Environmental Groups Detail 2011 Legislative Priorities

A December 17 Gazette.net article discusses the legislative priorities of top environmental groups for the 2011 Session, including a local stormwater fee, development and support of offshore wind farms, actions necessary to meet the federally mandated Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) requirements, protection of home energy efficiency and weatherization grants, and preservation of Program Open Space funding.

[One envirionmental priority is] a controversial proposal requiring county governments to establish a fee on impervious surfaces aimed at reducing stormwater runoff, which failed to gain support in this year’s session. Currently, only Montgomery County and several municipalities impose such a fee.

Although better stormwater management is much needed, Del. Stephen W. Lafferty believes it will be tough to sell lawmakers that government should implement a new fee in the midst of a fragile economic recovery. …

[The Chesapeake Bay Foundation] has five priorities over the next four years to help meet [TMDL] goals: establishing local stormwater management fees; increasing the depleted Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund to ensure all 69 major sewage treatment plants in Maryland are upgraded; limiting the use of septic systems in larger subdivisions; mandating the use of cover crops on high-risk farmland; and requiring forested buffers along streams to stem runoff.  …

Other groups are focused on maintaining funding for Program Open Space, which was completely financed using general obligation bonds in the current year’s budget. However, advocates are concerned that Maryland is nearing its debt capacity and may not be able to dedicate as much to conserving land as it has previously. …

At a legislative breakfast Monday, House Majority Leader Kumar P. Barve identified Program Open Space as one of many areas of the budget that legislators will heavily scrutinize.

“As popular as it is, that will be one of the less controversial things if we start cutting it,” said Barve (D-Dist. 17) of Gaithersburg.

Meeting with reporters after Wednesday’s Board of Revenue Estimates meeting, [Governor Martin]O’Malley singled out Program Open Space as a budget priority.

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