Phosphorus Management Tool Regulations Agreement Finalized, No Legislation Moving

As previously reported on Conduit Street, legislation that would have codified phosphorus management tool (PMT) regulations proposed by former Governor Martin O’Malley to change when phosphorus can be applied to agricultural lands was put on pause pending a potential agreement with current Governor Larry Hogan on modifying PMT regulations that he introduced in response to the legislation.  A March 26 DelmarvaNow article reported that the Senate version of the legislation has now been referred back to committee – effectively sealing the compromise agreement. From the article:

Legislation restricting phosphorus use on Eastern Shore farms may be on its dying breath after a Senate bill was referred back to committee Wednesday — clearing the way for the larger compromise.

After Gov. Larry Hogan and Assembly Democrats announced the sides had reached an agreement last week on a new version of Hogan’s regulations, Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-22-Prince George’s, referred his bill back to the Health, Education and Environmental Affairs committee Wednesday. …

While the bill’s referral back to committee doesn’t completely kill the chance of it coming back to a Senate vote, Dawn Stolzfus with the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition said she had only heard of “rare occasions” where that was the case.

From a March 21 Star Democrat article:

According to the Maryland Department of Agriculture, two changes were made to the regulations proposed by Hogan on Feb. 23, which now are set for publication in the Maryland Register on April 3. …

Hogan, Democratic lawmakers, and agriculture and environmental groups agreed on a final implementation date of 2022, which can be extended to 2024 if there is not adequate capacity to handle extra chicken manure.

The newest version of the PMT also creates an expert advisory committee to evaluate the infrastructure and capacity available to manage additional manure as farmers transition to the PMT, according to MDA.

The committee is allowed to make recommendations to the secretary of agriculture should it feel an extension of PMT implementation is necessary.

The agreed-upon PMT now includes two one-year delays for PMT implementation, providing farmers with what Delmarva Poultry Industry Executive Director Bill Satterfield called a “release valve” if there is not adequate capacity for alternative manure uses.

 

Register Now – Maryland Land Conservation Conference – April 30 & May 1, 2015

The 15th annual Maryland Land Conservation Conference will take place on April 30 – May 1, 2015. Maryland Environmental Trust will host this year’s conference at The Conference Center at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum Heights, MD.

The annual conference is the only state-wide land conservation conference and training workshop of its kind in Maryland attracting board members, volunteers and staff from Maryland’s many land trusts and conservation organizations, as well as local and state government agencies, heritage organizations, members of the agricultural community and other partners.

Join Maryland Environmental Trust for two full days of educational workshops, peer-to-peer networking and an evening reception. This year’s keynote speaker will be Stephanie Meeks, president and chief executive officer of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Prior to joining the National Trust, Stephanie held senior executive positions, including chief operating officer and acting president and chief executive officer, during her 17-year career with The Nature Conservancy, one of the world’s largest and most influential conservation organizations.

Online registration is open and space is limited. REGISTER NOW to take advantage of early registration rates which are available through April 3, 2015. Early registration is $55 for a single day ticket and $110 for both days. After Friday, April 3 the conference cost will be $68 for a single day ticket and $135 for both days. Walk-in and late registration (provided there is availability) is $80 for a single day, $160 for both days. Registration includes breakfast, lunch, refreshments and educational sessions.

With an amazing line up of speakers from throughout the Chesapeake Bay region and beyond, this year’s conference will offer a variety of topics on: historical and cultural resources; fundraising; urban land trusts; outreach and innovative partnerships; emerging issues and the conservation of large landscapes and working lands.

Participants will exchange new ideas and partake in lively, meaningful discussions about land conservation in our region. An informal Evening Reception and Awards Ceremony will be held on Thursday, April 30, 2015 from 4:45pm until 6:45pm. Tickets to the evening reception are complimentary for conference attendees, speakers and sponsors. However, registration is required.

So come join your fellow conservation colleagues at this year’s conference to learn about priority issues, engage in dynamic discussions and to reconnect with friends. For more information on sponsorship or exhibiting at the event, please contact Michelle Grafton at (410) 514-7915.

NACo Testifies Against “Waters of the US” Rule Before United States Senate Committee

In a March 25 news alert, the National Association of Counties (NACo) reported that NACo representatives testified before a Congressional Senate committee against the “waters of the United States” rule by the Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Corps of Army Engineers. As previously reported on Conduit Street, both NACo and MACo have expressed concerns that the proposed rule would subject county-owned drainage ditches, stormwater channels, and other ephemeral waterways to the oversight and permitting requirements of the federal Clean Water Act.  From the news alert:

On March 24, Ouray County, Colo. Commissioner Lynn Padgett testified on behalf of the National Association of Counties (NACo) at a hearing titled, “Waters of the United States: Stakeholder Perspectives on the Impacts of EPA’s Proposed Rule.” Padgett’s testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry highlighted impacts of the “waters of the U.S.” proposal on rural counties. The hearing was led by Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). …

In April 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) jointly released a new proposed rule that would amend the definition of “waters of the U.S.” within the Clean Water Act and dramatically expand the range of public safety infrastructure that falls under federal permitting authority. Since its publication, NACo has expressed concerns about the scope of the proposed rule and called for the proposed rule to be withdrawn until further analysis and more in-depth consultation with state and local officials could be completed.

Chairman Roberts expressed frustration over EPA’s announcement that they are changing the name of the “waters of the U.S.” proposed rule to the “Clean Water Act Rule.”

Roberts said, “merely changing the name is not enough…change the rule. If you want to protect clean water, it is time to listen and change the rule in a manner that allows for public input and collaboration AND is effective for farmers, ranchers and rural America.” …

The focus now moves to Capitol Hill, where lawmakers plan to introduce and debate legislation to stop the proposed rule in the coming months.

The video below shows Ouray County Commissioner Lynn Padgett sharing her concerns about the proposed rule’s potential impacts on rural America.

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Waters of the US

NACo Waters of the US Resource Page

Baltimore City Cancels Electricity Deal With Proposed Waste To Energy Plant

A March 25 Baltimore Sun article reported that Baltimore City has canceled an agreement to purchase electricity from Energy Answers from a proposed waste to energy plant that would be located in Fairfield.  The unanimous decision by the City’s Board of Estimates followed a similar cancellation by the City’s school system.  Lack of progress on the project was the key reason cited by the City.  From the article:

[Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie] Rawlings-Blake, whose administration has steadfastly supported the project, said she could no longer abide the developer’s failure to make progress in building it.

“The concept I support,” she said. “The implementation, or the lack of implementation, none of us can support.”

The project, said by the developer to represent a $1 billion investment, has been backed by labor unions, some neighborhood leaders and many local elected officials — including Rawlings-Blake. It promised to support hundreds of construction jobs and up to 180 permanent positions. But the project has been dogged by opposition from environmentalists and some nearby residents, and has shown little or no progress since Energy Answers declared it was ready to start construction in fall 2010.  …

Baltimore had joined 21 other local governments, school systems and nonprofits four years ago in agreeing to buy a total of 25 megawatts worth of electricity from the plant when it was built.

Stormwater Fee Poll Finds Voter Misunderstanding Key Impediment to Support

On March 13, OpinionWorks LLC released the results of a poll requested by the Clean Water Healthy Families Coalition that looked at voter attitudes about the 2012 legislation mandating 10 counties adopt a stormwater remediation fee (also known as the “rain tax” by the fee’s opponents).  Here are the major poll findings from the results:

This statewide poll identifies an overwhelming lack of public understanding of the stormwater remediation fee, which some have called the “rain tax.” The poll finds that inaccurate understandings of the fee have greatly elevated opposition. But when facts are presented, a plurality of 46% support the fee, and opposition drops to only about one-third (35%) of voters.

These are the major poll findings:

  • An overwhelming majority of voters (84%) believe the problem of water pollution can be fixed, but only 39% believe their local jurisdiction has the resources it needs to tackle water pollution locally.
  • A 50% majority of voters would support a reasonable local fee dedicated to the problem of water pollution, including a number of people who think other local taxes are too high.
  • Three-quarters of voters (75%) could not even guess how much they expect their local stormwater fee or “rain tax” to be. Of those who did offer a guess, most guessed too high.
  • Only 24% of voters think the term “rain tax” is the more accurate term for this fee.
  • Fifty percent of Maryland’s voters incorrectly think people will be taxed when it rains. Many voters are not sure, leaving only 29% who know they will not be taxed when it rains.
  • Initially, just based on what they have read or heard, 40% said they oppose this tax, 23% said they support it, and 26% had no feelings either way. The rest were unsure.
  • But those who believe “rain tax” is the more accurate term oppose it by 67% to 11%. Meanwhile, those who felt that “stormwater fee” was the more accurate name support it by 40% to 21%.
  • The major finding of this poll is the impact of information: With some facts, opposition to this fee fell to only one-third (35%) of voters, support doubled to 46%, and 11% said they had no feelings about it either way.
  • If voters believe this fee will be effective at reducing pollution, support rises even higher.

The poll questioned 594 people from the period of February 26 to March 15, 2015.

 

Bill Creating New Climate Change Planning Vision Withdrawn in House

Delegate Barbara Frush, the sponsor of legislation (HB 881) that would have added a new thirteenth planning vision addressing climate change, has withdrawn her bill.  MACo had proposed an amendment deleting the vision as unnecessary and onerous for local governments.

The new planning vision would have read: “Preparation and adaptation – consideration of climate change risks, including sea level rise, increased precipitation and temperature, storm surges, and flooding, based on available data predicting the likelihood of future extreme weather events.” Planning visions are broad goals that must be incorporated into local comprehensive plans.

 

From MACo’s testimony:

MACo does not object to the State components of the bill, including the ongoing climate change impact assessments and model local ordinances. Such information and tools assist counties in forming their own climate change adaptation strategies. However, MACo does object to the requirement of having to incorporate yet another major policy component into local comprehensive plans that are already burgeoning with mandated information.

Since 2006, counties have seen significant new land use and environmental mandates that have required major additions or changes to a county’s comprehensive plan or related planning processes.

 

SB 256, which was heard by the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on February 17.  The Committee has taken no action on that bill.

MACo HB 881 Testimony

MACo SB 256 Testimony

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of HB 881

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of SB 256

General Assembly Holds Phosphorus Legislation Pending Agreement With Governor

The Maryland General Assembly has put a hold on passing legislation (HB 381/SB 257) that would have codified controversial phosphorus management tool (PMT) regulations for agricultural lands after reaching a tentative agreement with the Administration of Governor Larry Hogan.  The General Assembly has delayed discussion of SB 257, which is on  the Senate floor, until March 25, pending the Administration modifying regulations it introduced several weeks ago.  (HB 381 has not moved from the House Environment and Transportation Committee.)  The bills would have adopted PMT regulations that had been introduced by the outgoing Administration of Governor Martin O’Malley but withdrawn by Governor Hogan shortly after his inauguration.  Hogan subsequently introduced his own version of the PMT regulations.  From a March 18 Washington Post article:

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has agreed to a firmer deadline for fully implementing regulations that limit the amount of chicken manure farmers can use as fertilizer — ending tense negotiations among his administration, state lawmakers, Eastern Shore farmers and environmentalists worried about pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. …

By 2022, all farmers will have to abide by the new rules, although some farms could be granted an extension until 2024 if major problems arise. An advisory committee will oversee the phase-in process and must approve any extensions.

“We have agreement on a solution that represents one of the most important steps forward in environmental policy in the last decade,” said Doug Mayer, a spokesman for Hogan. “We thank all parties for their hard work on this critical issue.”

Further coverage from a March 18 Baltimore Sun article:

Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Prince George’s County Democrat, introduced [SB 257] after Hogan — in one of his first acts as governor — withdrew the anti-pollution regulations before they became final.

Pinsky said his negotiations with the governor’s office are getting to a point where the substitute rules are strong enough to deal with the problem of phosphorus runoff into the Chesapeake Bay.

“I think we’re close if not at consensus,” Pinsky said.

While acknowledging that agriculture must meet its federal and local water pollution requirements, MACo had opposed the bills, citing the negative impact on agriculture and the ability of county governments to apply sewage sludge on agricultural lands.

MACo HB 381 Testimony

MACo SB 257 Testimony

Miller Stormwater Fee Bill Heading Towards Passage in Senate

SB 863, a bill introduced by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and co-sponsored by a majority of the Senate membership, has been amended and is on its way toward Senate passage. The proposal’s future in the House, where all stormwater fee related legislation has so far been rejected, is unclear.

The bill was voted out of the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on March 18 on a 10-0 vote, after a lengthy set of amendments was adopted. The amended version of the bill changes the substance of the original bill substantially.  Key features of the amended bill include:

  • Repeals the mandate that a county or municipality subject to  a Phase I Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Permit adopt a stormwater remediation fee (they must still establish a local watershed protection and restoration fund)
  • Requires a Phase I local government permit holder to annually submit a financial assurance plan with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) that is subject to a public hearing
  • Requires MDE to determine whether the funding in the financial assurance plan is sufficient to meet the projected annual cost of compliance and prohibits a county from receiving a variety of State funding (such as the Bay Restoration Fund and Water Quality Revolving Loan Fund) if MDE determines the funding is insufficient
  • Requires a county that includes the costs of stormwater remediation in its capital or operating budget must meet with each municipality within its boundaries and mutually agree to assume responsibility for the municipality’s stormwater remediation obligation or for a municipality that has established a stormwater remediation fee, adjust the county tax rate within the municipality to offset the stormwater remediation fee charged by the municipality
  • Eliminates a proposed cap of $15 per 1,000 square feet for nonprofits
  • Exempts veteran’s organizations from paying the fee but provides for a local override if the jurisdiction is trying to secure federal payments for the local jurisdiction’s stormwater remediation fee

Read the complete third-reader version of the bill (with all the amendments incorporated online).

The Baltimore Sun coverage of the bill’s advancement notes the political issues remaining:

With 34 cosponsors, the bill gained preliminary approval without debate. It’s expected to come up for a final vote on Friday. Its prospects in the House are uncertain – leaders there have stood by the current law, arguing it already gives localities flexibility to lower or even skip fees altogether.

Hogan ran against the storm-water fee requirement, which he and other critics have derided as a “rain tax.” But lawmakers balked at outright repeal of the fee, perhaps recalling how before it was required communities had cried poverty when pressed on what they were doing to cleanup polluted runoff.

MACo’s original testimony on the bill is available online.

 

Update: The Senate unanimously passed Miller’s bill 46-0 on Friday, March 20. Find coverage about the stormwater fee bill here.

Follow NACo’s “Watch List” of EPA Regulations

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The National Association of Counties (NACo) provides status updates on pending EPA regulations of interest to counties including storm water, municipal solid waste landfills, and ozone regulations.

According to NACo, the final rule on the Definition of “Waters of U.S.” under Clean Water Act will be disseminated in April.

According to the EPA, the purpose of this upcoming rule would clarify which bodies of water (and their ditches) fall under federal jurisdiction in the Clean Water Act (CWA). Public comment period closed on Nov. 14, 2014. Local governments that oversee a number of ditches (roadside, stormwater, floodwater, etc.) that would be impacted.

EPA regulations are an example of federal policy that can have a significant influence of local governments. The National Association of Counties is a good resource for updates on these policies.

For more information, see the full status chart here and call-in to NACo’s Northeast Region Conference call tomorrow.

MACo & COG To Host MS4 Stormwater Permit Discussion With MDE Secretary on March 24

MACo and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments are jointly hosting a two-hour discussion session on municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) issues with Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles on March 24. The Session will take place from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM at MACo’s Annapolis Office (169 Conduit Street, Annapolis, MD 21401).

While the primary focus is on Phase I permit issues, Phase II counties are also invited to participate.  Each MS4 county may register up to three individuals and there is no cost for registration.  To register, please contact Kaley Schultze at MACo at 410.269.0043 or kschultze@mdcounties.org.

Please note: This discussion is open to counties only.

See the agenda for further information.