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.


2014 End of Session Wrap Up: Environment

April 8, 2014

This post summarizes the status of various environment bills that MACo took a position on for the 2014 Regular Session.

Bay Restoration Fund – Wastewater Treatment Plant Connections for Failing Septic Systems Outside of Priority Funding Areas: HB 11 is a departmental bill by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and a MACo 2014 Legislative Initiative. The bill would allow Bay Restoration Fund (BRF) monies to be used to connect failing septic systems outside of a Priority Funding Area (PFA) to a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) with capacity. (Current law allows such connections inside of a PFA only). An eligible area must be designated as a” public health area of concern” and receive State approval after going through a Smart Growth exception review process.

MACo supported the bill with amendments to clarify when a public health area of concern must be added to a county’s water and sewer plan and expanded eligible WWTPs both inside and outside of a PFA to include plants using biological nutrient removal.

FINAL STATUS: The House amended HB 11 to include the MACo amendments and the following additional provisions: (1) the funding agreement for a project must include provisions to ensure: (i) denial of access for any future connections that are not included in the project’s proposed service area and (ii) that the project will not unduly impede access to funding for upgrading individual septic systems to Best Available Nitrogen Removal Technology (BAT); (2) MDE must adopt regulations establishing review and public notice procedures; (3) grandfathering criteria for a longstanding proposed project in Queen Anne’s County; and (4) MDE must submit an annual report to the General Assembly. The Senate further amended the bill to require an additional public hearing and approval step for the Queen Anne’s County project and made a technical correction. MACo supported both the House and Senate amendments and the General Assembly passed the bill as amended.

MACo HB 11 Testimony

Bay Restoration Fund – Use of Funds for Best Available Nitrogen Removal Technology Septic System Enforcement: HB 12 is a departmental bill by the MDE that would allow county governments or other entities delegated by MDE to administer and enforce BAT septic system regulations to use a portion of the BRF septic system account monies to offset the administration and enforcement costs. No more than 10% of the total funds deposited in the septic system account can be used for such purposes.

MACo supported the bill as it would alleviate some of the fiscal costs placed on counties delegated by MDE to implement and oversee the BAT septic system regulations.

FINAL STATUS: HB 12 passed the General Assembly.

MACo HB 12 Testimony

Recycling – Zero Waste Task Force: HB 240 / SB 56 would create a Task Force a Maryland Recycling and Landfill Diversion Task Force to study recycling and waste diversion issues over the 2014 Interim. Some of the Task Force’s primary duties would include: (1) determining the viability of percentage recycling and landfill disposal goals for county governments; (2) evaluating how the goals could be incorporated into county recycling plans; and (3) identifying appropriate incentives and penalties, including the imposition of a compliance fee, for county governments. The bill would also require each county and MDE to adopt the United States Environmental Protection Agency solid waste management hierarchy.

MACo supported the bill with amendments to: (1) remove consideration of specified percentage goals for recycling and waste diversion and instead require the Task Force to consider appropriate and realistically achievable minimum recycling rates and maximum landfill disposal rates; and (2) remove language referencing the compliance fee and other penalties. MACo argued that a zero waste policy should be approached form a collaborative and incentive-based perspective, rather than one that simply imposed more unfunded mandates and compliance penalties on county governments.

FINAL STATUS: The House passed HB 240 with amendments that included MACo’s proposed language regarding consideration of recycling and landfill disposal rates but retained the bill’s original compliance fee language. The Senate education, Health, and Economic Affairs Committee gave both HB 240 and SB 56 an unfavorable report.

MACo HB 240 Testimony

MACo SB 56 Testimony

Recycling – Bottle Deposit: SB 394 would create a statewide container deposit fee of five cents on specified beverage containers sold in the State. The deposit fee would be paid by the consumer at the point of sale and placed into a Container Recycling Incentive Fund. Counties would have to establish or license a series of redemption centers throughout the State and a consumer could redeem the five cents by turning in a container to a center. The Fund would pay each redemption center a 1 cent handling fee for each container processed.

MACo opposed the bill citing costs to create the redemption centers and the underlying infrastructure needed to handle the containers, the potential negative impacts on existing county recycling efforts, and concerns over integrating a bottle deposit program into an already mature and robust statewide recycling scheme.

FINAL STATUS: The Senate Finance Committee heard SB 394 but took no action.

MACo SB 394 Testimony

Recycling – Special Events: As introduced SB 781 would require counties to update their recycling plans to provide for: (1) the collection and recycling of materials from public and commercial buildings; (2) the collection and recycling of materials from certain special events; and (3) where not already provided, a strategy for providing single-stream curbside recycling collection services to all single-family residences. The plans would have to be implemented by October 1, 2016. The State would have to amend it recycling plan to include the placement of recycling receptacles immediately adjacent to each trash receptacle in State owned or operated buildings. The bill would also establish non-compliance civil penalties for special event and commercial building recycling and authorize local governments to enforce and collect the penalties.

MACo opposed the bill, arguing that new recycling initiatives should be reached collaboratively between the State and county governments rather than mandated with no assistance or resources. MACo also cited the significant new cost, administrative, and enforcement burdens the bill would impose on counties.

FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed SB 781 with amendments removing all of the bill’s provisions except for the special event recycling requirements. MACo dropped its opposition to the amended version of the bill but continued to voice ongoing concerns about the formulation of recycling policy in Maryland.

MACo SB 781 Testimony

Economic Impact Analysis for Phosphorus Risk Assessment and Management Tools: HB 193 / SB 27 would require the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) to prepare a full economic impact analysis on the costs to persons who are required to have a nutrient management plan before: (1) making any change to the phosphorus risk assessment tool or index; or (2) implementing a phosphorus management tool. When preparing the analysis, MDA must consult with certain stakeholders, including local governments.

MACo supported the bill as it required MDA to determine the potential costs and benefits of a proposed phosphorus management change on farmers.

FINAL STATUS: The House Environmental Matters Committee heard HB 193 but took no action. The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee heard SB 27 but took no action. However, MDA has voluntarily agreed to perform the economic impact analysis before proceeding with new phosphorus management tool regulations.

MACo HB 193 Testimony

MACo SB 27 Testimony

Required Studies for Conowingo Dam Water Quality Certification: HB 910 would require an applicant from seeking a water quality certificate as part of the Conowingo Dam relicensing process to fund certain studies that are due to MDE by May 31, 2017. The studies must determine: (1) the composition and impact of the sediment trapped behind the Conowingo Dam on the Chesapeake Bay; (2) the costs and benefits of managing the sediment; (3) methods of reducing flooding downstream of the Dam; and (4) any other issue MDE considers appropriate based on the result of a study being conducted by the United States Army Corps of Engineers and MDE.

MACo supported the bill as it is a reasonable request to have the license applicant, the energy generation company Exelon, fund the needed studies. Exelon is already required to provide significant information as part of its relicensing process with both the State and federal governments and the studies would help both the State and counties make informed decisions on how to address the water pollution challenges posed by the Conowingo Dam.

Final Status: The House Environmental Matters Committee heard HB 910 but took no action. However, MDE committed to getting the information sought by HB 910 from Exelon as part of Exelon’s relicensing process with the State.

MACo HB 910 Testimony

Cumulative Impact Assessments for Environmental Permits: HB 1210 / SB 706 would require MDE to conduct a cumulative environmental impact assessment when considering a variety of environmental permit requests, including: air quality control, landfills, incinerators, water pollution discharge permits, sewage sludge storage, and various hazardous material facilities. MDE must use the assessment’s findings when determining whether to issue the permit or impose limitations on the permit to offset adverse cumulative environmental impacts.

MACo opposed bill, noting that while the underlying concerns of the bill were valid, the bill’s provisions would prove challenging and costly to implement and could result in higher MDE permit fees and increased delays in permit issuance and review.

FINAL STATUS: The House Environmental Matters Committee heard but took no action on HB 1210. The Senate passed SB 706 with amendments limiting the cumulative environmental impact assessment requirement to a specific area in Prince George’s County but the House Environmental Matters Committee gave the SB 706 an unfavorable report.

MACo HB 1210 Testimony

Note: There is no MACo testimony for SB 706.

Acceptance of Federal Funds By Maryland Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund: SB 101 is a departmental bill by MDE that would clarify that monies from the Maryland Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund may be used to provide financial assistance in the form of grants, negative interest loans, forgiveness of principal, subsidized interest rates, and any other forms of financial assistance as authorized or required by: (1) § 302 of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act; (2) Title VI of the federal Water Pollution Control Act; or (3) other federal appropriations or authorization acts. Without the clarifications, the ability of the Fund to accept federal funding would be compromised.

MACo supported the bill as the Fund provides assistance to many local government drinking water projects and upgrades.

FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed SB 101.

MACo SB 101 Testimony

For further information about the bills in this section or other environment bills, please contact Les Knapp at 410.269.0043 or lknapp@mdcounties.org.


NACo Webinar: Sustainable Waste Management Strategies for Counties – May 15

April 7, 2014

NACo logoOn Thursday, May 15, from 2:00 pm until 3:15 pm EDT, the National Association of Counties (NACo) will be holding a webinar discussing tools and strategies needed to incorporate sustainable strategies into their counties waste management practices.

From NACo’s website:

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.

To register for NACo’s webinar on sustainable waste management strategies, click here.


Budget Plan Finalized Stormwater, Film Tax Credits, Bail Reform

April 4, 2014

House and Senate budget conferees completed their work Thursday evening on the State’s $38.7 million fiscal 2015 budget, removing language on stormwater management fees that was proposed in conference earlier this week and increasing funds in the budget for film tax credits from $7.5 million to $18.5 million.

Differences in the Senate and House budget plans were not as substantial as in previous years, as both chambers agreed to use pension reinvestment funds to balance the fiscal 2014 and 2015 budgets.  The stormwater amendment and funding for film tax credits became two of the more controversial items.

As reported by MarylandReporter.com, the stormwater amendment,

…would have allowed all of the 10 jurisdictions affected by the 2012 legislation to siphon a percentage of their property taxes to fund stormwater remediation programs, an initiative devised to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. Instead, only Carroll and Frederick counties will be allowed to establish alternative sources of funding for the “rain tax,” as it is derided by its opponents.

The language now dealing specifically with Carroll and Frederick counties has been included in the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act. Further details can be found on Conduit Street.

The film tax credit discussion heated up when an amendment was adopted by the House to allow the State to take action against a movie production company that moves filming out of state.  As reported by the Baltimore Sun:

The House last week signaled its resentment over the “House of Cards” threat by tacking an amendment on a budget-related bill to require the state to use its eminent domain powers to acquire the assets of any production company that has received tax credits and moves its filming out of state. On Thursday, House budget conferees agreed to drop the eminent domain provision and tentatively concurred to higher funding.

The House Ways and Means Committee, however, has yet to approve the credit increase or spell out under what conditions credits might be available.

Budget conferees also agreed on funding to partially fund extra costs for public defenders – arising from struggling bail reform efforts. As reported on Conduit Street, the budget-based approach appears to do the following:

  • Provide $10m in state budgeted funds to support the Office of the Public Defender hiring “panel attorneys” to provide indigent representation at bail review hearings
  • Additional costs beyond that budgeted amount placed as a new direct mandate on county governments (who do not currently pay for public defenders)

In response to a request by MACo and others, budget conferees approved budget narrative directing the Maryland State Department of Education to compile and submit information on the “nonrecurring costs” process allowing counties to make one-time investments in school budgets without those funds being built into the state’s permanent funding requirements. As reported on Conduit Street, MACo had supported HB 1145, a revision to the nonrecurring cost process as a legislative initiative for the 2014 legislative session, but resistance to the changes prevented the bill from advancing in the House.

MACo will provide further information, including information on specific county items of interest, as the budget and budget reconciliation bills are released by the conference committee charged with resolving House/Senate differences – as soon as today.


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