NACo Webinar: Sustainable Waste Management Strategies For Counties

April 23, 2014

The National Association of Counties (NACo) is offering a webinar on “Sustainable Waste Management Strategies for Counties” on Thursday, May 15 from 2:00 PM – 3:15 PM EDT.  The webinar is open to NACo members.

New approaches to waste management can enable counties to reap significant environmental and financial benefits. For example, landfill diversion programs can increase county recycling rates and extend the life of existing landfills. Naturally occurring methane at landfills can be captured and used as a source of renewable energy, reducing methane emissions and offering energy savings and new streams of revenue. Fuel efficient fleets can reduce vehicle emissions and save on fuel costs. This webinar will provide participants the tools and strategies needed to incorporate sustainable strategies into their counties waste management practices.

Click here for further information and to register.


Baltimore, Other Cities File Amicus Brief in Support of EPA and Bay TMDL

April 23, 2014

As previously reported on Conduit Street, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has criticized the support of a number of Midwest, Western, and Southern states in a legal challenge to the authority of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).  An April 22 Baltimore Sun B’More Green blog post reported that Baltimore City and several other large cities have filed a brief in support of the EPA and the Bay TMDL.

New York City, with sign-ons from Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and San Francisco, filed a “friend-of-the-court” brief Monday in federal appeals court in a case challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s imposition of bay cleanup goals on Maryland and the other five states in the Chesapeake watershed.  …

Attorneys general for 21 states, from Alaska to Florida, have sided with the industry groups, fearing that EPA could step in and order similarly sweeping cleanups of other waterways.  …

Lawyers for the cities counter that unless EPA can require cleanup from all sources of water pollution, including storm runoff from farmland and development, the burden will fall disproportionately on sewage plants run by municipalities and other facilities that are directly regulated via discharge permits. …

The post also notes that the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, which will be considering the appeal, has not yet set a date to hear arguments.


Leading By Example: Congratulations to Maryland’s First Smart Energy Communities

April 21, 2014

MD Smart Energy CommunitiesAt the start of 2014, seven counties in Maryland, and Baltimore City received the Maryland Smart Energy Community (MSEC) designation from the Maryland Energy Administration. The hard work and leadership of these counties has put them in the position to better understand and manage their energy usage, and advance sustainability and cost reduction goals. As a result of these actions the counties qualify for grants from the Maryland Energy Administration. Congratulations to Baltimore City, Anne Arundel, Harford, Frederick, Garrett, Montgomery, Prince George’s and Talbot counties! There are currently thirty- four MSEC designated communities, including the eight counties listed above and twenty-six municipalities. The program looks forward to designating new participants over the next several years.

“Harford County utilized the MSEC program as a catalyst to accelerate our sustainability mission of efficiently using and reusing our resources,” said Erin Ferriter, Sustainability Coordinator for Harford County. “Without the program, we would not have had the capability to implement ideas of efficiency. We are excited that the program is continuing and look forward to remaining engaged.”

The MSEC program is administered by the Maryland Energy Administration and supported by the University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center. The Maryland Smart Energy Communities program welcomes all incorporated local governments in the state. Participation in MSEC requires communities to track and report energy consumption at county-owned facilities as well as assemble energy management plans.

Participating communities must adopt two of three goals related to energy efficiency improvements, renewable energy generation, or transportation petroleum reduction. Communities that meet the program requirements receive grant funding for energy-related projects such as energy efficiency retrofits or fuel-saving alternative vehicles. Other program benefits include the potential for fuel and electricity savings, improved environmental performance, access to technical assistance from the University of Maryland, and eligibility for more Smart Energy Community grant funding. Moreover, the MSEC program seeks to build a network of Maryland communities working together to share best practices for smart energy management, and to position local governments as energy leaders for their residents and businesses.

The next round of funding is not expected until late 2014, but interested local governments should visit http://energy.maryland.gov/Govt/smartenergycommunities. You can also contact Devan Willemsen, MEA’s MSEC Program Manager at devan.willemsen@maryland.gov or contact Sean Williamson, Program Manager, with the University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center at srw46@umd.edu or (301) 405-8259.


Second Annual Green School Summit

April 15, 2014

GSS-no-sponsors1-e1394228932210The US Green Building Council of Maryland Green Schools Committee has announced the 2nd Annual DC MD NoVA Green School Summit, The Intersection of STEM and Sustainability. This year’s event will be at Cardozo High School in DC on April 26th.  The Committee designed the summit to bring together all major stakeholders in green school construction.

The second annual Green School Summit will also serve as the culmination of  the DC Green Schools Challenge – See more at: http://www.usgbcncr.org/event/GSS#sthash.cayG1J7z.dpuf
The second annual Green School Summit will also serve as the culmination of  the DC Green Schools Challenge – See more at: http://www.usgbcncr.org/event/GSS#sthash.cayG1J7z.dpuf
The second annual Green School Summit will also serve as the culmination of  the DC Green Schools Challenge – See more at: http://www.usgbcncr.org/event/GSS#sthash.cayG1J7z.dpuf

As described by the Committee,

Our team has been working hard to put together a terrific event that should provide inspiration and information while also providing an opportunity to meet with like-minded professionals such as yourself.  We have an awesome keynote speaker lined up (Charles Orgbon, the founder and CEO of Greening Forward), a choice of green school tours (Cardozo Senior High School and Dunbar High School), and lots of great learning sessions (including a workshop by last year’s dynamic keynote speaker, Stephen Ritz of Bronx Green Machine).

For more information, including the full program and schedule, visit the event website.

 

The second annual Green School Summit will also serve as the culmination of  the DC Green Schools Challenge – See more at: http://www.usgbcncr.org/event/GSS#sthash.cayG1J7z.dpuf

Task Force to Study Bay Acidification

April 15, 2014

An April 14 DelmarvaNow.com article reported on the passage of legislation (HB 118) that would create a task force to study acidification in the Chesapeake Bay and other Maryland Waters over the 2014 interim.  The task force must make recommendations on how to deal with the issue by January 1, 2015.  The bill was sponsored by Delegate Eric Luedtke.

Luedtke hopes the task force will allow the state to begin developing policies to address potential issues related to acidification.

“The state’s been putting millions into oyster restoration, so it doesn’t make sense to do that and not look into this issue,” Luedtke said. “We need to start figuring out how we can best help watermen adapt.”

Some watermen said they were skeptical that the task force would help stave off acidification in the bay.

“There’s nothing a group of politicians comes up with that’s going to end up helping us out. That’s just the way it goes,” Tim Devine, owner of Barren Island Oysters in Hoopers Island, said in February. “By the time it gets agreed upon, it doesn’t do anything.”

The article also noted that Governor Martin O’Malley has not yet formally indicated whether he would sign the bill although a representative from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources predicted he Governor would sign.


Kent County Recycling Rates Up

April 11, 2014

An April 10 Kent County News article discussed a recent report to the Kent County Commissioner on County recycling efforts from division chief Marty Holden.  Holden noted that the County’s recycling rate has increased over the last several years, had good turnout for hazardous waste and tire collection events, and that the County is preparing to comply with the State mandate to have certain apartments and condominiums begin recycling this November.

Holden said a program to collect scrap farm equipment tires brought in 389 tons, or 25 truckloads, of tractor tires during March. He said the tipping fees for the tires were reimbursed by the state.

Also, 118 vehicles brought materials to a regional hazardous household waste collection program in Centreville. Items turned in included paint and electronic equipment. …

The county also has a recycling rate of 31.49 percent, up from 27.57 percent a few years ago. This is double the state-mandated rate of 15 percent, Holden said. The state rate is to rise to 20 percent in November. He said much of the reycled [sic] material is used by local businesses, such as Creafill Fibers in Chestertown.

The new state recycling standards will require apartments and condominiums with 10 or more units to begin recycling in November, Holden said. He said he has identified some 30 buildings that fall under the new standards. He said his department will be responsible for verifying compliance.

 


NACo Considers EPA Proposed Clean Water Act Regs

April 11, 2014

As previously reported on Conduit Street, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers have released proposed regulations that would change the definition of waters under the federal Clean Water Act.  An April 7 NACo County News article presented an initial analysis of the regulations and raised concerns about the effect of the regulations on county governments.  From the article:

This proposal will impact county-owned and maintained infrastructure such as roadside ditches and flood-control channels. The draft regulation defines a number of key terms including tributary, other waters, neighboring, riparian area, floodplain and significant nexus.

Some of the terms or definitions may be problematic for counties — for example, the term “floodplain” is not tied to the generally understood Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) program that oversees the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in floodplain areas. EPA and the Corps define floodplain as “an area bordering inland or coastal waters that was formed by sediment deposition from such water under present climatic conditions and is inundated during periods of moderate to high water flows.”

Determination of whether a floodplain falls under the  jurisdiction of the proposed rule may be decided by the “best professional judgment and experience” of agency staff making the determinations.

Most significantly, it is noted that most ditches, including county-maintained roadside, floodwater and other ditches would be considered U.S. waters, unless they meet certain exemptions.

Specifically on ditches, the draft regulation proposes a definition of “tributary,” which is defined as having a bed, bank and ordinary high-water mark and  contributes to flow, directly or indirectly, of a water of the U.S.  Tributaries can be natural and/or man-made, and include ditches (canals, channelized streams, piped, etc.). The flow may be ephemeral, intermittent or perennial, but the tributary must drain, or be part of a network of tributaries that drain into a water of the U.S.

The article reiterated NACo’s position that “local streets, gutters, and human-made ditches should be excluded from the definition of ‘waters of the U.S.’”  NACo is in the process of analyzing the regulations and will be submitting comments during the 90-day public comment period.  The article also explained how to submit public comments:

How to Comment on Waters of U.S. Proposed Rule
Written comments to EPA and Corps are due 90 days after the regulation is published in the Federal Register (which should be soon).  Please share a copy of the submitted comments with NACo staff: jufner@naco.org.

Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA–HQ– OW–2011–0880, by one of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
  • E-mail: ow-docket@epa.gov. Include EPA–HQ–OW–2011–0880 in the subject line of the message.
  • Mail: Send the original and three copies of your comments to: Water Docket, Environmental Protection Agency, Mail Code 2822T, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20460, Attention: Docket ID No. EPA–HQ–OW–2011–0880.

Eastern Shore Lawmakers Assess Legislative Session

April 9, 2014

As reported in the Delmarvanow, with more than 1,500 bills introduced since January, Lower Shore lawmakers have mixed feelings about statewide and local bills. Speaking about a bill that delays construction of a multi-million dollar wind farm in Somerset County, Senator Jim Mathias said,

“I’m not leaving here happy about everything, but in our country, majority rules . .  Here is where you have the opportunity to express yourself, to work specifically in committee and broadly on the floor.”

The article also discusses the passage of a bill to develop a phosphorus plan impact study, the overall budget passed by the General Assembly, and legislation to decriminalize marijuana.

For more information see Session’s end: Eastern Shore lawmakers unhappy with spending, wind farm delay.


Maryland League of Conservation Voters Releases 2014 Session Summary

April 9, 2014

The Maryland League of Conservation Voters (MDLCV) has released its 2014 Environmental Legislative Wrap-Up.  Among the five major policy issues highlighted in the summary, MDLCV counted two victories and three losses.

Defending the “polluted water law” (also known as the stormwater remediation fee) and the passage of pesticide reporting funding legislation were counted as wins.  Failure to pass legislation that would make changes to the State’s energy Renewable Portfolio Standard, freeze natural gas drilling (fracking), and require cumulative environmental impact assessments for certain permits were listed as losses.  The stormwater fee, Renwable Portfolio Standard, and natural gas drilling efforts were priorities of the environmental community.

The Wrap-Up gave a mixed verdict on the budget, supporting the funding for the Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund and low-income energy assistance but expressing disappointment with a cut to Program Open Space funding.    The Wrap-Up also commented on the outcomes of seven other environmental bills.


2014 Session Wrap-Up: School Construction

April 9, 2014

This post summarizes the status of bills affecting K-12 school construction in the 2014 Legislative Session.

Creation of a State Debt – Qualified Zone Academy Bonds: HB 190/SB 218, provides $4,625,000 in grant funding to the Interagency Committee on School Construction and the Maryland State Department of Education for renovation, repair and capital improvement to schools under the qualified zone academy bond program.  MACo supported this legislation that provides funding for an important niche of projects that would not normally qualify as true capital projects eligible for general obligation bond (GO) funding. Status:  SB 218 was passed by the General Assembly and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Board of Public Works – Relocatable Classrooms – Indoor Air Quality Requirements HB 628/SB 238 clarifies that the State Department of Education’s indoor air-quality regulations apply only to relocatable classrooms purchased after July 1, 2014.  This clarification will allow regulations that have been on hold for several years to finally go into effect.  MACo supported the legislation which will protect the health and safety of our school children from harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Status: HB 628/SB238 passed the General Assembly and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

State Department of Education – Assessment Report for Broadband Capabilities in Public Schools HB 1388/SB988 requires the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) to report on existing broadband speeds and connections in all public schools in the State by December 1, 2014.  The request for additional information will help determine the preparedness of our schools to implement the PARCC assessments within the next couple of years.  MACo supported the legislation with an amendment asking that the report include recommendations of appropriate State and private resources to fund the required investment, which is estimated to cost up to $100 million. Status: HB 1388/SB988 passed the General Assembly, without amendments, and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Study of Alternative Financing Methods for the Purpose of School Construction (previously Maintenance of Effort – Lease Payment Exclusion): HB 349/SB 388 in its original form clarified that lease payments made by a local board of education to a private entity holding title to school property from the State’s public school are excluded from the maintenance of effort (MOE) requirement.  The bill was amended, however, to only require the Department of Legislative Services to examine the use by local school systems of lease payments or certain other alternative financing methods for school construction.  MACo supported the original legislation which would have made private investment into school construction more accessible in all counties by clarifying that lease payments on privately constructed schools may be excluded from maintenance of effort like other debt service payment. MACo also supported the amended bill. Status: HB 349, as amended, was passed the House but was not passed by the Senate so it did not proceed further. According to recent news coverage, however, a report on lease payment financing may be requested through an executive order from the Governor.

Public School Construction - Creative Financing Study HB1323/SB927 in its original form provided Baltimore, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties with up to $20.0 million each annually in addition to other public school construction funding.  The amended bill removes that language, and instead requests only a study of public school construction to include developing creative means, financing or otherwise, to increase funding for public school construction; creating more reliable revenue streams that could include leveraging funds by counties to meet public school construction needs; and examining the use of lease payments for other alternative financing methods, by local school systems for public school construction. Status: HB1323/SB927 was delayed on the final day of session and did not ultimately pass the Senate. However, according to recent news coverage, the study may be requested through an executive order from the Governor.

For more information on the bills in this article, contact Robin Clark or (410) 269-0043.


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