WYPR Discusses O’Malley Introduction of Phosphorus Management Tool Regs

November 25, 2014

In a November 21 WYPR 88.1 FM “Inside Maryland Politics” interview, WYPR host Fraser Smith talks with the Baltimore Sun reporter Tim Wheeler about Governor Martin O’Malley’s last-minute introduction of controversial phosphorus management tool (PMT) regulations that will limit the amount of fertilizer and animal waste farmers can spread on their lands.  Eastern Shore farmers and the poultry industry have been especially critical of the proposed regulations, which have been pulled once and then subject to 2014 legislation requiring an economic impact study.

Listen Here

Prior Conduit Street coverage of PMT regulations

 


Frederick County Commissioners Vote Down Waste-to-Energy Plant

November 25, 2014

A November 21 Frederick News-Post article  reported that the Frederick County Board of County Commissioners has voted to kill plans for a regional waste-to-energy facility and instead approved a short-term landfill contract.  As previously reported on Conduit Street, Carroll County had partnered with Frederick on the incinerator project but terminated its participation in April.  From the News-Post article:

In a 3-2 vote, Commissioners President Blaine Young and commissioners Kirby Delauter and David Gray voted to kill the $471 million incinerator project by canceling the contract and related permits. Commissioners Paul Smith and Billy Shreve cast the dissenting votes to keep the project on the table while the county explores its options.

“It is absolutely no cost to the county to keep these options open,” Smith said. “To do away with these options is crazy.”  …

However, Young said he saw no point in voting to keep plans for an incinerator, which would burn trash into energy, open since County Executive-elect Jan Gardner planned to scrap the facility after taking office Dec. 1. …

“I think you should terminate the whole thing,” Gardner testified in front of the board and roughly 100 people gathered at Winchester Hall, garnering some applause.

The article noted that the project cancellation will not cost the county any money – the $500,000 termination fee will be covered by the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority.  In lieu of the waste-to-energy project, the commissioners unanimously approved a 5-year maximum contract to haul trash to an out-of-state landfill for $50.95 per ton.


MDE Prepared To Deny Key Conowingo Permit

November 21, 2014

The Maryland Department of Environment has announced its intention to deny key permits to Exelon, the corporate owner of the Conowingo Dam at the northern head of the Chesapeake Bay. A January 7 hearing has been scheduled prior to a final decision.

From coverage in the Daily Record (limited free access):

Saying there’s not enough information on the dam’s impact on the Chesapeake Bay, the state Department of the Environment has declared its intent to deny Exelon certification that the hydroelectric facility on the lower Susquehanna River meets state and federal water quality standards.

The department issued a statement saying it has not made a final determination, and is seeking public comment, either in writing or at a Jan. 7 hearing.

The immediate effect of this potential denial is unclear, as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is also reviewing the potential re-licensing of the Dam facility for another 40 year period. From the Baltimore Sun coverage:

The state agency’s move has no imminent effect, as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has given Exelon a one-year extension of its current license to operate Conowingo, which produces 500 megawatts of electricity. The company had applied last January for state water-quality approval while it still was hoping to gain a long-term renewal of its license. Under federal law, Maryland must act on the application within a year or lose its say in relicensing the facility. That deadline falls on Jan. 31, 2015.

In seeking to renew its license, Exelon has been negotiating with federal and state officials over their concerns about the dam’s impact on water quality and on migration of shad and eels up the river. Details of those talks are not public.

But the company has agreed to pay up to $3.5 million for enhanced water-quality monitoring over the next two years.

Exelon can reapply for state approval, said MDE spokesman Jay Apperson. Officials anticipate that will happen once the additional study is finished, he said.

“We expect to continue this dialogue as we work together to assure the state standards on water quality are met,” said Exelon Generation spokesman Robert Judge.

If after further study, state regulators decide the dam is undermining water quality, Exelon could be required to mitigate the impacts, either by changing how it operates the facility or by making offsetting pollution reductions elsewhere in the river’s drainage area, according to Apperson.

For more of MACo’s coverage of this issue, see previous Conduit Street articles on the Conowingo Dam.


McIntosh, Barve Gain New Committee Chairs In House

November 20, 2014

Delegate Kumar Barve, courtesy of Maryland State Archives

Following shifts in the recent election, the House of Delegates leadership will undergo substantial changes — with Delegate Maggie McIntosh moving to serve as chair of the Appropriations Committee, and current Majority Leader Kumar Barve assuming the seat as chair of the newly-renamed Environment and Transportation Committee.

From coverage in the Washington Post:

Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore) was tapped to become chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, succeeding Del. Norman H. Conway (D-Wicomico), who was defeated for reelection in his district this month.

McIntosh had served as chairwoman of the Environmental Matters Committee for the past 12 years. She will be replaced in that role when the House convenes in January by Del. Kumar Barve (D-Montgomery), currently the House majority leader and a 24-year veteran of the chamber.

When Barve takes over McIntosh’s committee, its jurisdiction will be expanded to include both environmental and transportation issues, Busch said.

Read the Post article online.

The Speaker also made several additional leadership announcements, as part of preparations for the 2015 legislative session. The full text of Speaker Michael Busch’s November 19 press release on new leadership positions follows:

Read the rest of this entry »


Rural Economies Workgroup Holds First Meeting, Discusses Goal and Objectives

November 19, 2014

The Rural Economies Workgroup of the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission held it first meeting on November 18.  Greg Bowen, a Commission member representing Southern Maryland and former Calvert County Planning Director, is the chair of the Workgroup.  State representatives participating in the meeting included the Maryland Departments of Planning (MDP), Agriculture, Natural Resources, Business and Economic Development, and Health and Mental Hygiene.  Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp represented MACo.  Other represented stakeholder groups included the Maryland Rural Council, 1000 Friends of Maryland, the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, and Western Maryland.  MDP will be staffing the Workgroup.

The Workgroup discussed a draft goal, set of objectives, and possible strategies for achieving those objectives.  An initial set of four objectives included: (1) land preservation; (2) sustainable food supply system; (3) sustainable forestry; and (4) sustainable rural recreation.  However, it is likely that these objectives and related strategies will be modified and several additional objectives added as the Workgroup finalizes its work plan.  Knapp suggested that the Workgroup consider examining areas where Maryland’s current Smart Growth policy does not mesh well with rural development issues and consider potential “tweaks” to policy that better address rural needs.  Other potential objectives included preservation of natural open spaces and public education.

The Workgroup hopes to finalize its work plan by December. Recommendations from the Workgroup will be targeted at both the State and local governments and will likely include proposed regulatory and statutory changes.  For further information please contact Les Knapp at lknapp@mdcounties.org or 410.269.0043.

 


Phosphorus Rules Issued, May Take Effect January

November 18, 2014

A closely watched and controversial set of environmental regulations were officially submitted by the Maryland Department of Agriculture on November 12, and will be published in the December 1 Maryland Register. This starts the process of their adoption, which (by this specific timing) could occur before Governor O’Malley leaves office in January.

From coverage in the Daily Times online:

New regulations to limit farmers from polluting phosphorus into the Chesapeake Bay could be implemented before Gov. Martin O’Malley leaves office in January.

The proposed regulations outlined by the phosphorus management tool were submitted Friday for inclusion in the Dec. 1 Maryland Register and for legislative review. By submitting them Friday, the rules can be placed into effect by the Maryland Department of Agriculture before Gov.-elect Larry Hogan is sworn into office on Jan. 21.

The state legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review will have 45 days for review and comment, after which, the department can then implement the regulations.

Read the full Daily Times coverage online.

 


NACo Calls For “Waters of the US” Rule Withdrawal

November 18, 2014

In its most direct statement to date on the topic, the National Association of Counties (joined by several other stakeholder groups) has called for the US Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw and clarify its pending “Waters of the United States” rule, which would broaden the reach of many federal regulations. The NACo press release follows:

NACo urges feds to withdraw and clarify “Waters of the U.S.” proposal  
Local groups unite in urging revisions to proposal

WASHINGTON, D.C. – After voicing serious concerns and pushing for clarity on the federal proposal to redefine “Waters of the United States,” the National Association of Counties (NACo) on Nov. 14 called for the proposal’s withdrawal until further analysis has been completed.  NACo submitted its official comments to the Federal Registry summarizing more than a dozen areas of concern important to the nation’s counties.

“NACo supports common-sense environmental protection; but expanded federal oversight and more ambiguity would create delays in critical work, draining local budgets without any environmental benefit,” NACo Executive Director Matthew D. Chase said.  “We urge the EPA and the Corps to withdraw and modify this proposal.  We should work together to create a rule that achieves a common goal: to protect America’s water resources for generations to come.”

In a 19-page letter, NACo emphasized the importance of the local, state and federal partnership in crafting practical rules to ensure clean water without impeding counties’ fundamental infrastructure and public safety functions.  Counties are responsible for the construction and maintenance of roads, bridges, water quality systems and other infrastructure like roadside ditches, stormwater systems, green infrastructure and drinking water facilities.

“Clean water is essential to all of our nation’s counties, who are on the front lines of … preserving local resources and maintaining public safety,” Chase wrote.  He echoed the need “for a clear, concise and workable definition for ‘Waters of the U.S.’ to reduce confusion — not to mention costs — within the federal permitting process.  … This proposed rule falls short of that goal.”

While acknowledging recent dialogue with the EPA and the Corps, NACo remains deeply concerned about the far-reaching effects and unintended consequences of the proposed rule.

Among many issues, the letter described a flawed consultation process; an incomplete analysis of economic impacts; ongoing delays with the current permitting process; and inconsistent definitions implemented in different regions and by different federal agencies.  NACo’s comments included a series of recommendations to address these concerns.

In addition to submitting its own comments, NACo, along with six other associations representing local governments and agencies, jointly submitted comments to the Federal Registry.  The groups called for key adjustments and an additional review period to be certain that concerns are adequately addressed.

“The health, well-being and safety of our citizens and communities are top priorities for us,” the groups wrote.  “As partners in protecting America’s water resources, it is essential that state and local governments have a clear understanding of the vast impact that a change to the definition of

‘Waters of the U.S.’ will have on all aspects of the Clean Water Act.”

 

The joint letter stressed the need for greater collaboration with local and state governments and stated the proposed rule “would create more confusion, not less, for local governments and ultimately for agency field staff responsible for making jurisdictional determinations,” they wrote.

“If an additional comment period is not granted, we respectfully call for the withdrawal of this proposed rule and ask the agencies to resubmit a proposed rule at a later date that addresses our concerns.”

The joint comments were submitted by:

  • American Public Works Association
  • National Association of Counties
  • National Association of County Engineers
  • National Association of Flood & Stormwater Management Agencies
  • National Association of Regional Councils
  • National League of Cities, and
  • U. S. Conference of Mayors.

Since the proposal was unveiled in April, NACo has advocated for greater clarity and strongly encouraged counties to submit their comments.  The association launched an online resource hub and action center and released a video urging counties to take action.

Hundreds of counties have passed resolutions and submitted comments.  In total, more than 12,000 unique public comments have been submitted.

For more information, visit www.naco.org/WOUS.


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