Partnership Leverages UMD Faculty & Students To Help Solve Local Government Policy Challenges; Currently Seeks County RFPs

October 24, 2014

The Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS) is an organization that offers local governments the assistance and technical expertise of University of Maryland faculty and students to address local sustainability issues related to business and economic development, land use, the environment, or social needs.  Counties and municipalities may submit a request for proposal (RFP) to PALS and if accepted, PALS and the University will create a series of coursework and projects built around the local government’s issue(s).

PALs Informational Flyer

PALS is currently seeking local government RFPs for the 2015/2016 term.  Proposals are due November 24.  From the PALS RFP Request Packet:

The Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS), administered by the National Center for Smart Growth (NCSG) at the University of Maryland College Park (UMD), invites proposals from Maryland jurisdictions interested in partnering with the University in a program that pairs the sustainability-related projects of a local government with experienced faculty and courses from across the University of Maryland campus. The successful applicant will benefit from between 40,000 and 60,000 hours of work by UMD students and faculty from a variety of disciplines. The core of this request for proposals is the development of an annotated list of projects by the jurisdiction that aim to enhance a community’s quality of life, protect is resources and develop sustainable practices.

RFP Issue Date: October 20th, 2014

Pre-bid Meeting (call-ins allowed): November 5th, 10AM–11AM @ NCSG

Proposal Due Date 3:00 PM, November 24th, 2014 via e-mail (Electronic submission only): to

Notification of Interviews: December 1st, 2014

Interviews with top candidates: December 8th, 2014

Selection and notification: December 15th, 2014

Start of PALS process: January 5th, 2015

Beginning of Fall PALS courses: August 31st, 2015

For the 2014/2015 tern, PALS partnered with Frederick City to address a variety of City issues, such as: composting and organics recovery, a recreation plan for its waterways, promoting local businesses, and East Frederick industrial redevelopment.  Through PALS, the University is offering 30 courses involving 350 students drawn from 10 schools across the College Park campus to address Frederick City’s sustainability challenges.

PALS 2014/2015 Frederick Trifold

Wicomico County Ensures Renewable Energy Future

October 23, 2014


In a new project with SolarCity, Wicomico County will fulfill 37% of its county government utility needs and save an estimated $1.5 million over the next twenty years. The County recently negotiated a fixed 4.5 cent/kWh purchase price allocation for the next twenty years, with no annual increases.  This means that the county is guaranteed to be able to purchase energy from SolarCity at a stable rate, protecting against utility cost escalation and uncertainty.

The power purchase agreement provides that SolarCity will install, maintain and finance the solar systems, while Wicomico County simply “hosts” the system and only pays for the electricity produced. There are no upfront costs–SolarCity fully leverages all incentives and depreciation. There is a 100% performance guarantee over the next twenty years and at the end of the term the County may renew the agreement, purchase the system, or have it removed at SolarCity’s expense.  There are also early buyout options available starting at Year 6.

According to Lee Beauchamp, Wicomico County’s Public Works Director,

The solar farm concept is a win for both the county taxpayer and the environment. This project allows the county to re-purpose the property adjacent to the landfill for power generation at half the price paid on the electric grid. . . and it is clean energy produced locally. This initiative allows the county to reinvest energy savings into core services such as road paving and/or education.

For more information on the project, contact Director Lee Beauchamp, PE.

Carroll County Commissioners Seek Long Term Solid Waste Disposal Options As Part of Study

October 22, 2014

An October 21 Carroll County Times article reported that the Carroll County Board of Commissioners provided input to KCI Technologies regarding a solid waste review that KCI was performing for the County.  The Commissioners requested KCI to focus on long-term solid waste disposal trends and options.  From the article:

Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, said he would like a projection of where the waste disposal industry is headed.

“Instead of paying millions to get rid of waste, can we end up selling it as fuel down the road?” Rothschild asked at Thursday’s meeting. “I’d like to see that in the study.”

Commissioner Dave Roush, R-District 3, said he doesn’t want KCI to include or create methods of disposal; he wants the group to gather data so the board can make an informed decision and create its own methods.  …

“My concern before the conversation [on Thursday] was KCI was trying to capture what was going on currently, just short-term solutions,” [Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5,] said. “Long-term solutions will be much more important. The study needs a precise analysis of what industry trends are.”

The article indicated that the study should be finished in December 2014 or January 2015.

Advocates Seek Doubling of Maryland’s Renewable Energy Goal to 40% By 2025

October 22, 2014

An October 17 Baltimore Sun article reported that a coalition of environmental, labor, and other groups want the Maryland General Assembly to double the state’s mandated renewable energy goal of 20% by 2022 to 40% by 2025.  From the article:

Speakers argued that increasing the state’s share of electricity from wind, solar and other non-fossil fuel sources will reduce harmful air pollution and produce jobs.  …

Even though Maryland is less than halfway toward its 20 percent renewable-power goal, [Chesapeake Climate Action Network's James] McGarry said advocates are confident the state can do much better. Costs of wind and solar energy generation have fallen sharply, he said, and projects are being built at a pace that assures the state will exceed its current target.

An O’Malley administration plan to reduce Maryland’s climate-altering emissions of carbon dioxide already calls for an increase in the renewable power goal to 25 percent by 2020, McGarry pointed out. The 40 percent target advocates now seek is a “reasonable extension” of that goal, he added.

Pennsylvania Legislature Weakens Forest Buffer Requirements For High Quality Streams

October 22, 2014

An October 15 Bay Journal article reported that the Pennsylvania General Assembly has approved a bill that could weaken protections for high quality streams by relaxing the use of forested buffers.  From the article:

A controversial bill that environmental groups said would weaken protection for Pennsylvania’s cleanest streams won final approval by the state’s General Assembly on Wednesday.  …

The bill would change a regulation adopted by the Department of Environmental Protection in 2010 that requires projects disturbing more than an acre of land in state-designated high quality and exceptional value watersheds to provide a 150-foot forest buffer along streams.

Instead, the bill says a 100-foot buffer “may be used as a preferred choice” along streams but allows developers to substitute other stormwater control practices.

The article noted that a substituted pollution control device had to be “substantially equivalent” to a forest buffer and that removed buffers had to replaced “as close as feasible” to an area where they were removed.  The article also described the positions of the legislation’s supporters and opponents:

Environmental groups had contended in their comments that no other practices provide both the pollution control and in-stream habitat benefits as forest buffers.  …

Besides [the Chesapeake Bay Foundation], the legislation was opposed by numerous other organizations such as the Pennsylvania Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited  and Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, among others.

The state Fish and Boat Commission also opposed the bill, as did former Department of Environmental Protection Secretary David Hess.

Hess, who served in the administrations of Republican Governors Tom Ridge and Mark Schweiker, said in a letter to lawmakers that forested buffers were “the most effective and least costly” way to reduce stream pollution and protect habitat.  …

[Passage] of the bill had been a priority for builders and developers who argued that it imposed extra burdens on landowners.

State Sen. Lisa Baker, a Republican who represents several counties in Northeastern Pennsylvania which has many high quality and exceptional streams, characterized the bill as a “landowner/property rights bill” that seeks to “develop a balance between responsible development and environmental protection.”

“I’m not interested in paving the way for huge developments nor trying to punch holes in clean water,” she said. “My interest is in giving relief to landowners who find they can not do improvements to their property costing jobs and opportunities that rural areas can ill afford to lose.”

Bay States Announce Goals and Management Strategies

October 22, 2014

As previously reported on Conduit Street, all states located in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed recently signed a new Watershed Agreement.  The agreement’s 31 outcomes are more general than in the prior three agreements, and call for (among other things) 85,000 acres of wetland restoration, 900 miles of new forest stream buffers annually, and the protection of 2 million acres of land, all by 2025.  A September 25 Bay Journal article (published in the Journal’s October 2014 print edition) examined concerns about states being able to chose which of the 31 outcomes they will undertake and how states will formulate “management strategies” that are required under the new agreement.  The management strategies must outline the steps a state will take over two-year increments to meet the agreement’s outcomes.

The article summarized the number of outcomes adopted by each Bay state:

One controversial part of the agreement was that not all signatories were obligated to work toward each outcome. Environmental groups in particular expressed concern that if states could “opt out” of certain parts, it would jeopardize the ability to achieve goals.  …

On Sept. 16 — the three month anniversary of the agreement signing — the state-federal Bay Program partnership released a list showing that Maryland, Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay Commission had agreed to work on all 31 outcomes. One or more federal agencies are also working on each strategy.

Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia agreed to work on 26 outcomes, and Delaware 24. For the most part, those jurisdictions are not participating in outcomes related to Bay fisheries or habitats immediately surrounding the Chesapeake.

New York signed up to participate in 15 outcomes and West Virginia, eight.

Nick DiPasquale, director of the EPA Bay Program Office, which coordinates state-federal Bay activities, described the September list as a “first cut” and said he expected participation to grow, especially for headwater states.

The article also described the management strategy process:

[The drafting of management strategies] will be done by teams that include agreement signatories as well as representatives from stakeholder groups. Strategies are to be completed in March. They will then be submitted for public comment. Final documents to be approved by June 16, 2015.

The strategies will not only identify what actions are needed to accomplish each outcome, but will also identify factors that could hurt the ability to achieve the goals, such as land use change, regulatory obstacles or lack of local support. They also need to suggest ways those problems might be overcome.

The strategies will identify existing programs that can help achieve the goals, and where those programs may need improvements.

They also need to identify how progress will be monitored and how programs can be adapted to address shortfalls in progress or changing conditions.

Finally, the article discussed how the public can submit comments and become involved in the development of the management strategies through the Bay Program.  For further information, click here.

Carroll County And Municipalities to Consolidate Stormwater Plans

October 15, 2014

Seeking to address costly stormwater projects driven by federal permit requirements, Carroll County and its eight municipal governments are set to reframe their separate management structure and engage under one consolidated federal permit from the US Environmental Protection Administration.

From Carroll County Times coverage:

Under the proposed agreement, the costs of stormwater mitigation projects within the boundaries of the municipalities would be split, with the county paying for 80 percent and the municipalities paying 20 percent. Roughly $9 million in anticipated costs would be the responsibility of the county, while the municipalities would be responsible for about $2.2 million in anticipated costs.

In addition, the county government also would be responsible for covering the full amount of stormwater management projects outside the municipal borders, adding $12 million to the county’s projected total.

Read the full article online at the Carroll County Times website.



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