Maryland Secretary of the Environment Robert Summers briefed the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee and the House Environmental Matters Committee on the State’s pending Accounting for Growth (AFG) Policy on January 14. He stated that the State would take a proposal considered by key stakeholders over December and January and make several additional modifications. Proposed regulations would not be released until after the conclusion of the 2014 Session.
The AFG Policy would require all new development and re-development to offset its nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution. This can be done by implementing on-site or off-site offsets, paying a fee in lieu, or buying credits in a nutrient credit trading marketplace. Key stakeholders, including MACo were part of a workgroup that met throughout much of 2013 and reached consensus on many aspects of the AFG Policy. However, the workgroup was unable to reach consensus on two key issues: (1) baseline (the amount of nutrients that have to be offset); and (2) whether and when additional offsets for phosphorus should be required. MDE requested that key stakeholders meet twice more in late December and early January to consider a proposal from the Bay Subcabinet on these issues. Stakeholders also considered several other proposals as well. When the stakeholders did not reach a consensus on the State’s proposal, the State decided to modify portions of its original suggestions.
Secretary Summers testified that MDE would continue to work with stakeholders on the two outstanding issues.
Under the State’s initial proposal, the baseline for stormwater offsets would be forest for forest land (meaning that any development on forest land would have to offset any new pollutant loads above what the forest land naturally generates). For other property types, such as redevelopment or farmland, the stormwater offsets could be achieved if the current stormwater standards of using environmental site design to the maximum extent practicable (ESD to the MEP) were implemented. This standard is already required under State law and regulations and includes the use of infiltration structures such as rain gardens, vegetated swales, and rain barrels. Septic system offsets would have to be addressed separately and could not be addressed by on-site stormwater mitigation that goes beyond the ESD to the MEP base. Stormwater offset credits could only be generated in redevelopment situations but could be used in off-site .
Secretary Summers noted that the State will modify its initial baseline proposal by determining how developers can receive credits for nutrient reductions that go beyond ESD to the MEP.
Separate Phosphorus Offsets
MDE believes that in general practices that offset nitrogen should also offset phosphorus. Nitrogen offsets are also cheaper to implement than offsets that specifically target phosphorus. The State proposal was to assume the nitrogen offsets would also meet the phosphorus offset requirements and evaluate that assumption during the 2017 assessment of State and county nutrient reduction progress.
Secretary Summers said that the State will modify its proposal to determine where separate phosphorus offsets should be immediately required either State-wide or in streams, ponds and reservoirs that are impaired for phosphorus.
The Secretary concluded his presentation by assuring that any draft regulatory language would be shared with key stakeholders for comment prior to starting the formal public review process.