This post summarizes the final status of various environmental bills that MACo either considered or took a position on.
Septic System Legislation: HB 445 / SB 236 is an Administration bill that would limit the use of septic systems for major subdivisions based on a set of four “land use tiers” that would be adopted by local governments. If a county chooses not to adopt the tiers, the county is limited to authorizing residential subdivisions on public sewer or minor subdivisions on septic systems. If a county chooses to adopt the tiers, the tiers must be integrated into the county’s comprehensive plan during the county’s next 6-year planning cycle. MACo initially took a position of support with amendments and outlined five key areas that needed to be addressed in the bill. MACo later changed its position to oppose after rejection of its proposed amendments in the Senate. Subsequently, the Administration agreed with MACo on a set of consensus amendments that addressed MACo’s concerns and MACo dropped its opposition after the amended bill passed the Senate. FINAL STATUS: After the Senate floor adopted the MACo and Administration amendments to SB 236, the bill was sent to the House. The House added three additional amendments that were accepted by MACo and other concerned stakeholders. The amendments: (1) deleted a provision in the bill intended to give farmers additional septic lots on their properties but may have unintentionally overridden local zoning; (2) required the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to adopt regulations requiring nutrient offsets for new major subdivisions on septic systems (which MDE must already do under the State’s Watershed Implementation Plan); and (3) required the Maryland Department of Planning to file a report with the General Assembly next Session concerning county adoption of the tiers. The Senate accepted the additional House amendments. The House did not take action on HB 445.
Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays 2010 Trust Fund and Bay Restoration Fund: HB 121 / SB 65 would have amended the Maryland Constitution to prohibit the State from transferring funds from the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays 2010 Trust Fund or the Bay Restoration Fund into the State’s General Fund. Consistent with its position regarding the State transferring dedicated transportation funding into the General Fund, MACo supported the bill. FINAL STATUS: The House gave HB 121 an unfavorable report. The Senate gave SB 65 an unfavorable report.
Testing of Sediment from Stormwater Retention Structures: HB 671 / SB 475 would require sediment dredged from stormwater retention structures, including ponds and wetlands, be tested for toxic substances. Sediment found to contain toxic substances cannot be used in an area that would jeopardize public health and safety. MACo opposed the bill, citing its cost and vagueness. FINAL STATUS: The House gave HB 671 an unfavorable report. The Senate did not take action on SB 475.
Exception to Forest Conservation Act for Stormwater Management Activity: HB 854 would exempt stormwater management and stream restoration activities performed by a local jurisdiction from the requirements of the Forest Conservation Act. MACo supported the bill given the significant stormwater management requirements mandated by the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load. FINAL STATUS: The bill’s sponsor withdrew the legislation after the Department of Natural Resources promised to work with local governments directly to address their concerns regarding the interaction of the Act and the repair of stormwater management structures.
County Recycling Goals: HB 929 would increase the county recycling targets. Counties with a population of 150,000 or less would have their target increase from 15% to 20%. Counties with a population of more than 150,000 would have their target increase from 20% to 35%. The bill also sets a voluntary statewide waste diversion goal of 60% and a recycling goal of 55% by 2020. MACo opposed the bill, citing the challenges that several rural jurisdictions would face in meeting the new goals. MACo dropped its opposition after MACo was successful in having the bill amended to allow a county with a population of less than 100,000 to combine its recycling rate with the rate of one or more adjacent counties, subject to certain restrictions. FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed HB 929 with the proposed MACo amendments.
Local Stormwater Utility Fee: HB 987 / SB 614 would require counties and municipalities to adopt a local stormwater utility fee. The amount of the fee is set by the local government and must be used for stormwater mitigation purposes. MACo opposed the bill, noting that counties and municipalities already have the authority to enact a local fee and that stormwater runoff is not a major Chesapeake Bay pollutant in some counties. FINAL STATUS: When it became clear that HB 987 was going to pass the House, MACo proposed an amendment limiting application of the bill to counties that supported the bill. The House passed HB 987 with a modified version of the MACo amendment, limiting the bill to those counties subject to a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Phase I Permit. Additional House amendments required the fee to be set based on the amount of stormwater services provided to the property and counties must create an offset system that provides a credit for stormwater mitigation activities on the property undertaken by the property’s owner. Counties must also provide for a hardship exemption. MACo offered further amendments in the Senate to address implementation challenges created by the additional House amendments, including removing an annual inspection and monitoring requirement. The General Assembly passed HB 987 with the MACo amendments. The Senate did not take action on SB 614.
Waterworks and Wastewater Works Certified Operators: SB 115 would remove the requirement that a municipal or private waterworks or wastewater works serving less than 500 persons have a certified superintendent, subject to approval by MDE. Instead, a certified operator may supervise the plant. MACo supported the bill, citing the cost savings for local governments. FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed SB 115.
Application of Sewage Sludge on Farmland: SB 594 would limit the time period when a person could apply animal manure or sewage sludge to agricultural land. The bill would also prohibit the use of certain high phosphorus fertilizers on agricultural land. MACo opposed the bill, arguing the time restrictions for the application of manure and sewage sludge were unnecessarily prescriptive and that certain counties would have to construct new storage facilities at a significant cost. FINAL STATUS: The Senate did not take action on SB 594.
Water Appropriation and Use Permit Fees: As introduced, SB 635 would have required MDE to create fees for water appropriation and use permits in amount necessary to cover MDE’s regulatory and enforcement costs regarding the permits and to conduct watershed and aquifer studies. The bill was subsequently amended by the Senate to become a workgroup composed of various stakeholders, including MACo, that would recommend a fee structure necessary to meet the requirements of the bill. MACo opposed the bill even in its workgroup form, as county governments would be subject to the new fees. FINAL STATUS: The Senate passed the bill with amendments turning the bill into a workgroup. The House did not take action on the bill.
Sewage Overflow Fines and Penalties: SB 877 would double the civil and administrative penalties MDE can charge for sewage overflows. MDE must also post sewage overflows and any penalties collected online. MACo opposed the bill based in its longstanding position that the State should not charge civil or administrative penalties on local governments but should instead work with the jurisdiction to collaboratively resolve problems. FINAL STATUS: The Senate passed SB 877 but the House did not take action on the bill.