The House has passed HB 1125 with amendments to reflect the consensus reached concerned stakeholders, including the Maryland Department of the Environment, local governments, the environmental community, and the building community. The consensus agreement provides for a limited grandfathering period for projects that are already “in the pipeline” and also provides needed clarification to local governments on when they could allow the use of alternative measures and waivers provided under the existing regulations. The agreement does not weaken any of the environmental requirements of the existing regulations.
The original plan was for the agreement to be enacted through emergency regulations, but the regulations are being held by Senator Paul Pinsky, who is chair of the committee in charge of reviewing the regulations. In response, the architect of the compromise agreement, House Environmental Matters Committee Chair Maggie McIntosh, decided to have the agreement enacted through legislation by amending HB 1125.
A March 25 article by Center Maryland provides further background and describes what happened at the Environmental Matters bill hearing:
Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Shari Wilson took to defending the compromise again Wednesday, saying that the amendment clears up an earlier problem about how developers could pay for alternatives to the strict new rules.
“The language was very brief and not well-defined,” Wilson said of the previous regulations, which would go into effect in May unless the compromise is approved. …
Questioning from the lawmakers was fairly light during yesterday’s hearing, as the compromise has been agreed to by developers, builders, county officials and most legislative leaders. Many, but not all, environmental groups have also expressed support for the compromise.
Still some of the committee’s liberal members questioned portions of the compromise, including one that would open a window for localities to grant exceptions to the May 2013 deadline based on project financing structures. …
The negotiations and subsequent compromise have also opened a rift in the environmental community. More moderate outfits including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation are supporting the compromise, and more liberal groups, including the Riverkeeper’s Alliance, are opposing the measure.