Senate Finance Committee Passes Renewable Energy Legislation Supported by MACo

MACo submitted testimony to the Senate Finance Committee on March 8 in support of Senate Bill 690 which would expand the definition of a Tier 1 renewable energy source to include waste-to-energy facilities in the State’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard.   Currently, waste-to-energy facilities are in a less favorable Tier 2 category.   Tier 1 renewable energy sources include wind, solar power, and geothermal energy.  There are 3 waste-to-energy plants in the State certified as Tier 2. 

Adding waste-to-energy as a Tier 1 source will give the State one more option to help it reach its goal.  More options also mean that electricity suppliers may be able to meet their portfolio standard requirements more easily, translating into potentially lower electricity costs.  County governments that elect to run a waste-to-energy facility could also see a modest increase in revenues.

The bill is being sponsored by Senator Thomas C. Middleton, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee.  The Senate Finance Committee passed the bill out of the committee with amendments on March 10 and the bill will go to the Senate floor for a vote.

Governor’s Septics Proposal – Heading for Study? Or Showdown?

Today’s Baltimore Sun discusses the “roadblock” facing the Governor’s proposed limits on septic-based development, as the Chair of the House’s Environmental Matters Committee has suggested that the bill be referred for more complete study over the interim. However, contrary to some earlier reports (and the discussion at MACo’s Legislative Committee yesterday), it now appears that the Governor will continue to press for the bill’s passage in this year’s legislative session.

From the Sun coverage:

Del. Maggie McIntosh, head of the House Environmental Matters Committee, wrote O’Malley earlier this week saying that while she agreed with him on the need for tighter curbs on sprawl and on “the proliferation of septic systems,” she was worried the measure would disproportionately affect some counties where most housing is built with on-site sewage treatment.

McIntosh, a Baltimore city Democrat, said she believed the septic limits proposed in the bill needed to be paired with “initiatives that assist farms and rural counties,” two of the constituencies that have complained loudly that the legislation would impoverish them and stifle virtually all growth. McIntosh urged O’Malley to name a task force including those groups, developers and other critics and hash out how septic curbs fit into larger efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay and preserve farmland from sprawling development.

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O’Malley answered with a letter of his own defending his proposal, while acknowledging, “We need to collectively look at what works in Maryland to address these issues.”

But Shaun Adamec, the governor’s press secretary, said O’Malley stands by the bill he had introduced and intends to testify in support of it at the hearing scheduled March 11 before McIntosh’s committee. And while McIntosh’s desire to study the issue may prevent it from getting out of her committee, Adamec said the governor has not given up on trying to win her and critics over to the need to do something about septics this year — even if it’s a more limited measure.

“Something clearly is better than nothing, but it’s still very much the governor’s intention to outline specifically why it’s so important to take drastic action now,” the governor’s spokesman said.

(An earlier version of this story incorrectly interpreted O’Malley’s letter and earlier remarks by his press secretary to say the governor had yielded to McIntosh’s call for study and would not push for passage of the bill this year.)

MACo has expressed concerns with the far-reaching bill (introduced on the Administration’s behalf as HB 1107 and SB 846, and the Legislative Committee voted yesterday to formally oppose it, even as a study referral seemed imminent.

In the Washington Post, from earlier in the day Wednesday, the Governor’s apparent tone was more conciliatory:

One of Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s only new legislative priorities for the year — a ban on most new septic systems — will not be passed into law during this legislative session, the governor all but conceded on Tuesday.

Responding to a call from a key Democratic lawmaker who said the proposal should be studied further, O’Malley’s office released a letter saying the governor agrees “we need to collectively look at what works in Maryland to address these issue … this should include your ideas for pulling together stakeholders.”

The apparent end of the effort to pass the proposal this year was nearly as quiet as its beginning.

NACo Launches Green Government Database

The National Association of Counties (NACo) has launched a Green Government Database as a resource for county officials on successful county sustainability programs, plans, policies and capital projects. Highlighted case studies include those related to county:

  •  sustainability management
  •  energy efficiency
  •  renewable energy generation
  •  green building
  • green jobs
  • economic development
  •  air quality
  •  green fleets
  •  green purchasing
  • local food systems
  •  smart land use
  •  water conservation and waste management

Click here to access the database.

Makeover Montgomery Conference to Address Smart Growth Solutions

Suburban areas throughout the nation are working to find effective means to address population increases, changing housing preferences, and growing infrastructure costs, all while making communities more sustainable. The National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education, the Montgomery County Planning Department, and the Urban Studies and Planning Program at the University of Maryland are co-hosting a two-day conference entitled Makeover Montgomery: Innovative Strategies for Rethinking America’s Suburbs Conference. Conference topics include:

  • Planning tools to counter sprawl
  • Transportation networks that really work
  • An analysis of sustainability strategies, from LEED to urban-style development
  • Designing redevelopment projects on a small scale
  • Creating pedestrian-friendly town centers
  • Engaging communities in redevelopment projects
  • Stormwater regulations and how they affect suburban redevelopment

Makeover Montgomery will be held April 14-16 in Silver Spring, MD.  For registration information, please click here.

MACo Corporate Partner Profile: Waste Management

MACo re-introduce Waste Management /Wheelabrator as a returning gold-level partner in our Corporate Partner Program.

Waste Management, Inc. is the leading provider of comprehensive waste and environmental services in North America; committed to a foundation of financial strength, operating excellence, and professionalism.  Nationally recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the  U.S. Department of Energy, the corporation actively pursues projects and initiatives that benefit the waste industry, communities, and the environment.

The company serves over 20 million municipal, commercial, industrial, and residential customers through a network of 367 collection operations, 345 transfer stations, 273 active landfill disposal sites, 16 waste-to-energy plants, 134 recycling plants, and 119 beneficial-use landfill gas projects.

Wheelabrator Technologies Inc.,a wholly owned subsidiary of Waste Management, provides safe and environmentally sound conversion of municipal solid waste and other renewable waste fuels into clean energy. Their waste-to-energy facilities provide safe municipal solid waste disposal for towns and cities across the U.S. These facilities deliver clean, renewable electric power to major utilities for distribution to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses.

For more information on the services provided, please contact Rob Clendenin at

MACo Opposes Critical Area Home Inspection Legislation

MACo Associate Director Les Knapp was joined by Candace Donoho of the Maryland Municipal League and Critical Area Commission Chair Margaret McHale in opposing HB 278 before the House Environmental Matters Committee on February 17.  The bill, sponsored by Delegate Tony McConkey, would require a local jurisdiction to inspect a lot or parcel that is in the jurisdiction’s critical area at the request of a prospective purchaser to determine if a critical area violation exists.  If no violation is discovered or any discovered violation is remedied, the purchaser is not liable for critical area criminal or civil penalties for a subsequently discovered violation that occurred before the time of inspection.

Noting the time and complexity of conducting the inspections, the panel argued that the bill would shift limited local government staff from a resource conservation role to a primarily inspection role.  They also noted that such inspections can be handled by private parties.  Ms. McHale also expressed concern about how a subsequently discovered violation would be addressed if the prospective purchaser had purchased the home and was now not liable for the violation.

Local Governments Throughout US Confronting Stormwater Issues

Local governments throughout the United States are dealing with stormwater runoff and its environmental and financial impacts.  The environmental degradation that results from stormwater runoff are evident. As the excess water travels over fertilized lawns and asphalt,oil, metals, pesticides, and other toxic contaminants are picked up.  According to an article in Governing Magazine,

About 13 percent of U.S. rivers, 18 percent of lakes and 32 percent of estuaries are classified as impaired by stormwater, which means they’re unsafe for swimming or fishing.

Localities have  adopted “gray solutions” (i.e. infrastructure advancements) and “green solutions” (i.e.  landscaping advancements) to deal with the ever-increasing problem with stormwater runoff.

  • Kansas City, Mo., for example, partnered with the EPA to craft a $2.4 billion agreement to reduce combined overflows, which results in annual discharges of 7 billion gallons of raw sewage into the Missouri, Blue and other rivers. “We are on this path because we knew intervention was coming,” says Francis Reddy, project manager for the Kansas City Water Services Department. “Instead of having the feds file a suit, we contacted them.” The plan features a combination of tunnels, sewer rehabilitation, water treatment technologies and green infrastructure, including curbside gardens and rain barrels to sequester stormwater.
  • Philadelphia aims to bypass the typical storage tunnels entirely. Instead, the city’s $1.5 billion plan focuses almost exclusively on eco-friendly solutions — bioswales, permeable pavement, street trees — as a way of reducing the city’s 15 billion gallons of annual overflow. According to Howard Neukrug, director of the Philadelphia Water Department’s Office of Watersheds, the city is “wrestling with the EPA” on details of the proposal, including the timeline and metrics for success.