Register for the Maryland Clean Energy Summit – October 14-15, 2014

July 24, 2014

Register now for the 2014 Maryland Clean Energy Summit on October 14 & 15, at the Marriott Inn & Conference Center in Hyattsville, Maryland.  Early bird registration rates end July 31!

MCEC logoThis year’s summit focus is The Energy Experience: Transforming the Customer Experience. From MCEC’s Summit website:

Jump start the Energy Renaissance, with the dissemination of ideas to transform customers from passive to engaged decision makers and participants in their energy future.

Hear from inspired speakers and panel presenters in sessions that will cover energy literacy, efficiency, reliability, resiliency and affordability within the related technological, financial, policy, and regulatory framework.

Relevant data, best practice models and real life case studies will be examined to address the challenges and opportunities residential, small business & retail, commercial & industrial, and government & institutional customers are facing in their transformation as energy users.

Become enlightened! Learn from industry experts, stakeholders, and innovators who who are engaging customers and driving the market.

Join in the dialogue! Participate in an Energy Roundtable Discussion and attend a number of breakout sessions organized to shed some light on key questions.

  • The Future of the Utility Marketplace in regard to the Customer Relationship
  • How will EPA 111 (d) proposed regulations create opportunities and impact customer bills?
  • Who are the key players leading the way in widespread educational reform on the national, regional and local level?
  • What does it take to deploy customer-friendly energy solutions at all levels of the market and how will these advancements be financed?
  • Who are the leading innovators bridging new technologies, job creation and customer needs to the mix?

Click here to view the agenda. For more information visit www.mcecsummit.org or 443.949.8505.


League of Conservation Voters Releases 2014 Environmental Scorecard

July 24, 2014

The Maryland League of Conservation Voters (MLCV) has released its 2014 Environmental Scorecard for members of the Maryland General Assembly.  Noting that many environmental measures did not receive votes during the 2014 Session, MLCV used this year’s scorecard to highlight the lifetime scores of legislators.  Only two floor bills were considered for the scorecard – HB 296/SB 336 which expanded the State’s “wildlands” areas and HB 621/SB 700 which increased a registration fee for pesticide manufacturers.

From MLCV’s July 23 press release:

“This year, legislators failed to act on several legislative priorities identified by the environmental community, which would have expanded clean energy, promoted environmental justice, and put a hold on fracking,” said Karla Raettig, Executive Director of Maryland LCV. “Legislators defeated or sidestepped critically important bills in all these areas, which is a blow to our state’s environmental future.”

But the environmental community did secure some important victories, including the defeat of 20 bills that would have weakened local programs to control polluted runoff. Governor Martin O’Malley, House Speaker Michael Busch, and key committee chairs, Senator Joan Carter Conway and Delegate Maggie McIntosh, demonstrated exceptional leadership in blocking those rollbacks, Raettig said. And the Assembly passed two measures involving issues that haven’t been addressed in decades: an expansion of protected state wildlands and a significant step to ensure the public has access to information about pesticides used in the community.

Average Scores By House and Party

 


Farm Bureau Challenges Environmental Group on Agricultural Phosphorus Reduction Efforts

July 22, 2014

As recently reported on Conduit Street, the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) has released reports criticizing agriculture’s efforts to reduce water pollution going into the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.  EIP called for the implementation of a new “phosphorus management tool” (PMT) that has been controversial with many in the agricultural community.  In a July 16 Cumberland Times-News opinion piece, the Maryland Farm Bureau challenged the findings of the EIP studies, arguing that a recent analysis by the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Chesapeake Bay Program office shows Maryland is ahead of schedule in meeting its 2025 water pollution reduction goals.

“According to our Maryland progress data, we achieved our 2013 milestone reduction targets for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution,” said Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Robert M. Summers via news release. “In fact, Maryland finished this 2012-2013 period more than 3.5 million pounds reduced ahead of schedule for nitrogen, nearly 147,000 pounds reduced ahead of schedule for phosphorus and nearly 90 million pounds reduced ahead of schedule for sediment which places us on the right trajectory to reach our 2017 and 2025 goals.”

Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Buddy Hance said, “Maryland agriculture has exceeded its nutrient and sediment reduction goals for 2013. Our farmers have a long and proud tradition of environmental stewardship.” Even more progress will be recorded for agriculture once the bay model is updated to reflect current land use, livestock production and Best Management Practice (BMP) use, he said via news release.

The Farm Bureau is critical of the EIP studies in the opinion piece, arguing that the Eastern Shore rivers included in the EIP study contribute a very small amount of water and pollution to the Bay and that the study improperly implies that poultry manure is applied to farm fields in the same jurisdiction where the manure was generated.  The Farm Bureau also argued that it will take years to see the results of phosphorus reduction efforts taking place today:

Dr. Donald Boesch, Professor of Marine Science and President of the “University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, has often been quoted on the subject of excess phosphorus in the Bay as saying it took decades to reach this point. The U.S. Geological Survey’s study from 2013 says it might take decades to flush out the old, “dirty” water that is being monitored today that is the result of farm practices of decades ago.

“The timing of the EIP study seems to be intended to discount all the progress made by farmers in the recently released assessments by the state and federal governments,” said Chuck Fry, Maryland Farm Bureau President. “It is also appears to be a last ditch effort to save the Phosphorus Management Tool regulation.

The Farm Bureau also alleged shortcomings in the current EPA Bay Model and agreed with EIP’s call to update and fix the Bay Model to make sure that best management practices receive proper credit for their nitrogen and phosphorus reductions.

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of the PMT


State Highway Administration & Baltimore City Put Pervious Pavement to the Test

July 21, 2014

A July 19 Baltimore Sun article reported that the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) and Baltimore City are testing pervious pavement – which is designed to let water infiltrate into the ground beneath it rather than have it wash off the surface – in a limited set of locations.  Pervious pavement could help the State, local governments, and private property owners meet the stormwater runoff treatment requirements that have been mandated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load and the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permits.

The use of permeable pavement and pavers has spread gradually in commercial and residential developments, starting in the South, according to Colin Lobo, senior vice president for the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association.

“A lot of universities adopted it, doing permeable parking lots and walkways,” said Kelly Lindow, owner of CityScape Engineering in Baltimore.  …

Municipalities in the Chicago area and nationwide also have embraced permeable pavement.

The article noted that pervious pavement still has some challenges – it is more expensive than standard impervious pavement and requires more and different types of maintenance.  SHA is testing the use of porous pavement in two locations:

With funds limited, [SHA] is only looking for now at trying it in new projects, like the park-and-ride lot in Waysons Corner and another one off Interstate 83 in Baltimore County, for a combined cost of $1.7 million. Pervious pavement also is being put down on a hiker-biker path near the C&O Canal in Allegany County, a $350,000 item in a larger resurfacing and drainage upgrade project there.

The article also discussed the use of porous pavers by Baltimore City:

In Baltimore, the city is trying porous pavers to see how well they reduce runoff. City officials installed them in the new Upland redevelopment in West Baltimore, and workers are resurfacing an alley grid on East Baltimore’s Butchers Hill with concrete paving blocks, aiming to absorb some rainfall in a compact rowhouse neighborhood that has few other options for corralling it.

Working in partnership with Blue Water Baltimore, a local watershed watchdog group; Biohabitats, a local green engineering firm; and the Center for Watershed Protection, the city has contracted to install pervious pavement in a total of three alleys. They’re also putting in small rain-absorbing gardens to be extended out from sidewalk into the street between parked cars.


Local Wastewater Infrastructure Challenges Draw Continued Focus

July 18, 2014

A July 14 ABC WMAR Channel 2 report examined the challenges faced by local governments as they try to upgrade stressed and aging wastewater treatment systems.  The article discussed recent severe weather events leading to sewage spills, upgrade challenges faced by local governments, and the legal ramifications faced by local governments for not upgrading.

“[Sewage spills are] a significant issue if you think about it from a public health standpoint, because of the number of pathogens in the wastewater,” said Alison Prost, Maryland’s director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “It is definitely a source of nitrogen and phosphorous as well.”

Five years ago, the Maryland Department of the Environment began fining municipalities of sewage systems, unless the system owner can demonstrate the overflow was beyond their control and in spite of taking all reasonable steps to maintain and improve the infrastructure.  …

Baltimore City, as well as Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties, entered into consent decrees with MDE, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice to upgrade their wastewater systems

However, the article noted that it is not easy or cheap to upgrade wastewater systems:

But undertaking a major sewer project is hard to sell to the public, [Baltimore City Department of Public Works spokesman Kurt Kocher] said. It’s expensive, and it’s not visually appealing.  …

Ed Adams, director of Baltimore County’s Department of Public Works, said the county is nine years into its 15-year decree, which requires a $900 million investment in the sewer systems. So far, the county has spent $600 million on upgrades, paid through mainly with rate increases and a few grants.

The county is also spending millions more on new pipes.


Enviro Group Questions Shore Efforts, Supports Phosphorus Tool

July 17, 2014

A July 14 Capital-Gazette article announced the release of two reports, “Poultry’s Phosphorus Problem” and “Murky Waters“,  by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) criticizing phosphorus reduction efforts on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  EIP is an environmental “watchdog” group that monitors the implementation and enforcement of certain pollution laws.    The two reports advocate better monitoring and pollution management controls for Maryland farms and the Eastern Shore’s poultry industry and the implementation of the State’s proposed Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT) which was delayed after concerns raised by the agricultural community.  The article notes that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also recommended stronger verification of agricultural best management practices for water pollution.  From the article:

The Environmental Integrity Project reports recommended more precise monitoring and putting a new farm pollution management program in place in Maryland.

“These reports provide a wealth of evidence that Maryland must move forward with implementing its long-promised Phosphorus Management Tool, which is critical to controlling he phosphorus pollution hotspots on the Eastern Shore,” said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project.  …

Most of the farm pollution on the Eastern Shore stems from using chicken manure from hundreds of chicken operations as fertilizer. That is the subject of the second study released Monday, “Poultry’s Phosphorus Problem: Phosphorus and Algae in Eastern Shore Waterways.”

The article also included responses from the Chesapeake Bay Program and the Maryland Department of Agriculture:

The Bay Program said Monday it is still reviewing the EIP reports but agrees with two major points — that more direct water monitoring is needed and further examination of best management practices.

“CBP continues to expand its monitoring network throughout the watershed, with the EPA nearly doubling its investment in this area in the past few years,” said Nick DiPasquale, director of the Bay Program.  …

Maryland agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance understands the worry [by the agricultural community over the PMT].

“The PMT will change the way agriculture operates on the lower eastern shore,” he said. “ No one likes change.”

From July 14 coverage by the Baltimore Sun’s B’More Green blog:

The [EIP] reports echo in part a recent analysis by the U.S. Geological Survey, which found that phosphorus levels measured farther upstream in most major bay tributaries have shown no improvement in the past decade, and some have gotten worse.

But Scott Phillilps, bay coordinator for the geological survey, said while the data suggest a lack of progress it’s not clear that’s the case. Meanwhile, he cautioned that increasing stream monitoring to study effectiveness of farm runoff controls may not be enough, because variability in soils and other characteristics may prevent generalizations.

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of the PMT


Environmental Groups Challenge County MS4 Stormwater Permits

July 17, 2014

A July 11 Baltimore Sun B’More Green article reported that various in-state and out-of-state environmental groups have initiated lawsuits challenging the  National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Phase I Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permits that the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is issuing to certain counties.  The article noted that groups have challenged the permits for Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, and Prince George’s Counties.

The [environmental] groups argue that the state-issued permits are so vague they are unenforceable, and without more teeth they  will allow pollution problems to continue. The shortcomings will leave local waters unsafe to swim in and unable to support fish, crabs and shellfish, the groups contend, and will  hinder restoration of the Chesapeake Bay.

State officials have defended what they call “next generation” pollution-control permits that they say significantly strengthen storm-water cleanup efforts in Maryland’s largest communities. The permits require each locality to retrofit 20 percent of its streets, alleys, parking lots and buildings over the next five years to prevent polluted runoff. Local officials must develop “enforceable implementation plans” for meeting water-quality standards, according to a release on MDE’s website.

The groups argue that by leaving the details of what each locality must do until later, the state risks delays and shortcomings in reducing storm-water pollution, a significant and growing threat to cleaning up the bay.

These challenges follow a successful legal challenge brought last year against the MS4 permit that MDE issued to Montgomery County.  The circuit court found against MDE, citing the lack of specific benchmarks and deadlines.  The State has appealed the ruling to Maryland Court of Special Appeals and MACo will be participating in an amicus brief effort coordinated by the Maryland Municipal Stormwater Association (MAMSA) in support of the State’s position.  Decisions in the Montgomery County case, as well as the four more recent cases, will likely affect those counties needing Phase II MS4 permits from the State.

The article also noted a recent assessment by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is critical of Maryland’s stormwater management efforts:

The EPA said the state also was too shorthanded to keep tabs on localities’ efforts to reduce polluted runoff from existing buildings and pavement. And in a finding that appears to echo environmentalists’ complaints, the federal assessment called for state regulators to include “more-enforceable schedules” in the storm-water pollution permits it issues to localities.


St. Mary’s County Submits Concerns Over Proposed “Waters of the US” Rule

July 11, 2014

On June 24, the St. Mary’s County Commissioners submitted comments to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding a new proposed rule that would expand the definition of “Waters of the United States” under the federal Clean Water Act.  As previously reported on Conduit Street, the National Association of Counties (NACo) has urged counties to submit formal comments and recommend that county owned ditches and drainage ways be exempted from the rule.  The EPA recently extended the comment period by 90 days to October 1.  From the St. Mary’s County letter:

Nonetheless, there still remains a potential that there could be a significant increase in the number of county-owned ditches and outfall channels that would require additional permitting if upgrades/alterations are required as part of our ongoing roadside maintenance programs.  The impacts of the proposed rule will extend beyond local government-owned facilities and may result in additional costs and burdens to businesses, farmers, and private property owners.

We are not certain that the full impacts on local jurisdictions have been fully considered.  Therefore, we might suggest a dry season evaluation of all County ditchlines and outfall channels be undertaken by the EPA, which may include extensive coordination with the Maryland Department of the Environment and the [United States Army] Corps of Engineers.  The purpose of this updated mapping effort would be to determine the extent to which ditches would be deemed both perennial and jurisdictional under the proposed rule.  Once published, the mapping would provide a visual representation of the potential impacts of the new rule and serve as an operational/development guideline similar to the federal blue line stream and flood plain mapping that has already been performed.

In addition to the above, it appears that the proposed regulation will impact the implementation of proposed projects that have been mandated through Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) and NPDES MS-4 permits by further restricting areas suitable for retrofit and restoration.  Local jurisdictions have already spent significant operating and capital resources on either programming and designing efforts that will most likely need to be modified, be rendered difficult to implement, result in additional expenditures, or result in the imposition of additional water quality standards.

The County also requested that the comment period be extended at least 180 days to allow for additional input.

NACo Information Hub on Proposed Waters of the US Rule

Directions on Submitting Comments

Prior Conduit Street Coverage

 


Senators Cardin and Mikulski Push For Federal Water Infrastructure Funding

July 11, 2014

A July 7 Baltimore Sun B’More Green blog post reported that after touring Baltimore City’s 99-year Montebello water treatment plant, United States Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski reiterated their intent to seek federal funding for upgrading aging and failing water system infrastructure.

“This is no longer state of the art,” Cardin said of the filtration plant, which was completed in 1915.  …
“We need to make a commitment to our water infrastructure,” said Cardin. He has introduced a bill to provide $50 million a year in matching federal grants to communities to make their systems more resilient and sustainable in the face of changing climate conditions. As chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Mikulski has pushed for $200 million in increased funding in a pair of measures.

“We’re not saving money by not modernizing,” said Mikulski, who noted that her great-grandfather had worked as a ditch digger in the 1880s, helping lay water lines in the city. She and Cardin marveled at an old wooden pipe on display at the plant, but one utility manager pointed out that a crew recently came across one in the ground, still carrying water.

The article noted that City official estimate it will cost between $4.5 to $5.0 billion to upgrade and repair the City’s water piping and treatment systems.


News-Post Editorial Supports “Pay As You Throw” Trash Collection System

July 11, 2014

A July 10 Frederick News-Post editorial argued that Frederick County and its municipalities should move to a “pay as you throw” (PAYT) fee system for trash collection, whereby a home’s waste disposal fee is based on the amount of trash generated.  The editorial believes the approach is fairer, treats waste disposal the same as other utilities like water and electricity, and would encourage recycling and composting.  The editorial also noted that moving to PAYT would reduce the need for waste incinerators.

This, in essence is one of the disparities in our present system of waste disposal, which is a one-size-fits-all charge for each homeowner, regardless of the amount they throw out. It makes sense for our other utilities, like electricity and water — why not for trash? …

Forty-nine communities across Maryland out of about 4,000 across the U.S. have a PAYT program, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  …

We agree with [Brunswick Mayor Karin] Tome — it won’t be easy, but worth the attempt for the three strong reasons the EPA cites:

• Environmental benefits: Communities across the U.S. with pay-as-you-throw programs “have reported significant increases in recycling and reductions in waste” with reduced greenhouse gases.

• Economic benefits: The cost of disposing of waste is soaring because of rapidly filling landfills and other factors. Less trash means less cost.

• It’s fairer: As noted in the anecdote above, why should you, the diligent recycler, subsidize your neighbors’ wastefulness?


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