MACo & County Representatives Meet With Bottle Deposit Advocates

September 18, 2014

In anticipation of bottle deposit legislation being introduced again in the 2015 Session, a group of MACo and county representatives met with a group of bottle deposit advocates earlier this summer to discuss how other jurisdictions in the United States and Canada have instituted bottle deposit programs.  While not opposed to the per se concept of a bottle deposit, MACo has opposed bottle deposit legislation in the past over concerns about counties being responsible for running the deposit program and the potential fiscal impact on existing county recycling efforts.

The Artemis Group, a key stakeholder behind prior bottle deposit legislation, brought CM Consulting to the meeting.  CM Consulting is Canadian-based environmental research firm that has studied bottle deposit efforts in various jurisdictions.  CM Consulting provided a presentation discussing best practices for bottle deposits and highlighted case studies from other jurisdictions.  The CM consultants did note however, that Maryland is relatively unique in that counties are the primary party responsible for recycling and that any statewide bottle deposit program would have to address county issues.

The information provided by CM Consulting and the Artemis Group will be reviewed and discussed by an internal zero waste workgroup that has been formed by MACo.  Besides bottle deposits, the workgroup will examine other recycling and waste reduction issues, such as composting and gasification technologies.

MACo has formed an internal zero waste workgroup that will examine

CM Consulting Bottle Deposit Presentation

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Bottle Deposit Legislation


Frederick County Candidates Debate Stormwater Fee Issues

September 18, 2014

A September 17 Frederick News-Post article reported that Frederick County executive and council candidates are debating a variety of issues related to the state-mandated stormwater remediation fee (referred to as a “Rain Tax” by its opponents).  While some of the issues, such as whether the fee should exist at all, seem more defined by partisan lines, other concerns are being raised by candidates from both parties.  Currently, the County has enacted a 1-cent fee that the Maryland Department of the Environment has indicated will not be sufficient to meet the County’s expected stormwater remediation costs under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load or the County’s pending Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System permit.

One area of shared concern is the cost to Frederick County taxpayers for stormwater remediation:

County staff have estimated that the local cost to meet state watershed goals could total $1.88 billion by 2025. The county’s five-year storm water permit, which is now being renewed through the state, could come with a price tag of $142.3 million, said Shannon Moore, who manages the county’s office of sustainability and environmental resources.

County Executive candidate Jan Gardner stated that the stormwater remediation costs need to be addressed:

 Whether the county finds this money through the stormwater fee or in its general fund, taxpayers are ultimately footing the bill, Gardner said. She noted that the current cost estimate for the permit breaks down to more than $28 million annually, more than the county budgets for its public works division.

Gardner said she’s not ready to suggest where the county might find money to deal with the additional cost burden. First, elected leaders should collaborate with state officials to make the permit less expensive, she said.

The article also noted that many candidates were concerned about the science behind the targets.

Gardner, [County Executive candidate Blaine] Young and a number of council candidates also question the accuracy of the scientific assumptions that underpin cleanup targets. Linda Norris, a Democratic candidate for a council at-large seat, says she’s open to adjusting the fee so long as the county isn’t required to pay more than its share.

“I don’t mind asking citizens to pay for a community need, but I want to make sure I’m asking for the right amount,” she said.

Young cited concerns over the science when voicing his opposition to the stormwater fee in the article: “I don’t think the residents of Frederick County should be having to foot the bill for what others have done, especially when it’s based on faulty studies and science. With me, it’s non-negotiable.”  The article also noted that some candidates like County Council candidate Billy Shreve believe that other Bay watershed states, such as Pennsylvania, must be held accountable for their pollution contributions.

 


Wicomico County Council Gives Preliminary Approval to Solar Array Projects

September 17, 2014

During its meeting this week, the Wicomico County Council approved two preliminary agreements with SolarCity to construct two solar array projects that overtime could provide electricity for all county facilities. As reported by the Salisbury Daily Times,

By a vote of 5-2, with Joe Holloway and Bob Culver being the two “nos,” the council agreed to sign both the purchase power agreement and the performance guarantee agreement with SolarCity, creating the basic outline of the two-site project that Public Works Director Lee Beauchamp said could cut the county’s energy costs in half.

The council will hold a public hearing on October 7 to receive comments on the site location. The county Board of Education and the City of Salisbury plan to piggyback on the agreements negotiated by the county.


Free Resources and Tips for Researching State, Federal, and Local Law

September 15, 2014

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At this year’s Annual Conference of the International Municipal Lawyers Association, research librarians and attorneys shared information on the best free resources for researching local, state, and federal law. These resources may be helpful for county elected officials and county employees seeking information about comparative laws in other jurisdictions, or researching federal laws and regulations that have an effect on local practices.

Here are a few resources that were shared at the Conference:

State and Federal Case Law

Google Scholar is a great resource for US Supreme Court decisions, and state and federal case law.  Good Scholar allows the user to search all federal courts, and state courts of appeal and supreme courts.  The site has a built-in case citator.

Federal Law

The Office of the Law Revision Council’s version of the US Code includes current and past editions of the Code, and shows pending updates to the Code.  The search tool allows for smart searches, such as proximity connectors.

Federal Regulations

e-CRF provides a currently updated version of the Code of Federal Regulations. If you sign up with federalregister.gov, you may receive email alerts when a specific agency is about to issue a new rule.

Additional Research

Several libraries provide research guides for state and local law.  In Maryland, resources include The Maryland State Law Library’s Gateway to Maryland Law, the Thurgood Marshall Law Library’s Maryland Research Guide, and Georgetown Law Library’s Maryland Resources In-Depth.  The UCLA Law Library provides links to online municipal codes in every state. The Harvard Law Library provides several resources for legal and law-related research.

Google Scholar also provides a search tool for academic journal articles.  When articles require registered access to publication or research databases, attorneys may ask their alma maters for remote access to scholarly articles and other publications via their university’s law library.  Alternatively, searching for the article’s author may yield a free version of the article on the author’s own personal website.

 

 


Maryland Clean Energy Center Holds Local Government Discussion Group on Green Energy Bank

September 12, 2014

Logo

The Maryland General Assembly has required the Maryland Clean Energy Center (MCEC), in consultation with the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA), to study the feasibility of developing a “green bank” that would use public funds and authority to lower the cost and increase the amount of private financing for clean energy technology (SB 985 of 2014).

MCEC and MEA are holding local government discussion group on September 24 in the Amoss Hearing Room on the 4th floor of the Miller Senate Office Building in Annapolis starting at 3:00 PM.  The address is:  11 Bladen Street, Annapolis, Maryland 21401.

The meeting is open to county and municipal elected officials and professional staff and is expected to last approximately 1 and a half hours.  A photo ID will be needed to enter the building.  Please RSVP by email to Sandi Davis at MCEC (sdavis@mdcleanenergy.org).

 


Urban Streams Subject to Increased Salt and Calcium Levels According to Studies

September 12, 2014

A September 10 Baltimore Sun article discussed a recent series of studies that were published in a special issue of the journal Biochemistry which examined how urban development affects water and stream quality over time.  Several key findings of the studies related to increasing salt and calcium levels in nearby waterways.  The studies looked at a diverse cross-section of United States cities, including Baltimore, Boston, and San Juan.  From the article:

If current trends continue, Marylanders may not have to go “down-y oshun” in future to dip their toes in salt water. Thanks to liberal de-icing of our roads in winter and chronic sewage leaks, salinity levels are rising in Baltimore area streams  – with at least one already a third as tangy as Ocean City surf. …

Urbanization increases the saltiness of streams flowing through it. In addition to runoff of road salt, salinity is raised by cracked sewage pipes leaking chloride-laden waste – from humans’ salt-heavy diet.

Urban streams also have elevated calcium levels, a byproduct of rainfall and weather dissolving concrete frequently made with limestone.  Researchers dubbed the proliferation of such concrete a new geologic formation – “urban karst.”


Maryland Identifies $3.4M to Improve Sidewalks and Bike Paths to Schools

September 11, 2014

As reported in the Baltimore Sun, sidewalks and paths used by elementary and middle school students across Maryland will be upgraded with $3.4 million in federal grant funding, state officials announced Tuesday.  As described in the article,

The federal Transportation Alternatives Program funding will be administered by the State Highway Administration and used for 16 projects shortlisted under the state’s Safe Routes to School Program, officials said.

Grants under the program, which are awarded to local jurisdictions annually, are aimed at improving safety for young students who walk or bike to school. A total of 517 children under the age of 16 have been struck by cars in Maryland in the last five years, the state said, and about 100 people on average die each year in the state in pedestrian-related car accidents.

For more information, see the full story from the Baltimore Sun


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