The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) held the second meeting of a cumulative impact workgroup on August 7. The workgroup is considering legislation that would require a cumulative environmental impact assessment prior to the issuance of certain environmental permits, including for air quality control, landfills or incinerators, water pollution discharge, and sewage sludge storage. The concept is supported by certain legislators and environmental justice proponents.
Senator Joanne Benson (Prince George’s) attended the meeting and announced her intention of introducing cumulative impact assessment legislation in the 2015 Session. She had introduced similar legislation (SB 706) in the 2014 Session that passed the Senate but was limited in application to one neighborhood in Prince George’s County. The crossfile, HB 1210, was introduced by Delegate Darren Swain (Prince George’s). Neither bill passed out of the House. MACo opposed both bills, noting that while consideration of disparate community impacts when granting environmental permits was worthwhile, the bills’ provisions would likely be costly to implement and produce questionable results as the science surrounding cumulative impacts is so complex. Similar legislation, SB 4, was also considered during the 2009 Session.
The workgroup is exploring how to develop an assessment methodology that would be both accurate and practical to implement. Further discussion is also needed regarding which permits are appropriate for cumulative impact assessments. One stakeholder has suggested that rather than focusing on permit approval, restrictions should be placed on local zoning with regards to the siting of facilities subject to environmental permitting.
MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp has attended both meetings of the workgroup. For further information about the workgroup please contact him at 410.296.0043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.