NACo Northeast Regional Conference Call

December 15, 2014

Maryland’s county elected and appointed officials are invited to join the National Association of Counties’ Northeast Region’s monthly call, for an update on federal policies affecting counties.

This month’s call is Wednesday, Dec. 17th 2014, at 8:00am EST, Dial-In: 1-719-359-9722, Dial-In (toll free): 1-888-757-2790, Guest Passcode: 299194.

 

AGENDA

Welcome and Introductions

  • Hon. Christian Leinbach – Chairman, Berks County Commissioners (PA)

General Legislative/NACo Update

  • Deborah Cox – Legislative Director NACo

Update on Lame Duck Congress

Waters of the US

Discussion General

  • NACo Prescription, Health and Dental Discount program

Adjournment


“Zero Waste Maryland” Plan Released

December 15, 2014

The Maryland Department of the Environment has released its forward-looking “Zero Waste” plan, a far-reaching document setting goals and objectives to reduce solid waste disposal and pollution over the years to come. From the plan’s own opening section, “Zero waste is an ambitious, long-term goal to nearly eliminate the need for disposal of solid waste and to maximize the amount of treated wastewater that is beneficially reused.”

MACo was among numerous stakeholders submitting formal comments on a draft version of the plan, after an earlier draft was circulated. See July coverage of MACo’s comments on Conduit Street.

The version of the plan released today includes these lofty goals:

-Waste diversion of 54% by 2015, increasing to 85% by 2040

-Overall recycling goal of 50% by 2015, increasing to 80% by 2040

-Recycling of food scraps and yard trimmings to 90% by 2040

-Water reuse to 40% by 2040

One section of the report speaks to the funding requirements of the many ambitious components of the plan:

In recognition of the challenges of securing sustainable funding, a number of the initiatives proposed in this Plan are designed to be self-sustaining, including initiatives to encourage beverage container and carryout bag diversion and extended producer responsibility policies. However, other important components will require the State to revisit the funding issue. The Department, local governments, members of the General Assembly, and other stakeholders will resume discussions about funding options as recommended in the Study Group’s report, including permitting fees.

Among its many suggestions, the Plan endorses grant support to “incentivize” local governments:

The State should assist counties and municipalities with startup costs for new or expanded waste diversion programs. This could be accomplished through grants for:
New food recovery programs; Pay-as-you-throw programs; Permanent recycling programs for difficult materials such as pharmaceuticals or other types of household hazardous waste; Procurement of updated recycling or collection equipment; or Enforcement of new disposal bans on recyclable materials.

In its official comments on the draft report, MACo had suggested that this be expanded to reference ongoing costs, as well as the more limited “startup” costs — but that segment was unchanged from the draft report. MACo has raised concern that counties could find support for initial costs of these programs, but be left supporting their entire support cost in ongoing years.

The report, among many other possible policy initiatives, also speculates about statewide policies on plastic bags and beverage containers, but does not explicitly endorse a particular new tax/fee or ban fee on either product.

A forum is being held tomorrow to discuss the report, and the stakeholder feedback received during the comment period already held.

Read the full “Zero Waste Maryland” report online.

MACo’s upcoming Winter Conference will feature a session entitled “Waste Not, Want Not: The Promise and Challenge of Zero Waste.” A policy like Zero Waste will have profound policy and budget implications not only for the counties but also municipalities, the private sector, and Maryland residents. Panelists will discuss the benefits and challenges Zero Waste presents to these different sectors.

More information about MACo’s Winter Conference:


Harford County Executive Glassman Proposes Hotel Tax, Repeal of Stormwater Management Fee

December 15, 2014

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman has proposed legislation to impose a 6% hotel tax in the county and to repeal the county’s stormwater management fee. The legislation was introduced by the County Council during its meeting last week.

As reported by the Baltimore Sun,

The hotel tax would levy 6 percent of the rent paid, for stays of up to 30 consecutive days, in an inn, motel, cottage, hostel, rooming house, guest house, bed-and-breakfast or tourist home.

Glassman plans to spend all the revenue on promoting economic development through a competitive grant process “with built-in accountability,” he said in a press release Wednesday.

Half of the revenue collected from the tax will be paid to the mayor and city council of a municipality, if it is collected within a municipality. The rest of the revenue would go toward county tourism activities.

The other piece of legislation would repeal the county’s 2013 stormwater management fee.

Glassman said in a Wednesday press release that he looks forward to the fee’s reconsideration.

“While the rain will no longer be taxed in Harford County, I look forward to working with Gov.-elect Hogan and the Maryland General Assembly to find common sense solutions that help protect the Chesapeake Bay,” Glassman said in the release.


Anne Arundel County & Bay Trust Launch New Watershed Restoration Grant Program

December 11, 2014

Anne Arundel County has teamed up with the Chesapeake Bay Trust to launch the new Watershed Restoration Grant Program, which provides grants to qualified applicants for Chesapeake Bay and local waterway restoration projects.  From the December 8 program announcement:

The Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works and the Chesapeake Bay Trust announce a new grant program, the Watershed Restoration Grant Program, to support restoration activities throughout Anne Arundel County to improve water quality in local streams and rivers. The grant program was created to engage local nonprofit organizations, landowners, and communities in efforts to restore the County’s waterways; to provide resources to these groups to enable them to implement greening and water quality projects; and to assist Anne Arundel County’s efforts to meet the requirements of its state and federal stormwater pollution permit and local waterway cleanup plan.  …

“Anne Arundel County is undertaking extensive on-the-ground efforts to do our part to help restore the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams,” said Erik Michelsen, administrator of Anne Arundel County’s Watershed Protection and Restoration Program. “We recognize that restoring our waterways takes teamwork and this grant program is an opportunity for the County to partner with local organizations to have a positive impact on our creeks, streams and rivers.  We look forward to working with County residents and the Chesapeake Bay Trust as we all do our part to restore and protect our waterways.” …

Specifically, the program supports implementation requests for: bioretention cells, bioswales, rain gardens, and other low impact development stormwater techniques; stormwater wetland and marsh creation and enhancement; stream and wetland restoration practices of various types; and green roofs. Other project ideas will be considered on a case by case basis and all applications will be reviewed by an independent peer review Technical Review Committee.  …

Grants requests between $20,000-$100,000 will be accepted online until February 27 at 5:00 pm. Projects must be implemented in Anne Arundel County, and applications must include at least one partner that represents a stakeholder group based in the County. Funding partners welcome requests from 501(c) non-profit organizations: including watershed groups; community associations; service, youth and civic groups; and faith-based organizations. For more detailed information and to access the full Request for Proposals, visit www.cbtrust.org/grants/AnneArundelWR.


Governor-Elect Hogan Discusses Common Issues With County Executives

December 11, 2014

Governor-Elect Hogan held a breakfast meeting this week with a number of county executives to discuss issues of common interest. As reported by the Annapolis Capital,

The main concerns raised at the breakfast meeting were the need for money from the Highway User Fund, the state’s heroin epidemic and the pending $900 million state revenue shortfall.
Meeting attendees included, Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman, Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver and Cecil County Executive Tara Moore.

Schuh said the six mostly discussed issues facing Maryland as a whole. He brought up the need for local highway user funds, which have been cut under Gov. Martin O’Malley. This money helps local jurisdictions pay for road repair and maintenance.

Schuh also brought up the heroin epidemic, an issue Hogan and the other executives talked about at length.

Glassman said he hoped to work with Hogan on a “culture change” in state agencies to speed up stormwater management permits and streamline other government activities. New businesses in Harford are complaining about waiting too long for permits, he said.

Kittleman discussed issues facing Howard County, including a $14 million revenue shortfall and the jurisdiction’s struggles on the issues of heroin abuse and mental health.

He brought up the idea of repealing the Stormwater Remediation Fee, dubbed “rain tax” by its critics, and giving county governments latitude in meeting the fiscal demands of runoff control.


Sun Article on Hogan/Frosh Relationship: Conflict or Collaboration on Environmental Issues?

December 11, 2014

A December 10 Baltimore Sun article examined the potential relationship between incoming Governor Larry Hogan and incoming Attorney General Brian Frosh on environmental issues, particularly on efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.  Noting that the two have “clashed in the past,” the article explored how they will need to adapt to each other’s sometimes conflicting viewpoints and the roles of their new offices.

Governor-Elect Hogan has previously argued against what he sees as overly invasive environmental regulations such as the 2012 stormwater remediation fee legislation and the recently proposed phosphorus management tool regulations for agriculture.  In his role as a state legislator, Frosh has supported many pieces of environmental legislation including both the stormwater fee legislation and new pollution limits on farmers.  From the article:

As they prepare to meet Friday, Gov.-elect Larry Hogan and Attorney General-elect Brian E. Frosh both say they want to turn the page and work together. But the two men could find themselves at odds.  …

Asked about Frosh this week, Hogan sounded a hopeful note.

“We’ve had some differences of opinion,” Hogan said, “but I’m looking forward to sitting down with him and seeing where we can find common ground.”

Frosh likewise struck a positive tone.

“I’m not going into this anticipating there’s going to be conflict,” Frosh said. “I think we’re going to be able to work together.”

The article described some of the relationships and environmental issue conflicts between previous governors and their attorney generals, as well as prior disagreements between Hogan and Frosh.  The article also stressed Frosh’s stated priority of enforcing environmental laws:

“You can pass all the laws you want,” Frosh said, “but if you don’t enforce them, they have no effect.”

Frosh said he plans to go after polluters wherever they are. But that could put him crosswise at times with his client, the governor. Although Hogan has declined to say much about his policies prior to being sworn in Jan. 21, he has vowed to repeal the stormwater fee law and to fight the farm pollution rules being put forward in the waning days of the O’Malley administration.  …

“There is potential for conflict [with Hogan],” Frosh acknowledged “I hope there won’t be any. I think if we find someone breaking the law, I’ll be able to agree with the governor on what to do about it.”

The article also provided the perspective of numerous other environmental stakeholders, legal experts, and legislators:

Rena Steinzor, a University of Maryland law professor who specializes in environmental issues, said some activists may be expecting too much from Frosh.

“He’s a cop now,” she said, “not a general all-around policy guy. … I hope they understand what his office does, because he can’t necessarily stick his nose into all the policy problems. He needs to be the attorney general first and foremost, and that’s law enforcement.”  …

Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, a Prince George’s County Democrat and fellow environmental advocate, predicted that Frosh would do his best to find common ground with the new governor.

Pinsky added, however, “Brian will do what he has to do to enforce the law.”


Researchers Urge Best Management Practices to Reduce Salt Usage

December 11, 2014

A December 10 Sustainable Cities Network article enumerated the environmental threats posed by the overuse of salt in deicing roads and potential ways public works departments can reduce its usage while still keeping roads passable and safe.  From the article:

On the one hand, salt and other deicers save lives and money by reducing accidents and allowing commercial traffic and air travel to continue flowing throughout the season. On the other hand, the sodium chloride that gives salt its ice melting punch can be corrosive to vehicles, roads and bridges. When the spring melt carries it into nearby streams, it can be a hazard to plants and aquatic animals.

And, if it finds its way into the groundwater system it can even contaminate drinking water and pose a risk to human health, said Victoria Kelly, environmental monitoring program manager at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y.

“There is a growing body of research that shows salt use is degrading freshwater resources,” Kelly said in an interview released today by the Institute. “In Dutchess County (N.Y.), it’s not uncommon for private wells to have sodium concentrations that exceed government health standards.” …

Cary Institute freshwater ecologist Dr. Stuart Findlay said the use of rock salt on roads has had a cumulative effect on the environment. “Road salt is not simply transported from roadways, to streams, to the ocean. Our long-term studies indicate it is retained in watersheds, where it accumulates. In some rivers and streams, peak salt levels have risen well above the federal level set to protect fish and amphibians (230 mg Cl/L). Even lower levels of exposure have negative effects on sensitive plants and animals if exposure times are long,” Findley said.

The article also discussed methods to lower road salt usage, including: (1) prohibiting the overloading of salt spreaders; (2) pre-salt wetting; (3) use of sensors which adjust salt dispersion based on road and temperature conditions; and (4) use of brine solutions; and (5) use of salt alternatives such as calcium chloride or beet juice.

Findlay said spraying a brine solution is another way to use less salt. “Compared to rock salt, brine uses 60 to 70 percent less sodium chloride overall, and it doesn’t bounce. Applying it before a snow event prevents the ice-pavement bond from forming, making it easier to remove snow later on. Because brine is a liquid, it does require different spreading equipment, so there is an initial capital expense,” he said.

Alternatives do exist, but some like calcium chloride are 5 to 6 times more expensive than salt, so they’re only economically feasible in especially vulnerable areas near reservoirs and municipal water supplies, Kelly said. The push to find an inexpensive and environmentally friendly alternative to salt has some people thinking outside the box.

“From beet juice in Michigan to cheese brine in Wisconsin, novel deicers have gotten a lot of attention lately,” Findlay said. “One thing is clear – we really need to exercise best-management practices when applying salt, and invest in research on salt alternatives. It can take decades for road salt to flush out of a watershed, so the increased salt concentrations we see today will be with us even after its use has stopped.”


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