EPA Highlights Maryland Accomplishments on Farm Pollution

This week, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released positive comments on Maryland’s progress with farm pollution, calling the state’s rules calling them “robust and well-implemented.”

The Baltimore Sun coverage of the release covers not only the positive EPA coverage, but also the other findings in its full report, citing shortcomings in enforcement and compliance.

The EPA completed its assessment Monday of farm animal pollution controls in the six-state bay watershed, by issuing reports on Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia. The agency earlier this year had rated New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

While agency press releases gave more mixed reviews of farm animal pollution reduction efforts in Delaware and West Virginia, the public statement about Maryland was uniformly positive – making no mention of problems identified in the agency’s 50-page assessment of the state’s regulations and programs.

The EPA report notes, for instance, that 98.6 percent of Maryland farms required to do so had submitted “nutrient management plans” spelling out how much fertilizer they intended to use. But only two-thirds of those farms checked had up-to-date plans and were following them, the agency review adds.

Read the full Sun article online.

Read the full 50-page EPA assessment report cited in both the press release and the Sun coverage.

Report: MMEAC Recommends Solar, Biomass, and Energy Efficiency Projects

According to a press release from Garrett County, the Mountain Maryland Energy Advisory Committee (MMEAC) has released its final report.

The Mountain Maryland Energy Advisory Committee (MMEAC) presented its final recommendations to the Garrett County Board of Commissioners. These recommendations focused on solar power, biomass energy, and home energy efficiency.

Created in November 2013, the MMEAC has advised the Garrett and Allegany County Commissioners on local and state policy, regulation, programs, and legislation. The Committee guided energy planning in an attempt to maximize positive effects and minimize potentially negative consequences of energy production. Representing a diversity of perspectives, the 12 committee members are private citizens, business owners, and leaders in economic development, health, education, and recreation.

“Working with the Committee has been both enlightening and inspiring,” said Cheryl DeBerry, Natural Resources Business Specialist for Garrett County Economic Development. “Committee members and members of the public have provided us with some great ideas that will help Garrett County government as well as local businesses and residents learn about energy conservation and efficiency as well as sustainable energy development.”

Since its inception, the MMEAC has explored a range of topics proposed by Committee members and the general public. Morgantown–‐based environmental consultants Downstream Strategies facilitated the process and completed a final report in July.

As a result of Committee discussions, Garrett County will be installing solar systems in collaboration with Solar City at three sites: Oakland Roads Garage, Grantsville Refuse & Recycling, and the Deep Creek Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant. Beitzel Corporation and Pillar Innovations are also collaborating with Solar City to install a solar system at the Northern Garrett Industrial Park. These systems will produce clean electricity at stable electricity prices for years into the future.

Also flowing from the MMEAC process is a proposal at Garrett College to install a new heating system that would burn local forest products. The new biomass boiler would replace the College’s current systems that burn oil and propane.

Public education regarding energy efficiency opportunities that can both save money and electricity were the third focus of the Committee.

The MMEAC provided the following recommendations:

  1. Implement the three projects that have already been started related to solar, biomass, and energy efficiency education.
  2. Initiate action on the ideas that the committee has proposed for future consideration. These projects focus on biogas, community renewable energy systems, and additional solar opportunities.
  3. Continue the process that was started by the MMEAC.
  4. Disseminate information to local residents.

The final MMEAC report can be downloaded from: www.garrettcounty.org/energy/mountain-maryland-energy-advisory-committee.

To explore all energy initiatives within Garrett County, visit: www.garrettcounty.org/energy/.

Caroline County Governments Cooperate on New Sewage Program

Levengood
Caroline County Commissioner Wilbur Levengood, Courtesy of the Bay Journal

A decades-long frustration with septic systems across Caroline County has finally yielded a breakthrough agreement across the county and several towns. The new sewage treatment facility is being targeted to serve residents of Greensboro and Goldsboro, and to alleviate hundreds of failing septic systems.

From coverage in the Bay Journal:

The arrangement is somewhat original, and Maryland Department of the Environment Senior Policy Advisor Lynn Y. Buhl said that she hoped to use it as a model for cooperation in other areas that might have to tackle these issues. While the Greensboro plant is 50 years old and frequently overwhelmed by storms, the towns of Goldsboro, Marydel, Henderson and Templeville have no treatment at all.

In Goldsboro, the wastewater flowed into the town’s ditches, which eventually reached the Choptank River. But first, the water entered Lake Bonnie, a man-made recreational lake on a popular campsite that was forced by the Caroline County Health Department to close in 1996 because of pollution.

For more than a decade, county commissioners and local mayors have tried to incorporate a solution that would also address the septic woes of Henderson, Marydel and Templeville. Each of those towns has about 100 residents; in Marydel, residents on one side of the street live in Maryland; residents on the other side live in Delaware. Like Goldsboro, the mayors in these towns are volunteers, the budgets are small, and the residents are far from wealthy. All previous solutions would have required billing the residents far more than they could have afforded.

Read the full Bay Journal article online.

EPA “Waters of the US” Rule Now In Effect in Maryland, But Not Everywhere

The controversial “Waters of the Unites States” rule advanced by the US Environmental Protection Agency is now in effect in 37 states, including Maryland. Western states subject to litigation have been blocked from instituting the nationwide rule.

From coverage in The Hill:

Friday marks 60 days after the rule, known as the Clean Water Rule, was published in the Federal Register and the day that the agency planned to start enforcement along with the Army Corps of Engineers.

In response to a petition from 13 states, a North Dakota federal judge temporarily blocked the rule’s implementation late Thursday, ruling that the states would likely suffer if it took effect and that they are likely to succeed when their underlying lawsuit against the rule is decided.

But the EPA is interpreting the North Dakota decision to apply only in the states involved in the litigation.

“The Clean Water Rule is fundamental to protecting and restoring the nation’s water resources that are vital for our health, environment, and economy,” EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison said. “EPA and the Department of the Army have been preparing to implement the rule on the effective date of August 28.”

The preliminary injunction, Harrison said, applies only in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

“In all other respects, the rule is effective on August 28,” she said. “The agencies are evaluating these orders and considering next steps in the litigation.”

Read the full article from The Hill online.

Land Preservation Workgroup Members: Preserve Funding Formula; Consider POS Funding Restoration

As previously reported on Conduit Street, a Land Preservation Workgroup has been meeting to make recommendations regarding land preservation and easement acquisition programs funded through the State transfer tax, including Program Open Space (POS), Rural Legacy, the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation, and the Maryland Environmental Trust. At the Workgroup’s August 26, 2015, meeting representatives for each of the programs uniformly argued against changing the transfer tax funding formula, noting that the programs were successful and served distinct purposes.

Chesapeake Bay Commission Executive Director Ann Swanson also offered a proposal calling for an end to the “raiding” of state and local POS funding by FY 2018 and a return to using General Funds derived from the transfer tax rather than general obligation bonds to support POS. The proposal acknowledged the important role POS plays in both land acquisition and the construction of recreational facilities.

The proposal would also eliminate any POS funding repayments that were promised prior to FY 2016 but not yet made, except for a $90 million repayment to stateside POS that is statutorily mandated.  There was some discussion of allowing the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to use some or all of the $90 million for critical park maintenance. Attending Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton and Delegate Tawanna Gaines expressed support for the proposal.  MACo and Maryland Association of County Park and Recreation Administrators (MACPRA) representative John Byrd also supported the proposal.

Based on the Workgroup’s discussion, DNR will begin writing a draft set of recommendations that will be discussed at the Workgroup’s next scheduled meeting on October 6.

For further information, please contact Les Knapp at 410.269.0043 or lknapp@mdcounties.org.

Harford County Outsources Solid Waste Management to MES

An August 20, 2015, Harford County press release announced that the County has finalized an outsourcing agreement with Maryland Environmental Service (MES) over the County’s solid waste management services.  From the press release:

Harford County government finalized an agreement Wednesday for outsourcing the county’s solid waste management services to [MES], a not-for-profit, quasi-state agency with a track record of improving efficiencies and customer service.  The outsourcing agreement will not raise prices or limit services at the county’s landfill and recycling center.

MES will be reimbursed only for the cost of services it provides, according to the 10-month agreement covering August 31 through the remainder of fiscal year 2016.  Total reimbursements will not exceed the approved $4.7 million county budget for such services over the same time period.  MES services will include operation of the county’s Waste Disposal Center in Street and the Tollgate Rd. drop-off site in Bel Air. However, the county will retain oversight of its facilities and policy control over operations.

MES began conducting on-site customer surveys to identify opportunities for improving customer service after the county Board of Estimates approved the contract award to MES earlier this month.  In addition, nearly all of the approximately 40 county employees whose jobs are being eliminated by the outsourcing have found other positions, primarily with MES or in critical-need areas of county government arising from an earlier retirement incentive. The county first announced plans for the outsourcing in June. The announcement was timed to maximize job opportunities for affected county employees.

Established in 1970, MES provides environmentally responsible services to government and private sector clients in over 700 projects throughout the state and the region.  Staffing flexibility, broad access to resources, plus economies of scale, allow MES to provide efficient and customer-friendly service, while offering clients the potential for cost avoidance and cost savings.   A portion of the $150,000 initial cost savings to Harford County, already identified by MES, will fund a county position to oversee the MES contract. The complete MES contract is published on the county website at http://www.harfordcountymd.gov/download/2633.pdf.

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Pictured L to R: Seated – County Executive Barry Glassman, MES Director James M. Harkins
Standing – County Director of Administration Billy Boniface, County Attorney Melissa Lambert, County Department of Public Works Director Timothy Whittie, County Treasurer Robert Sandlass Jr.

 

Prince George’s & Howard Counties Pushing the Boundaries On Large Scale Food Composting

An August 21 Washington Post article detailed Prince George’s County’s efforts to have one of the first profitable government-run large-scale composting facilities in the nation.  Currently, the County’s pilot operation is breaking even with assistance from a federal grant that covers 8 percent of the facility’s costs, but County plans on growing the operation so that it is eventually profitable.  The pilot began in 2013. The article noted that Howard County is also experimenting with a publicly run composting facility. From the article:

“[Food composting is] a young industry, and we are on the ground floor,” said Adam Ortiz, director of the county’s Department of the Environment. “The magic is people are really passionate about it. Composting has emerged as a waking giant.” …

“Disposing of waste comes with a cost,” said Jeff Dannis, chief of operations at Howard County’s publicly run Alpha Ridge composting facility, which also is experimenting with composting food waste but on a much smaller scale than Prince George’s. “The issue is reducing the cost, and composting can be a less expensive method to letting [food scraps] sit in a landfill.” …

At the same time, the costs can be prohibitive, and the details of collecting and processing the scraps can be overwhelming.

Prince George’s officials say they do not yet know how many more tons of compost the county would have to make and sell each year to make money on the operation. They are doing the math now, calculating collection costs and assessing the market to determine their likely return.

The article discussed the challenges and failures other several other large scale food composting efforts on the East Coast and the inability of prior food composting facilities to be profitable.  However, the Prince George’s pilot is using newer composting technology and operating on a much larger scale than those older facilities.  The article also provided some specifics on the Prince George’s operation:

The Prince George’s composting program operates out of the Western Branch Yard Waste Composting Facility in Upper Marlboro, using a $12,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. …

The county collects food waste from Whole Foods Markets in Alexandria and Annapolis, the Smithsonian, the National Geographic Museum, local public schools and two municipalities — University Park and Takoma Park. It also collects from three local universities, the University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins and George Washington.

Officials work closely with each provider, and with their haulers, to explain what is and isn’t compostable. In addition to fruit and vegetable scraps, Prince George’s will take meat and dairy leftovers and pizza boxes, which are compostable because the cardboard contains organic material.

At the end of the composting process, the compost in sold in bulk as “Leafgro Gold.”

2015 Eastern Shore Local Exchange Will Focus on Land Use & Water Resource Issues

The 2015 Eastern Shore Local Government Exchange will focus on best management practices for land use and take place on Thursday, September 25 in Easton, Maryland.  The theme of the event is “Helping Our Communities Plan For The Future” and is open to all county officials, whether from the Eastern Shore or not.  The Exchange is hosted by the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology and the Eastern Shore Local Government Exchange Steering Committee.

From the event’s registration packet:

We are pleased to provide the opportunity for you to attend the 2nd Eastern Shore Local Government Exchange. The Exchange’s goal is to provide an event where local government representatives and citizens can share information concerning best management practices for land use and other issues. …

Agenda topics at this year’s event include:

  • Comprehensive Plans in Maryland: What has changed?

  • The Shore’s Water Resources: Innovative Approaches and Funding Sources to address issues

  • Potential impact of State legislation on the Eastern Shore

The cost to attend the 1-day event is $25 and registrations must be received by Thursday, September 17.  Five AICP CM credits have been approved for this year’s event.

For additional information, please contact Nancy Nunn at nnunn@umd.edu or 410.827.6202 (ext. 128).

2015 Eastern Shore Local Government Exchange Registration Packet and Agenda

Apply for MEA’s Game Changer Competitive Grant Program by October 30th

The Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) is pleased to announce the opening of the FY16 Game Changer Program. The Competitive program provides financial assistance for the deployment of innovative renewable energy systems.

According to MEA’s Game Changer Program webpage:

This is a competitive grant program, with awards expected to range from $50,000 to $250,000 per award. Up to a total of $1 million, subject to funding availability, is available through the program. Applicants are expected to contribute at least 70% of total project costs.

Project Goal:

To support innovative “game changing” renewable energy systems, specifically in two areas of interest:

Area of Interest 1: Innovative technologies that are expected to reduce the cost or increase the efficiency of traditional Tier 11 renewable energy systems while driving economic development opportunities; and

Area of Interest 2: Commercial, customer-sited electric storage systems that are integrated with a Tier 11 renewable energy source. MEA will only consider systems that provide a quantifiable reliability or resiliency benefit, demonstrate an innovative use case for storage, and drive economic development opportunities. Examples of innovative use cases may include the potential for storage to mitigate intermittency from on-site renewable generation, to manage on-site demand during times of highest need, or to provide another benefit to the host customer or electric system more generally, including utility distribution systems and wholesale markets.

For more on the application materials, minimum requirements and competitive evaluation criteria, please carefully review the Funding Opportunity Announcement.

Through the program, MEA seeks to demonstrate new technologies and storage applications, with a goal of encouraging replication of systems that can advance the market for renewable energy in Maryland. MEA will publicize projects and require grantees to share certain project details in a final report that can made public.

Applications are due by Noon on October 30, 2015.

NFWF Hosts Webinar on Rural Ditch Stormwater Management Practices

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) is hosting a free webinar on August 25, 2015, spotlighting best stormwater management practices for rural ditches.  From the announcement email:

Please join us next Tuesday, August 25th at noon for NFWF’s fourth Project Spotlight, “Best Practices in Rural Ditches.”

 Join Megan Leboon of AMEC Environment and Infrastructure, and Carolyn Howard of Draper Aden Associates, as they discuss the challenges and opportunities of working with stormwater runoff in community ditches. Megan will discuss her work in public right of ways in Wicomico County, and Carolyn will discuss her efforts around rural ditch enhancement in Matthews County.

 The presentation will be held as a webinar only (past and future presentations also have an in-person option, but this event will be virtual). Please register at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6016784182000163074

 The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Project Spotlight series is an effort to share lessons learned, challenges and opportunities in implementation through discussions with grantees who have recently completed, or are close to completing, a NFWF grant. Grantees with expertise in a common topic join together to reflect on their experiences and answer audience questions.