Growth Commission Seeking 2016 Sustainable Growth Award Nominations

logo of Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission

The Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission is seeking nominations for its 2016 Sustainable Growth Awards. The deadline for submission is September 18.  From the Commission’s nomination webpage:

The Maryland Sustainable Growth Awards celebrate significant achievement by individuals, businesses, organizations and local governments to realize the 12 planning visions adopted by the Maryland General Assembly. The awards promote exemplary work that represents or inspires collaboration, innovation, conservation, community impact and quality of life.

The fourth annual awards are presented by the commission and are the highest level of recognition for managed growth and development in the state. The 2016 Sustainable Growth Awards will be presented at the fourth annual Maryland Sustainable Growth Forum this winter.

The Categories

The Sustainable Growth Awards are given for the following categories.

Leadership and Service

For activities or accomplishments that advance public appreciation, understanding and/or involvement in promoting smart growth and sustainable communities at the local, regional or state level.

Smart Growth Communities

For facilitating or creating development that addresses at least one or more of Maryland’s 12 planning visions. Nominations will be evaluated in two groups: (1) Public projects/programs and (2) Private developments

Preservation/Conservation

For accomplishments in protecting or improving farms, forests, natural resources and the waters of Maryland. …

Eligibility

  • Individuals, nonprofit and for-profit organizations or institutions and federal, state and local agencies are all eligible to receive Maryland Sustainable Growth Awards.
  • Current MDP staff, Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission members and projects solely sponsored by MDP are not eligible.
  • Self-nominations are accepted.

Review and Selection Process

All nomination materials are reviewed for completeness by Maryland Planning Department staff prior to presentation to the award committee of the commission. This committee then recommends the award recipients to the full commission for consideration and final approval.

Apply

To nominate a project, organization or individual for a Sustainable Growth Award, complete the online nomination form or the downloadable nomination form (Word document) and submit electronically to arabia.davis@maryland.gov and chuck.boyd@maryland.gov by no later than 5 pm on Friday, September 18. For more detailed information, download the nomination brochure.

Maryland Meets With EPA & State Representatives To Address Bay Restoration Shortcomings

A July 23, 2015, Baltimore Sun article reported that representatives from the federal government and six Chesapeake Bay watershed states (including Maryland) recently met to discuss how to increase their pollution reduction and restoration efforts.  These efforts are required both under the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement and the federally mandated Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).  As previously reported on Conduit Street, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that  the Maryland region is likely to fail to meet its 2017 pollution reduction goals for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment under the Bay TMDL.  The TMDL is a component of the broader watershed agreement, which also considers issues like habitat restoration, toxic pollutants, and climate change.

The article noted that the representatives approved a set of 25 management strategies to help met the restoration goals contained in the watershed agreement. The representatives also acknowledged that while good progress has been made, restoration efforts are beyond schedule. From the article:

“We have made tremendous progress. We have many challenges that lie ahead,” said Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who presided over the gathering. …

[EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy] added that the effort is “systemically” falling short in other ways, particularly in reducing urban and farm runoff pollution. She pledged that her agency would be “aggressive” over the next several months in pushing the states to outline how they intend to get back on track. …

[Maryland Lt. Governor Boyd] Rutherford also announced that bay leaders had agreed to convene a “summit” next year on alternative ways to pay for the multibillion-dollar bay restoration effort, including pollution trading and other market-based cleanup initiatives.

The article noted that Pennsylvania, whose efforts are lagging behind those of other Bay states, remains a key concern and that Pennsylvania representative acknowledged his state’s challenge:

John Quigley, Pennsylvania’s secretary of environmental protection, acknowledged that what the state has done to date is “clearly not enough,” but said Gov. Tom Wolf inherited the cleanup shortfall when he took office in January. Quigley said the administration is working on a plan to “reboot” the state’s bay restoration effort and pledged to unveil it soon. …

Alluding to criticism [Maryland Governor Larry] Hogan has leveled at Pennsylvania for not doing enough to deal with its pollution, Rutherford mentioned the administration’s concerns about the sediment buildup behind Conowingo Dam and suggested that finding other ways to pay for the bay restoration “can help some of our upstream partners.”

Finally, the article noted that not all attendees were satisfied with the meeting’s outcomes:

William C. Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, expressed frustration after the meeting, saying: “I heard way too much happy talk. … There was very little discussion about pollution.”

July 23, 2015 Coverage from WTOP 103.5 FM

League of Conservation Voters Release 2015 Environmental Scorecard

The Maryland League of Conservation Voters (MDLCV) released its 2015 Environmental Scorecard on July 19.  The scorecard ranks Maryland senators and delegates based on key environmental votes they took during the 2015 Session.  The scorecard also displays individual senate and house legislative district ratings on a map.

Coverage from a July 20, 2015, MarylandReporter.com article on the release of both MDLCV’s environmental scorecard and the Maryland Business for Responsive Government’s (MBRG) business scorecard noted that Maryland legislators generally scored higher on both scorecards for the 2015 Session:

“This year, Maryland legislators earned significantly higher scores for their environmental votes than in years past,” said Marcia Verploegen Lewis, chair of Maryland LCV. “We believe this is because of our work in educating legislators over the years about these urgent issues and the bipartisan support for these priorities in Maryland.”

“Generally, the legislature assumed a more moderate stance this year on issues that affect business and jobs in Maryland,” said MBRG President Duane Carey. “We have a long way to go, but we are giving credit to the General Assembly for avoiding tax increases and publicly acknowledging the need to improve our business climate.”

Court Challenges Montgomery County Stormwater Fee

A July 22, 2015, Montgomery County Circuit Court decision has called into question Montgomery County’s stormwater remediation fee, also known as the Water Quality Protection Charge (WQPC).  The case is Paul N. Chod v. Board of Appeals for Montgomery County, 398704V. The challenge was brought by developer Paul Chod in response to an $11,000 WQPC bill assessed against his Shady Grove Development Park in Gaithersburg.  Judge Nelson Rupp, Jr. rendered the decision.

The case centers around § 4-202.1 of the Environment Article, the controversial law that originally required all 10 local jurisdictions subject to a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System Phase 1 Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit to adopt a stormwater remediation fee, also know as the “rain tax” by the fee’s opponents.  (Note: The mandate to charge the fee was repealed during the 2015 Session, although counties must justify how they are meeting their MS4 stormwater remediation costs.)  The 10 affected jurisdictions include: Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, and Prince George’s Counties.

Rupp addressed two key issues in the case: (1) whether the WQPC is per se invalid; and (2) whether the WQPC is invalid as applied in the specific instance to the petitioner, Chod.

WQPC is Per Se Invalid

Rupp considered whether the WQPC complied with the requirements of § 4.201.1(e)(3) of the Environment Article, which reads:

(i) If a county or municipality establishes a stormwater remediation fee under this section, a county or municipality shall set a stormwater remediation fee for property in an amount that is based on the share of stormwater management services related to the property and provided by the county or municipality.

(ii)   A county or municipality may set a stormwater remediation fee under this paragraph based on:
1.   A flat rate;
2.   An amount that is graduated, based on the amount of impervious surface on each property; or
3.   Another method of calculation selected by the county or municipality.

The Court found that the WQPC is invalid per se because it did not “reasonably relate to the stormwater management services provided by the County” and went against the language of § 4202.1(e)(3).  In reaching its decision, the Court rejected the County’s interpretation that the statute allows flexibility in how and what the County can collect.  From Rupp’s holding:

The County has taken the position that § 4-201.1(e)(3)(i) need not be the basis for the Charge. Instead, the County contends that in imposing the Charge, subsection (e)(3)(i) should be read as requiring the County to “adopt a stormwater remediation charge that, at a bare minimum, allows [the County] to recover the cost of providing services to individual property owners by collection a regulatory fee-for-serve.”…From the County’s perspective, the broad flexibility of the statute allows for the Charge to be imposed as a tax unrelated to the services provided. The County argues that because the Charge was assessed based on the imperviousness of the property that it complies with the statute because that is a permissible method under subsection (e)(3)(ii). In that respect, the County’s interpretation of the enabling legislation ignores the express language of § 4-202.1.

The WQPC is Invalid as Applied in This Instance

Rupp also found that the WQPC was invalid as applied in the specific instance because the County essentially provided no stormwater management services to the property. From Rupp’s holding:

Therefore, this Court finds that the WQPC is invalid as applied because it is being imposed on the Petitioner without consideration for the services provided by the County, as expressly required by § 4-202.1 of the Environment Article.  [Petitioner Chod’s] stormwater retention ponds service an area three times the size of the Shady Grove Development Park and receive essentially no services from the County in return.  Therefore, as applied, the Charge does not take into account the services provided by the property owner compared with the services provided by the County. Property owners like the Petitioner are thus being burdened with the same charge as other property owners despite bearing the cost of managing the property themselves. Such an application of the statute clearly violates the intentions behind the law, thus creating an arbitrary and onerous burden on the Petitioner.

Implications

UPDATE 2015-07-27: According to Montgomery County, the Court’s decision was not a declaratory judgment action and no injunction was issued. Currently, the ruling is limited to Chod. It is unclear whether this holding could be expanded or used by other individuals subject to the WPQC.

It is also unclear whether this holding will have broader implications beyond Montgomery County. The County is unique among the Phase 1 jurisdictions in that it established its stormwater fee prior to the passage of § 4-202.1 and the law “grandfathered” the County’s fee but also required it to be “consistent” with the provisions of § 4-202.1.   This consistency requirement also applies to other non-Phase 1 MS4 jurisdictions under § 4-204(d)(4).   If the Court’s holding derives solely from this “consistency” requirement, then the holding could possibly be expanded to affect only Montgomery and those non-Phase 1 jurisdictions that have adopted a stormwater charge under § 4-204.  To the extent the holding is based on broader concerns than consistency, then other Phase 1 MS4 jurisdictions could also be effected.

Affected jurisdictions would likely have to redraft their fees and collect a fee that is uniquely calculated for each property.  Additionally, such jurisdictions could not use the fee to generate funds for stormwater projects for common areas open to all county citizens, such as roads or parks.

County Appeal

Coverage from a July 22, 2015, Daily Record article reported that Montgomery County is considering an appeal:

Absent a successful appeal, Judge Nelson W. Rupp Jr.’s decision will likely compel the county to redraft its Water Quality Protection Charge to mirror its costs for providing the environmental service. …

Montgomery County spokesman Patrick Lacefield stated in an email that the county is “reviewing the decision, including the option of appeal.”

Background on Montgomery County Water Quality Protection Charge

PA Environmental Group Joins CBF Campaign to Address State’s Failing Bay Cleanup Efforts

As previously reported on Conduit Street, Pennsylvania will likely to fail to meet its water pollution reduction goals during the 2017 “checkup” period for the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load and general goals under the federal Clean Water Act.  Pennsylvania’s failure will also affect the region’s Bay restoration performance.  In a June 9, 2015 statement, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC), a longstanding environmental advocacy group, responded to these concerns by announcing that it has joined the Clean Water Counts! campaign.  The campaign is organized by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and seeks to make Bay restoration and clean water efforts a priority for Pennsylvania officials.

From PEC’s statement:

With nearly 20,000 miles of streams in Pennsylvania not meeting federal Clean Water Act standards, the Commonwealth continues to face one of its most significant environmental challenges. The Pennsylvania Environmental Council has joined the Clean Water Counts! campaign, organized by [CBF[, to draw attention to the need to do more cleanup of this vital natural and economic resource.

The most significant causes of water pollution in Pennsylvania are not new. Abandoned coal mines, which are the legacy of decades of unregulated activity, are the biggest offender. Left in their wake are dead streams and landscapes that will cost the Commonwealth billions of dollars to clean up.

Agricultural and stormwater runoff are the other two major sources of nonpoint water pollution that continue to vex our waterways and communities. Once again the adage of an ounce of prevent – through implementation of demonstrated management practices, green infrastructure, and riparian protection measures – proves itself as the sensible approach. …

Clean water does count. We need to do much more to ensure the insults to water quality from the past are cleaned up and to provide effective protection measures for the future. One way is to join the Clean Water Counts! campaign. We have, and we hope you will too.

The statement also noted the potential water pollution threat caused by natural gas hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) along the Marcellus Shale deposit in Pennsylvania.

Counties Gather Pollution Reduction Grants

Maryland county governments are among the recipients of grants from the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund, announced today by Governor Hogan.

Among the 14 recipients for FY 2016 were four county governments and departments:

Talbot County Government
Harford County
Howard County Department of Public Works
Carroll County Government

Other recipients include municipal governments, nonprofits, and higher education institutions.

From the Department of Natural Resources website:

“The trust fund is a unique program that channels resources to projects in each region that will result in a cleaner Chesapeake Bay for the citizens of Maryland,” said Gov. Hogan. “These projects will not only improve water quality, but also create and maintain jobs while responsibly using public funds.”

The trust fund identifies each region’s most serious pollution sources that threaten the bay, and directs funds to projects that will result in the greatest reduction for the investment. Rather than dictating practices to be implemented, the trust fund encourages applicants to find fresh approaches to problems.

Projects in Baltimore, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Kent, Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Talbot counties and Baltimore City, will all receive funding. Work includes innovative stormwater management and agricultural best management practices; enhancing the urban tree canopy; stream and wetland restoration; among others. The next call for proposals is tentatively scheduled for fall 2015.

Read the full coverage from the DNR website.

See the full grant recipient list online.

Watershed Assistance Grant Program RFP Deadline For Local WIP Projects Is September 3

The Watershed Assistance Grant Program is seeking request for proposals (RFPs) from county governments seeking grants to assist with design funding for projects outlined in a county’s Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP).  The deadline for submitting an RFP is September 3, 2015, at 4:00 PM.

Funding awards are generally for less than $75,000 and matches are encouraged but not required.  Both local governments and nonprofit organizations may apply for the grants.  Total available grant funding for FY 2016 is approximately $1.5 million.

Watershed Assistance Grant Program – Milestone Support Grant Information

From the support grant information document:

The Chesapeake Bay Trust and the Maryland Departments of Natural Resources and Environment welcome requests from local governments and non-profit organizations for assistance with the earliest phases of watershed restoration projects.  Support is available for watershed restoration project designs and for watershed planning and programmatic development. The ultimate goal of the projects funded through this opportunity will be improved water quality in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the Maryland portion of the Youghiogheny watershed, and the Maryland Coastal Bays and, specifically, progress towards goals of the Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) process.  This opportunity is intended to enhance local engagement in near-term WIP goals. …

Applicants must submit proposals using the online grants system by 4:00 pm on September 3, 2015.   Late applications will not be accepted, and the online funding opportunity will close promptly at 5:00 pm. Applicants are strongly encouraged to submit at least a few days prior to the deadline given potential for high website traffic on the due date.  The Trust cannot guarantee availability of technical assistance for our online grants system on the deadline date.

Carroll County Considers Solar Energy Options

A July 13, 2015, Carroll County Times article reported that the Carroll County Board of Commissioners is considering a variety of options to take advantage of solar energy rates that are cheaper than what the county currently pays to its primary energy provider, BGE.  The Commissioners expect to make a final decision on Thursday, July 16.  The article noted that one option which received a lot of discussion was leasing land at the Hood Mills Landfill and Carroll Community College to a private energy company who would install the solar arrays:

These [two] properties — as well as sites at the other county landfills and its water treatment facilities — are large enough to make it worthwhile for a solar energy company to install panels at no charge to the county, [Carroll County Deputy Director of Public Works Scott Moser] said.

The electrical cost savings associated with installing solar arrays at these sites would be $225,000 a year, Moser said. If the county were also to purchase electricity generated at an out-of-county energy provider, this would increase the savings by another $50,000 a year, he said.

The article also noted several other options that were discussed by the commissioners and Moser:

The rate to purchase solar energy from an out-of-county solar grid would be 8.7 cents per kilowatt hour, also cheaper than Carroll government’s current rate, [Moser] said. …

An alternative to leasing land for the construction of solar arrays would be to construct them with county money, thus paying upfront for the cost but saving by not paying monthly bills, Moser said. Another possibility, suggested by Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, would be to purchase all of Carroll government’s energy from a outside solar energy grid. …

Moser said such an option would be a possibility, although one advantage of leasing land to private companies is the county would then be eligible for a 30 percent tax credit on the county’s electric rate. The credit expires Dec. 31, 2016, and the project or projects must be fully constructed and operational by that date, Moser said.

Frederick News-Post Op-Ed Supports Regulatory Reform Commission

A July 15 , 2015, Frederick News-Post editorial expressed its support for the Regulatory Reform Commission that was recently created by Governor Larry Hogan.  As previously reported on Conduit Street, Hogan created the Commission to review every single state regulation and where appropriate make recommendations to repeal or improve them.  Despite noting concerns from the environmental, labor and nonprofit communities about the composition of the Commission’s membership, the New-Post editorial  was supportive of the Commission’s goal of making Maryland more business-friendly:

If this committee operates openly and fairly, we support its mission. It can’t do any harm to revisit these regulations and take a fresh look at them. Things change, and regulations shouldn’t be left on the books without periodic reviews of their necessity, appropriateness and impact. …

 

Environmental, labor and nonprofit interests are not represented at all on the commission, which has generated some concern among those groups. Hogan, however, is being upfront about the commission’s charter. …

[Hogan said] that the commission would be looking at rules involving a wide range of areas, including, [a Washington] Post story said, “the environment, transportation, health, labor standards, occupational licensing, banking and finance, land use and insurance.” The goal is to address excessive regulation, high taxes and anti-business sentiment, which the governor called the three “deadly self-inflicted wounds” that are stymieing business success in Maryland.

Anxiety among those interest groups that have no seat at the table is understandable, but if the commission’s work is open and accessible to them and the general public, everyone’s voice can be heard.

Allegany County Seeks Solar Generating Facility

Allegany County is seeking a company to build a solar generating facility to reduce costs of running the county’s wastewater treatment plants. The electricity to run these plants costs the county approximately $200,000 a year. As reported by the Cumberland Times-News,

The cost of building the solar array would be borne by the winning bidder. The county would not offer financing or compensation for the creation of the generating facility. …The winning bidder would be compensated since the county would enter into a 25-year agreement to purchase power from the facility. The solar panels would be mounted on the ground and not on a building, according to the July 14 advertisement in the Times-News. “The county and solar system owner shall come to an agreement on a Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program for personal property tax on the solar equipment,” according to the request for proposals. The RFP allows for renewal of the contract and gives the county an option to purchase the system at the end of the 25-year term and at the end of each renewal period.

To learn more about how to leverage private sector investments to save on energy costs attend the MACo Summer Conference session titled “Leveraging Private Investment to Capitalize Energy Improvements.” Information about the session is below. Description: Savvy leaders across the country are learning how to leverage private sector investments to “green” facilities and save on energy costs. Find out how your county can successfully use “green bank” lending programs and take advantage of public private partnerships to retain local debt capacity. Speakers will discuss Energy Performance Contracting and Power Purchase Agreements, examine innovative approaches to finance school renovations, and showcase model projects that use Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (CPACE) lending. Speakers:

  • Wyatt Shifflet, Director of Finance Programs, Maryland Clean Energy Center
  • David Lever, Executive Director, Public School Construction Program
  • Laura Franke, Managing Director, Public Financial Management, Inc.
  • Mike Dow, Esq.; Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice LLP

Moderator: The Honorable Sallie Jameson, Maryland House of Delegates Date/Time: Wednesday, August 12, 2015; 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

For a schedule of educational sessions at MACo’s Summer Conference, please view the Registration Brochure. Questions? Contact Meetings & Events Director Virginia White.