have to continue to pay for stormwater remediation projects. and now they have to submit a plan to the state telling them how they are going to do that.

So three cheers for the legislature. The rain tax is dead. Long live stormwater remediation fees.

 

EPA Seeking Public Comment on New Environmental Justice Strategic Plan

In an April 16 email, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking public comment on its proposed 2020 environmental justice strategic plan.  The comment period closes on June 15, 2015. From the email:

[EPA] is asking for public comment on the draft EJ 2020 Action Agenda (EJ 2020) framework, the EPA’s next overarching strategic plan for environmental justice.

EJ 2020 is a strategy to advance environmental justice through EPA’s programs, policies and activities, and will support the cross-agency strategy on making a visible difference in environmentally overburdened, underserved, and economically-distressed communities. Stakeholders and the general public can review the framework and submit comments, starting today through June 15, 2015, by visiting www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/ej2020

“EJ 2020 will build on the foundation established by EPA’s Plan EJ 2014, where we were able to improve on EJ in permitting, support community-based programs and develop science tools to access and facilitate grants,” said Mustafa Santiago Ali, Senior Advisor to Administrator Gina McCarthy on Environmental Justice. “Although we’ve made good progress, there’s still more to do. We need to strategically identify opportunities for targeted collaboration that benefit overburdened communities. Your voices, experiences and expertise can help shape a strategy that addresses the needs of your communities.” Read today’s blog for more about how EJ 20202 is about defining new goals for the coming years.

The goals of EJ 2020 are to:

  • Deepen environmental justice practice within EPA programs to improve the health and environment of overburdened communities;
  • Collaborate with partners to expand our impact within communities; and
  • Demonstrate progress on outcomes that matter to communities.

Under Plan EJ 2014, EPA laid a foundation for integrating environmental justice into all its programs, including rule-writing, permitting, enforcement, science and law. Plan EJ 2014 helped to build environmental justice into the agency’s regulatory practice, revitalized environmental justice planning across the federal family, and initiated the development of a cross-cutting Environmental Justice Research Roadmap. To learn more about the accomplishments under Plan EJ 2014, visit http://epa.gov/environmentaljustice/plan-ej/index.html

During the public comment period for EJ 2020, EPA will conduct informational and dialogue sessions with partners and stakeholder groups. Audiences are encouraged to participate in these sessions and request additional sessions if needed. For more information about EJ 2020, and to view a schedule of these sessions, visit http://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/ej2020.

Environmental justice is defined as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. EPA’s goal is to provide an environment where all people enjoy equal access to the environmental decision-making process to maintain a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work. EPA’s environmental justice work is an outgrowth of Executive Order 12898, signed by President Clinton in 1994, that requires federal agencies to address the disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of their programs on minority and low-income populations.

For more information about EPA’s environmental justice work, visit: http://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/

2015 End of Session Wrap Up: Environment

This post summarizes the status of various environment bills MACo took a position on for the 2015 Regular Session.

Stormwater Remediation Fee – Partial Repeal and Modification of 2012 Law: SB 863 partly repeals and heavily modifies the 2012 stormwater law which mandated the 10 counties subject to a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)Phase I Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit to adopt a stormwater remediation fee. The 10 affected local jurisdictions include: Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, and Prince George’s Counties.  The requirements of SB 863 will also apply to any jurisdiction that is subsequently required to obtain a Phase I MS4 permit.

MACo initially supported the bill with amendments that would allow a Phase I jurisdiction to apply for certification from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) for an alternative plan in lieu of adopting a stormwater remediation fee.  The alternative plan must identify the actions the jurisdiction plans to undertake to meet its permit requirements and any sources of funds that will be utilized.  If MDE determines that the proposed alternative plan is reasonably likely to meet the permit requirements, MDE must certify the jurisdiction’s alternative plan.  The certification would expire at the end of current permit, at which time the jurisdiction may seek to renew its certification.

After the bill was significantly modified by the Senate, MACo supported the bill with amendments that would: (1) alter the frequency of when a county must submit a financial assurance plan and hold a public hearing; (2)clarify the standard of review by MDE; (3) create a more graduated and logically related penalty system; (4) address added language relating to a municipal tax setoff; and (5) grandfather a county that has not adopted a stormwater fee from the financial assurance plan requirement for the life of their current MS4 permit if the county had previously been deemed by MDE and the Office of the Attorney General as complying with their permit requirements.

FINAL STATUS: The bill was heavily amended by both the Senate and the House before being passed almost unanimously.  The following bullet points briefly summarize key points of the bill.  For more detailed information, please refer to the accompanying Conduit Street article “What’s in the Stormwater Fee Bill?”.

  • Repeal of the stormwater fee mandate (although Phase I jurisdictions must still fully fund their stormwater obligations under the permit)
  • New annual reporting requirements for Phase I jurisdictions
  • All Phase I jurisdictions must now file a financial assurance plan every 2 years to ensure they have sufficient funding to meet the impervious surface restoration requirements under their permits
  • MDE must approve a jurisdiction’s financial assurance plan and upon a determination of insufficient funding must give a warning (for a first submitted plan) or impose a daily administrative penalty (for a second or subsequent submitted plan).
  • Requiring counties that fund the cost of stormwater remediation by using general revenues or through the issuance of bonds to meet with each municipality within its jurisdiction and mutually agree to assume responsibility for the municipality’s stormwater remediation obligations, provide a tax setoff if the municipality has adopted its own stormwater fee, or negotiate some other agreement
  • Exempting veterans’ organizations from the fee but providing a means to override the exemption for both veterans’ organizations and volunteer fire departments (who are exempted under current law) in order to charge the stormwater fee on federal properties
  • Creating a process where a county can collect stormwater fee charges from property owned by the State
  • Requiring Phase I jurisdictions with a stormwater fee to include a certain statement with the bill for the fee
  • Grandfathering Montgomery County from certain provisions related to the stormwater fee law
  • Deleting funding language that caused problems with Phase I jurisdictions channeling stormwater fee monies into already existing local stormwater programs.
  • Modifying the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays 2010 Trust Fund and various funds managed by the Maryland Water Quality Financing Administration.
  • Requiring annual reports by MDE to the Governor and General Assembly
  • Requiring counties or municipalities that are not Phase I jurisdictions but have a stormwater fee to follow certain requirements when setting their fees.

Conduit Street Article – What’s in the Stormwater Fee Bill?

MACo SB 863 Testimony

Stormwater Remediation Fee – Full Repeal of 2012 Law: HB 481/SB 588 HB 874/SB 42 , and SB 36 are identical bills that repeal the requirement that local governments subject to a Phase I MS4 permit adopt a stormwater remediation fee and the associated fee restrictions/provisions. The bills also delete a definition of “impervious surface” and specify that paved surfaces, concrete channels, roofs, and pipes constitute impervious surfaces under the definition of “environmental site design.”

MACo supported the bills with amendments that would allow a Phase I jurisdiction to apply for certification from MDE for an alternative plan in lieu of adopting a stormwater remediation fee.  The alternative plan must identify the actions the jurisdiction plans to undertake to meet its permit requirements and any sources of funds that will be utilized.  If MDE determines that the proposed alternative plan is reasonably likely to meet the permit requirements, MDE must certify the jurisdiction’s alternative plan.  The certification would expire at the end of current permit, at which time the jurisdiction may seek to renew its certification.

FINAL STATUS:  HB 481 and HB 874 were given unfavorable reports by the House Environment and Transportation Committee.  SB 36, SB 42, and SB 588 were given unfavorable reports by the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee.

MACo HB 481 Testimony

MACo HB 874 Testimony

MACo SB 36 Testimony

MACo SB 42 Testimony

MACo SB 588 Testimony

Recycling – Bottle Deposit Program: HB 982/SB 684 establishes a “Maryland Redeemable Beverage Container and Litter Reduction Program.” The purpose of the program is to increase beverage container recycling from 25% to at least 70% for all redeemable beverage containers sold in the State.  Key components of the bill include:

  • Imposes a 5-cent deposit fee on specified beverage containers after January 1, 2017.
  • Creates a Maryland Beverage Recycling Organization to oversee and administer the Program. Distributors, bottlers, and private label distributors constitute the membership. A 7-member Board of Directors representing the three member types oversees the Organization. The Organization must offset the loss of revenue for local governments from curbside recycling prior to the filing of the first Program report in December of 2022. (After that, there is no local government offset.)
  • Containers are redeemed at redemption centers or participating retailers. The Organization shall operation redemption centers throughout the State to collect and redeem beverage containers. Any person, including a county or municipality, may apply to operate a redemption center.  A retailer with at least 5,000 square feet must accept and redeem empty containers or pay an exemption fee. The Organization will pay a processing cost of 3 cents per redeemable beverage container to a distributor, bottler, private label distributor, and participating retailer.
  • Program revenue includes: (1) money collected from the sale of redeemable beverage containers for recycling and reuse; (2) unredeemed deposits; and (3) the retailer exemption fees.  Unredeemed deposits shall be used to: (1) pay off any loan taken to assist with beginning the program; (2) fund the Redeemable Beverage Container Environmental Grant Program; (3) provide essential staffing to the Organization and redemption centers operated by the Organization; (4) establish and operate new redemption centers; and (5) track deposits and grants awarded by the Grant Program.
  • Creates a Redeemable Beverage Container Environmental Grant Program. to fund litter reduction efforts.  The Grant Program shall be funded by the Organization with an annual allocation of $2 million from the Organization’s unredeemed deposits. The Chesapeake Bay Trust shall have discretion to determine appropriate grant recipients and the amount of the award but are required to award $4 million a year for 3 years to Baltimore City for addressing the Baltimore Harbor Trash Total Maximum Daily Load.
  • Creates a Reserve Recycling Fund. The purpose of the Fund is to maintain a reserve to ensure the viability of the Program. The Fund shall consist of: (1) up to $30 million from unredeemed deposits collected during the Program’s first 2 years of operation; (2) investment earnings; and (3) any other money from any other source accepted for the benefit of the Fund. The Fund may only be used for: (1) maintenance of the reserve up to $30 million; and (2) the Grant Program for any amount in excess of $30 million.
  • Creates a Maryland Recycling Advisory Committee.  The Committee consists of 9 members, including two representatives from MACo and two representatives from the Maryland Municipal League. The Committee shall: (1) advise the Organization on the impact of the Program at the county and municipal level; (2) advise the Organization on issues and concerns arising from the Program; (3) consult with the Organization on best practices for Program operation; and (4) educate State and local govts on Program details.
  • Requires 5-year reports. Beginning on December 31, 2022 and every 5 years after, the Organization shall submit a report on: (1) Program governance, management, and administration; (2) Program finances; (3) Program successes and challenges; and (4) any other information the Organization considers necessary to provide a complete overview of and update on the Program.

MACo opposed the bill, arguing that it would divert material and revenue from county recycling programs, provide no permanent offset for the county losses, and require a major education effort to alter consumer behavior. MACo also acknowledged in its testimony that litter reduction was a legitimate issue and highlighted other potential litter reduction approaches that would not harm local recycling efforts.

FINAL STATUS: The House Environment and Transportation Committee heard HB 982 but took no action.  The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee referred SB 684 to interim study.

MACo HB 982 Testimony

MACo SB 684 Testimony

Phosphorus Management Tool: HB 381/SB 257 codifies the regulatory phosphorus management tool (PMT) proposed by the Administration of former Governor Martin O’Malley.  The PMT would set limits on how much animal manure, poultry waste, and sewage sludge can be spread on agricultural lands that are deemed to have a high phosphorus content. The PMT would replace the existing phosphorus site index, which currently governs phosphorus application on farm lands. The bill fully phases in the PMT for all soil types by 2021.

MACo opposed the bill. While noting that the agricultural community must address its phosphorus runoff, MACo questioned whether the agricultural and local government costs of this version of the PMT outweighed its perceived environmental benefits.

FINAL STATUS: The Administration of Governor Larry Hogan unveiled new PMT regulations on February 23.  After discussion between the Administration, General Assembly, and other stakeholder groups, Governor Hogan agreed to amend the proposed regulations.  The new regulations will have a final implementation date of 2022, which can be extended through one-year delays to 2024 if an expert advisory committee determines that there is not enough  infrastructure to handle excess chicken manure that can no longer be applied to farmland.  In response to the agreement, HB 381 was withdrawn by the bill sponsor.  The Senate recommitted SB 257 back to the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee, which took no further action on the bill.

MACo HB 381 Testimony

MACo SB 257 Testimony

Food and Yard Waste Composting Task Force: As introduced, HB 603 requires a person who disposes of yard waste between April and July or at least two tons of food waste in a week to dispose of that waste through composting or other specified diversion methods if that person is within 40 miles of a composting or anaerobic digestion facility that is willing to accept the waste.  MDE must adopt regulations for the siting and permitting of anaerobic digestion facilities in the State.  The bill was amended and passed the House as a Yard Waste and Food Residual Diversion and Infrastructure Task Force.  The Task Force will study and recommend ways to increase Maryland’s composting rate and infrastructure.  Among the specific issues the Task Force will consider is whether a county solid waste management plan should require an organic materials recycling program and address facility infrastructure needs for organic materials.

MACo supported the bill with amendments after it was changed into a Task Force.  The amendments would have added a MACo representative to the Task Force’s membership.

FINAL STATUS: The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee heard HB 603 but took no action on the bill.

MACo HB 603 Testimony

Climate Change – Maryland Shoreline Risk Assessment, Preparation, and Adaptation Act: HB 881/SB 256 adds a new 13th planning vision: “Preparation and adaptation – consideration of climate change risks, including sea level rise, increased precipitation and temperature, storm surges, and flooding, base on available data predicting the likelihood of future extreme weather events.”  State capital projects involving construction of a highway must comply with siting and design criteria for sea level rise and coastal flooding that have been developed by the Coast Smart Council.  Finally, thebill also requires various State agencies to conduct risk assessments related to climate change, including:

  • Maryland Department of Agriculture must conduct a comprehensive assessment of the impacts of climate change on Maryland agriculture and update it every 5 years.  The assessment shall quantify the economic impact of each potential climate change risk to agriculture and recommend preparation and adaptation strategies to lessen their impact.
  • University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science must establish sea level rise projections for the State’s shorelines and update them at least every 5 years.
  • MDE must conduct a comprehensive assessment of the environmental and economic impacts of sea level rise, increased precipitation and temperature, storm surges, flooding, and extreme weather events on the State’s major cities and towns. MDE shall update its assessment every 5 years.
  • Maryland Department of Natural Resources must update guidelines that it publishes to assist State agencies in preparing environmental effects reports to require the consideration of climate change risks.
  • Maryland Department of Planning must develop model local laws and ordinances that incorporate Coast Smart siting and design criteria in the development of construction of structures and highways.

MACo supported the bill with an amendment to remove the bill’s proposed new planning vision, which would requires counties and municipalities to further increase the size and complexity of their comprehensive plans.  MACo noted that the removal of the vision does not prevent or limit counties from adopting their own climate change adaptation strategies.

FINAL STATUS: HB 881 was withdrawn by the bill sponsor.  The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee heard SB 256 but took no action.

MACo HB 881 Testimony

MACo SB 256 Testimony

Resolution on Susquehanna River Basin/Conowingo Dam: As introduced, SJ 1 urges the United States Congress to authorize a review of studies related to the Conowingo Dam for the purpose of initiating and funding a project by the United State Army Corps of Engineers to address the transport of sediment and nutrients from the dam.

MACo supported the resolution, noting that while not the only component towards addressing the water pollution reduction goals in the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load, the Conowingo Dam and Susquehanna River Basin do have a significant impact on the main stem of the bay and certain bay tributaries.

FINAL STATUS: The Senate passed SJ1 with amendments expanding the resolution to cover the Susquehanna River Basin as opposed to solely focusing on the Conowingo Dam. The House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee heard SJ1 but took no action on the resolution.

MACo SJ1 Testimony

Well Drilling – Notice to Municipalities: HB 883/SB 438 requires MDE to notify a municipality of an application for a permit to drill a well if the well will be drilled inside the municipality’s boundary or within 1 mile of the boundary.

MACo did not take a position on the introduced bill as there was no county impact.  However, MACo was asked to respond to proposed amendments to HB 883 that would have required a county board of health to provide the notice to a municipality of wells subject to a water appropriation permit being drilled within the municipality or one mile of the municipality.  MACo sent a letter opposing the proposed amendments, citing: (1) additional county cost and staffing burdens; (2) no county role in the review of water appropriation permits (which are handled by MDE); and (3) notification being an improper duty for a county board of health, particularly where the county board is made up members of the County Council or Board of Commissioners.

FINAL STATUS: The House Environment and Transportation Committee gave HB 883 an unfavorable report.  The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee gave SB 438 an unfavorable report.

MACo HB 883 Letter

What’s in the Stormwater Fee Bill?

As previously reported on Conduit Street, legislation (SB 863) to repeal the 2012 stormwater remediation fee mandate placed on the 10 counties subject to a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)Phase I Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit passed the General Assembly on Sine Die with nearly unanimous bipartisan support. Governor Larry Hogan is expected to sign the bill.  The 10 affected local jurisdictions include: Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, and Prince George’s Counties.  The requirements of SB 863 will also apply to any jurisdiction that is subsequently required to obtain a Phase I MS4 permit.

The bill was heavily amended and below is a summary of the many changes SB 863 will make to the stormwater fee law.

“Repeal” of the Stormwater Fee Mandate

The bill repeals the requirement that a Phase I jurisdiction enact a stormwater remediation fee and instead authorizes enactment of a fee.  All affected jurisdictions must still create and maintain a local watershed protection and restoration fund (restoration fund) as required by the 2012 law.

A Phase I jurisdiction that established a stormwater fee prior to July 1, 2013 may repeal or reduce its fee before July 1, 2016, if: (1)the jurisdiction identifies dedicated revenues, funds, or other sources of funds that will be deposited into its restoration fund and utilized to meet its Phase I MS4 permit requirements; (2) the jurisdiction has filed a financial assurance plan (see below) with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE); and (3) MDE determines the financial assurance plan demonstrates good faith toward achieving sufficient funding to meets its permit requirements.

A jurisdiction that reduces or repeals its fee on or after July 1, 2016, must comply with the financial assurance plan and MDE approval requirements described below.

Annual Reporting Requirement

A Phase I jurisdiction must annually report to MDE on: (1) the number of properties subject to a stormwater remediation fee, if any; (2) any stormwater funding structure developed by the jurisdiction, including the amount of money collected from each classification of property assessed a fee, if any; (3) the amount of money deposited into the restoration fund in the previous year by source; (4) the percentage and amount of funds in the restoration fund spent on each type of purpose allowed under the restoration fund; (5) all stormwater management projects implemented in the previous fiscal year; and (6) any other information that MDE determines necessary.

These requirements replace the 2-year reporting requirement in current law.

Financial Assurance Plan

By July 1, 2016, and every 2 years thereafter on the anniversary of the date of issuance of its Phase I MS4 permit, a jurisdiction must file a financial assurance plan with MDE the clearly identifies:

  1. Actions that will be required of the jurisdiction to meet its permit requirements;
  2. Projected annual and 5-year costs for the jurisdiction to meet the impervious restoration plan requirements of its permit;
  3. Projected annual and 5-year revenues or other funds that will be used to meet the costs of the jurisdiction to meet the impervious restoration plan requirements of its permit;
  4. Any sources of funds that will be utilized by the jurisdiction to meet the requirements of its permit; and
  5. Specific actions and expenditures that the jurisdiction implemented in the previous fiscal years to meet the impervious surface restoration plan requirements of its permit.

The plan shall demonstrate that the jurisdiction has sufficient funding in the current fiscal year and subsequent fiscal year budgets to meet its estimated costs for the 2-year period immediately following the filing date of the plan.

A jurisdiction’s local governing body must hold a public hearing and approve a financial assistance plan before it can be submitted to MDE.

MDE shall make a plan publicly available on its web site within 14 days after the plan has been submitted.

Approval of Financial Assurance Plan By MDE

MDE must decided whether a jurisdiction’s financial assurance plan demonstrates sufficient funding within 90 days after receiving the plan. For a plan filed on or before July 1, 2016, funding in the plan is sufficient if the plan demonstrates that the jurisdiction has dedicated revenues, funds, or sources of funds to meet 75% of the projected costs of compliance with the impervious surface restoration requirements under its permit for the 2-year period immediately following the filing date of the plan.  For the filing of a second or subsequent plan, funding in the plan is sufficient if the plan demonstrates that the jurisdiction has dedicated revenues, funds, or sources of funds to meet 100% of the projected costs of compliance with the impervious surface restoration requirements under its permit for the 2-year immediately following the filing date of the plan.

Penalties For Inadequate Funding in the Financial Assurance Plan

If MDE determines that the funding in a financial assurance plan is insufficient, MDE shall:

  • For a plan filed on or before July 1, 2016, issue a warning and engage with the jurisdiction on the development of a plan for meeting the projected costs of compliance
  • For a second or subsequent filed plan, impose an administrative penalty of: (1) up to $5,000 a day for a first offense until the funding in the plan is determined to be sufficient; or (2) up to $10,000 a day for a second or subsequent offense until the funding in the plan is determined to be sufficient.

The administrative penalties are in addition to any other remedy available to MDE. Any administrative penalties collected shall be paid into an escrow account to be used by the jurisdiction for stormwater management projects pending a determination by MDE that funding in the plan is sufficient.

Municipal Tax Offset

Beginning in FY 2017, if a county funds the cost of stormwater remediation by using general revenues or through the issuance of bonds, the county shall meet with each municipality within its jurisdiction to mutually agree that the county will: (1) assume responsibility for the municipality’s stormwater remediation obligations; (2) for a municipality that has established its own stormwater fee, adjust the county property tax rate within the municipality to offset the municipality’s fee; or (3) negotiate a memorandum of understanding with the municipality to mutually agree upon some other action.

Exemption for Veterans’ Organizations

A veterans’ organization that is tax exempt under Section 501(c)(4) or (19) of the Internal Revenue Code may not be charged a stormwater fee. Regularly organized volunteer fire departments also remain exempt under existing law.

Overriding Veterans’ Organization & Volunteer Fire Department Exemptions

A Phase I jurisdiction may charge a stormwater fee to property owned by a tax exempt veteran’s organization or a regularly organized volunteer fire department if: (1) the jurisdiction determines that the creation of a nondiscriminatory program for applying the fee is necessary in order to collect stormwater remediation funding from federal properties; and (2) the veteran’s organization or fire department are given a chance to apply for an alternate compliance plan (see below) instead of paying the stormwater fee.

Alternate Compliance Plan

A Phase I jurisdiction must allow a charitable nonprofit group or organization that is tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) or (D) of the Internal Revenue Code  and can demonstrate substantial financial hardship to implement an alternate compliance plan in lieu of paying a stormwater fee.  MDE may adopt regulations to establishing the requirements of alternate compliance plans, but the regulations would not apply in a county that has implemented its own alternate compliance plan before July 1, 2015.

Charging a Stormwater Fee on the State

Property owned by the State or a unit of State government may be charged a stormwater fee by a Phase I county only if: (1) the State or unit of State government and the county agree upon a fee that is based on the share of stormwater management services related to the property; (2) the county agrees to appropriate into its restoration fund an amount of money that is based on the share of stormwater management services based on the share of stormwater management services related to county property on an annual basis; and (3) the county demonstrates to the satisfaction of the State or unit of State government that the collected fees and appropriated money were deposited into the county’s restoration fund.

A county may not charge a stormwater fee to State property specifically covered by a current NPDES MS4 permit or an industrial stormwater permit.

Required Statement About the Stormwater Fee

A Phase I jurisdiction that charges a stormwater fee must include the following statement on the bill or on an accompanying insert: “This is a local government fee established in response to federal stormwater management requirements.  The federal requirements are designed to prevent local sources of pollution from reaching local waterways.”

Deletion of Existing Funding Language

The bill deletes a provision of existing law stating that funds disbursed through a jurisdiction’s restoration fund “are intended to be in addition to any existing State or local expenditures for stormwater management.”  The provision caused issues with jurisdictions that wanted to channel restoration fund monies into already existing local stormwater programs.

MDE Report to Governor and General Assembly

Starting September 1, 2016, and ever year thereafter, MDE must submit an annual report to the Governor and environmental committees of the Maryland General Assembly evaluating the compliance of Phase I jurisdictions with the requirements of the stormwater fee law.

Montgomery County “Grandfathering”

As Montgomery County had a stormwater fee in place prior to the 2012 legislation (the only county to do so), the county is now no longer subject to many of the provisions of the 2012 legislation and SB 863. The County is subject to separate provisions of law that are identical or similar to SB 863’s provision regarding: (1) exempting veterans’ organizations, volunteer fire departments, and certain roads owned by a homeowners association from the fee; (2) overriding the exemption for veterans’ organizations and volunteer fire departments in order to have properties owned by the federal government pay the fee; (3) charging State property a stormwater fee; (4) establishing a program to exempt property owners demonstrating a substantial financial hardship from the fee; and (5) setting its fee based on the share of stormwater management services being provided to a property by the County.

Additionally, the SB 863 provisions relating to the submission of financial assurance plans (including approval and MDE and applicable penalties) also apply to Montgomery County.

Application to Non-Phase I Jurisdiction Stormwater Fees

The bill requires a county or municipality that is not a Phase I jurisdiction but still has a stormwater fee to:

  1.  Set its fee based on the share of stormwater management services provided to the property by the county or municipality;
  2. Set its fee based on a flat rate, a graduated rate based on the property’s impervious service, or another method of calculation selected by the county or municipality; and
  3. Have policies and procedures, as approved by MDE, to reduce the fee to account for systems or activities that reduce or treat stormwater discharged from a property.

Modifications to Funds Managed By the Maryland Water Quality Financing Administration and the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays 2010 Trust Fund

The bill modifies several definitions under the Maryland Water Quality Financing Administration.  The definitions pertain to the various funds managed by the Administration, including the Maryland Water Quality Revolving Loan Fund, Maryland Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund, Bay Restoration Fund, and the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Nonpoint Source Fund.

  • “Person” now includes a nonprofit entity.
  • “Wastewater facility” now includes: (1) any equipment, plant treatment works, structure, machinery, apparatus, interest in land, or any combination of these, which is acquired, used constructed, or operated to improve water conservation, reduce energy consumption, or increase security; (2) any programs and projects for managing, reducing, treating, recapturing, abating, or controlling nonpoint sources of water pollution, including stormwater or subsurface drainage water; and (3) any programs and projects for improving estuarine conservation and management.

The bill changes the payback duration of interest free loans made under the Maryland Water Quality Revolving Loan from 20 years maximum to the lesser of 30 years or the projected useful life of the project.

Finally, SB 863 provides that it the intent of the General Assembly that when possible, moneys in the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays 2010 Trust Fund provide up to 25% in matching funds for agricultural, forestry, stream and wetland restoration, and urban and suburban stormwater nonpoint source pollution control projects to Phase I jurisdictions that have enacted a stormwater remediation fee.

 

Heavily Amended Stormwater Fee Bill Passes on Sine Die

An April 13 WBAL Channel 11 TV report announced the passage of SB 863, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.’s legislation to address the issue of the 2012 stormwater remediation fee legislation (known as the “rain tax” by the fee’s opponents). The heavily amended final version of the bill passed the Senate unanimously (47-0) and the House by a vote of 138-1.  From the report:

[Governor Larry] Hogan campaigned against the fees. While the bill that passed isn’t the one he sponsored, Hogan has said he doesn’t care who gets the credit for ending the state-mandated fees.

Maryland environmentalists praised the bill for creating greater accountability for the state’s 10 most populated jurisdictions in fighting pollution in stormwater.

An April 14 MarylandReporter.com article highlighted the concerns of the one delegate who voted against the bill:

A lone legislator let his disapproval rain down on House delegates the last night of session, as the Watershed Protection bill passed with only Del. Richard Impallaria opposed against 138 members.

“There are people who believe that what we are doing is repealing the rain tax,” said Del. Richard Impallaria, R-Baltimore and Harford. “They are still going to get a rain tax bill, every single year.” …

Impallaria is correct that the bill does not “repeal” the fee, according to the bill’s fiscal note.

The counties will instead have the choice of how to comply with the federal stormwater management requirements, whether it be with a fee or other revenue sources.

The article also provided the more optimistic assessments from other legislators and stakeholder groups:

“This bill is not perfect, but it does change ‘you shall charge a tax’ to ‘you may charge a tax’,” said House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga, R-Baltimore and Harford. …

“This is the largest growing source of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay,” said Del. Kumar Barve, D-Montgomery. “Today, this bill has the enthusiastic support of the environmental community and the business community.” …

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation called it “a major victory for the Chesapeake Bay.”