Governor Larry Hogan’s nominee to be Maryland Secretary of the Environment, Benjamin Grumbles, addressed MACo’s legislative committee on February 4. Grumbles laid out the environmental perspective of the Hogan administration and shared a little background about himself.
Grumbles indicated that he served 15 years on Capitol Hill as counsel for the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure where he wanted to “be involved in bipartisan progress.” He noted that he enjoyed working with both local and state officials in that capacity. From 2004-2008, he was the Assistant Administrator for Water at the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Grumbles briefly served as Arizona’s Secretary of the Environment from 2009-2010 and then served as President of the United States Water Alliance from 2010-2015. The Alliance is a nonprofit whose membership includes more than 60 local government, business, and environmental leaders that takes a holistic approach to water issues.
When considering whether to come to Maryland, Grumbles related that Governor Hogan told him, “I absolutely want to ensure environmental progress continues,” and noted that he agreed with the Governor’s sentiment. Grumbles stated, “Maryland has an outstanding and cutting edge reputation in the environmental field,” and stressed the need to preserve what we have achieved.
He also stressed the need for collaboration, communication, customer service, and making sure economic competitiveness was not put at risk.
Stormwater Remediation Fee
Grumbles advocated for local choice in whether to impose the fee but cautioned that “there is no choice on whether we make progress on [cleaning up] the Chesapeake Bay…We need to ensure that with flexibility there is accountability.”
He raised MACo’s recent position on the stormwater fee, noting that the position “resonates very well with me.” He stressed that early adopters and leaders on the fee should not be penalized.
Regarding the litigation and controversy surrounding the current round of Phase I Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permits, Grumbles stated that besides funding, a key issue is what safeguards are in the permits and whether those safeguards are both workable and environmentally progressive. He also announced that the release of the Phase II MS4 permit “is just around the corner.”
Grumbles stressed that addressing sediment and nutrient pollution from the Conowingo Dam was important but that the State and local governments cannot focus all their efforts on it. He cautioned that the Conowingo is “not a silver bullet single solution” to the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
Phosphorus Management Tool Regulations
Grumbles stated that the Maryland Department of the Environment will work with the Department of Agriculture and the environmental community to ensure that new phosphorus management tool (PMT) regulations are both affordable and cost-effective while still addressing agricultural phosphorus runoff.
Natural Gas Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking)
Grumbles did not take a direct position on whether to allow fracking of the Marcellus Shale deposit in Western Maryland but stated “creditable science needs to be at the forefront of making decisions.”
Photo from Maryland Manual Online