2015 End of Session Wrap Up: Environment

This post summarizes the status of various environment bills MACo took a position on for the 2015 Regular Session.

Stormwater Remediation Fee – Partial Repeal and Modification of 2012 Law: SB 863 partly repeals and heavily modifies the 2012 stormwater law which mandated the 10 counties subject to a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)Phase I Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit to adopt a stormwater remediation fee. The 10 affected local jurisdictions include: Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, and Prince George’s Counties.  The requirements of SB 863 will also apply to any jurisdiction that is subsequently required to obtain a Phase I MS4 permit.

MACo initially supported the bill with amendments that would allow a Phase I jurisdiction to apply for certification from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) for an alternative plan in lieu of adopting a stormwater remediation fee.  The alternative plan must identify the actions the jurisdiction plans to undertake to meet its permit requirements and any sources of funds that will be utilized.  If MDE determines that the proposed alternative plan is reasonably likely to meet the permit requirements, MDE must certify the jurisdiction’s alternative plan.  The certification would expire at the end of current permit, at which time the jurisdiction may seek to renew its certification.

After the bill was significantly modified by the Senate, MACo supported the bill with amendments that would: (1) alter the frequency of when a county must submit a financial assurance plan and hold a public hearing; (2)clarify the standard of review by MDE; (3) create a more graduated and logically related penalty system; (4) address added language relating to a municipal tax setoff; and (5) grandfather a county that has not adopted a stormwater fee from the financial assurance plan requirement for the life of their current MS4 permit if the county had previously been deemed by MDE and the Office of the Attorney General as complying with their permit requirements.

FINAL STATUS: The bill was heavily amended by both the Senate and the House before being passed almost unanimously.  The following bullet points briefly summarize key points of the bill.  For more detailed information, please refer to the accompanying Conduit Street article “What’s in the Stormwater Fee Bill?”.

  • Repeal of the stormwater fee mandate (although Phase I jurisdictions must still fully fund their stormwater obligations under the permit)
  • New annual reporting requirements for Phase I jurisdictions
  • All Phase I jurisdictions must now file a financial assurance plan every 2 years to ensure they have sufficient funding to meet the impervious surface restoration requirements under their permits
  • MDE must approve a jurisdiction’s financial assurance plan and upon a determination of insufficient funding must give a warning (for a first submitted plan) or impose a daily administrative penalty (for a second or subsequent submitted plan).
  • Requiring counties that fund the cost of stormwater remediation by using general revenues or through the issuance of bonds to meet with each municipality within its jurisdiction and mutually agree to assume responsibility for the municipality’s stormwater remediation obligations, provide a tax setoff if the municipality has adopted its own stormwater fee, or negotiate some other agreement
  • Exempting veterans’ organizations from the fee but providing a means to override the exemption for both veterans’ organizations and volunteer fire departments (who are exempted under current law) in order to charge the stormwater fee on federal properties
  • Creating a process where a county can collect stormwater fee charges from property owned by the State
  • Requiring Phase I jurisdictions with a stormwater fee to include a certain statement with the bill for the fee
  • Grandfathering Montgomery County from certain provisions related to the stormwater fee law
  • Deleting funding language that caused problems with Phase I jurisdictions channeling stormwater fee monies into already existing local stormwater programs.
  • Modifying the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays 2010 Trust Fund and various funds managed by the Maryland Water Quality Financing Administration.
  • Requiring annual reports by MDE to the Governor and General Assembly
  • Requiring counties or municipalities that are not Phase I jurisdictions but have a stormwater fee to follow certain requirements when setting their fees.

Conduit Street Article – What’s in the Stormwater Fee Bill?

MACo SB 863 Testimony

Stormwater Remediation Fee – Full Repeal of 2012 Law: HB 481/SB 588 HB 874/SB 42 , and SB 36 are identical bills that repeal the requirement that local governments subject to a Phase I MS4 permit adopt a stormwater remediation fee and the associated fee restrictions/provisions. The bills also delete a definition of “impervious surface” and specify that paved surfaces, concrete channels, roofs, and pipes constitute impervious surfaces under the definition of “environmental site design.”

MACo supported the bills with amendments that would allow a Phase I jurisdiction to apply for certification from MDE for an alternative plan in lieu of adopting a stormwater remediation fee.  The alternative plan must identify the actions the jurisdiction plans to undertake to meet its permit requirements and any sources of funds that will be utilized.  If MDE determines that the proposed alternative plan is reasonably likely to meet the permit requirements, MDE must certify the jurisdiction’s alternative plan.  The certification would expire at the end of current permit, at which time the jurisdiction may seek to renew its certification.

FINAL STATUS:  HB 481 and HB 874 were given unfavorable reports by the House Environment and Transportation Committee.  SB 36, SB 42, and SB 588 were given unfavorable reports by the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee.

MACo HB 481 Testimony

MACo HB 874 Testimony

MACo SB 36 Testimony

MACo SB 42 Testimony

MACo SB 588 Testimony

Recycling – Bottle Deposit Program: HB 982/SB 684 establishes a “Maryland Redeemable Beverage Container and Litter Reduction Program.” The purpose of the program is to increase beverage container recycling from 25% to at least 70% for all redeemable beverage containers sold in the State.  Key components of the bill include:

  • Imposes a 5-cent deposit fee on specified beverage containers after January 1, 2017.
  • Creates a Maryland Beverage Recycling Organization to oversee and administer the Program. Distributors, bottlers, and private label distributors constitute the membership. A 7-member Board of Directors representing the three member types oversees the Organization. The Organization must offset the loss of revenue for local governments from curbside recycling prior to the filing of the first Program report in December of 2022. (After that, there is no local government offset.)
  • Containers are redeemed at redemption centers or participating retailers. The Organization shall operation redemption centers throughout the State to collect and redeem beverage containers. Any person, including a county or municipality, may apply to operate a redemption center.  A retailer with at least 5,000 square feet must accept and redeem empty containers or pay an exemption fee. The Organization will pay a processing cost of 3 cents per redeemable beverage container to a distributor, bottler, private label distributor, and participating retailer.
  • Program revenue includes: (1) money collected from the sale of redeemable beverage containers for recycling and reuse; (2) unredeemed deposits; and (3) the retailer exemption fees.  Unredeemed deposits shall be used to: (1) pay off any loan taken to assist with beginning the program; (2) fund the Redeemable Beverage Container Environmental Grant Program; (3) provide essential staffing to the Organization and redemption centers operated by the Organization; (4) establish and operate new redemption centers; and (5) track deposits and grants awarded by the Grant Program.
  • Creates a Redeemable Beverage Container Environmental Grant Program. to fund litter reduction efforts.  The Grant Program shall be funded by the Organization with an annual allocation of $2 million from the Organization’s unredeemed deposits. The Chesapeake Bay Trust shall have discretion to determine appropriate grant recipients and the amount of the award but are required to award $4 million a year for 3 years to Baltimore City for addressing the Baltimore Harbor Trash Total Maximum Daily Load.
  • Creates a Reserve Recycling Fund. The purpose of the Fund is to maintain a reserve to ensure the viability of the Program. The Fund shall consist of: (1) up to $30 million from unredeemed deposits collected during the Program’s first 2 years of operation; (2) investment earnings; and (3) any other money from any other source accepted for the benefit of the Fund. The Fund may only be used for: (1) maintenance of the reserve up to $30 million; and (2) the Grant Program for any amount in excess of $30 million.
  • Creates a Maryland Recycling Advisory Committee.  The Committee consists of 9 members, including two representatives from MACo and two representatives from the Maryland Municipal League. The Committee shall: (1) advise the Organization on the impact of the Program at the county and municipal level; (2) advise the Organization on issues and concerns arising from the Program; (3) consult with the Organization on best practices for Program operation; and (4) educate State and local govts on Program details.
  • Requires 5-year reports. Beginning on December 31, 2022 and every 5 years after, the Organization shall submit a report on: (1) Program governance, management, and administration; (2) Program finances; (3) Program successes and challenges; and (4) any other information the Organization considers necessary to provide a complete overview of and update on the Program.

MACo opposed the bill, arguing that it would divert material and revenue from county recycling programs, provide no permanent offset for the county losses, and require a major education effort to alter consumer behavior. MACo also acknowledged in its testimony that litter reduction was a legitimate issue and highlighted other potential litter reduction approaches that would not harm local recycling efforts.

FINAL STATUS: The House Environment and Transportation Committee heard HB 982 but took no action.  The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee referred SB 684 to interim study.

MACo HB 982 Testimony

MACo SB 684 Testimony

Phosphorus Management Tool: HB 381/SB 257 codifies the regulatory phosphorus management tool (PMT) proposed by the Administration of former Governor Martin O’Malley.  The PMT would set limits on how much animal manure, poultry waste, and sewage sludge can be spread on agricultural lands that are deemed to have a high phosphorus content. The PMT would replace the existing phosphorus site index, which currently governs phosphorus application on farm lands. The bill fully phases in the PMT for all soil types by 2021.

MACo opposed the bill. While noting that the agricultural community must address its phosphorus runoff, MACo questioned whether the agricultural and local government costs of this version of the PMT outweighed its perceived environmental benefits.

FINAL STATUS: The Administration of Governor Larry Hogan unveiled new PMT regulations on February 23.  After discussion between the Administration, General Assembly, and other stakeholder groups, Governor Hogan agreed to amend the proposed regulations.  The new regulations will have a final implementation date of 2022, which can be extended through one-year delays to 2024 if an expert advisory committee determines that there is not enough  infrastructure to handle excess chicken manure that can no longer be applied to farmland.  In response to the agreement, HB 381 was withdrawn by the bill sponsor.  The Senate recommitted SB 257 back to the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee, which took no further action on the bill.

MACo HB 381 Testimony

MACo SB 257 Testimony

Food and Yard Waste Composting Task Force: As introduced, HB 603 requires a person who disposes of yard waste between April and July or at least two tons of food waste in a week to dispose of that waste through composting or other specified diversion methods if that person is within 40 miles of a composting or anaerobic digestion facility that is willing to accept the waste.  MDE must adopt regulations for the siting and permitting of anaerobic digestion facilities in the State.  The bill was amended and passed the House as a Yard Waste and Food Residual Diversion and Infrastructure Task Force.  The Task Force will study and recommend ways to increase Maryland’s composting rate and infrastructure.  Among the specific issues the Task Force will consider is whether a county solid waste management plan should require an organic materials recycling program and address facility infrastructure needs for organic materials.

MACo supported the bill with amendments after it was changed into a Task Force.  The amendments would have added a MACo representative to the Task Force’s membership.

FINAL STATUS: The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee heard HB 603 but took no action on the bill.

MACo HB 603 Testimony

Climate Change – Maryland Shoreline Risk Assessment, Preparation, and Adaptation Act: HB 881/SB 256 adds a new 13th planning vision: “Preparation and adaptation – consideration of climate change risks, including sea level rise, increased precipitation and temperature, storm surges, and flooding, base on available data predicting the likelihood of future extreme weather events.”  State capital projects involving construction of a highway must comply with siting and design criteria for sea level rise and coastal flooding that have been developed by the Coast Smart Council.  Finally, thebill also requires various State agencies to conduct risk assessments related to climate change, including:

  • Maryland Department of Agriculture must conduct a comprehensive assessment of the impacts of climate change on Maryland agriculture and update it every 5 years.  The assessment shall quantify the economic impact of each potential climate change risk to agriculture and recommend preparation and adaptation strategies to lessen their impact.
  • University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science must establish sea level rise projections for the State’s shorelines and update them at least every 5 years.
  • MDE must conduct a comprehensive assessment of the environmental and economic impacts of sea level rise, increased precipitation and temperature, storm surges, flooding, and extreme weather events on the State’s major cities and towns. MDE shall update its assessment every 5 years.
  • Maryland Department of Natural Resources must update guidelines that it publishes to assist State agencies in preparing environmental effects reports to require the consideration of climate change risks.
  • Maryland Department of Planning must develop model local laws and ordinances that incorporate Coast Smart siting and design criteria in the development of construction of structures and highways.

MACo supported the bill with an amendment to remove the bill’s proposed new planning vision, which would requires counties and municipalities to further increase the size and complexity of their comprehensive plans.  MACo noted that the removal of the vision does not prevent or limit counties from adopting their own climate change adaptation strategies.

FINAL STATUS: HB 881 was withdrawn by the bill sponsor.  The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee heard SB 256 but took no action.

MACo HB 881 Testimony

MACo SB 256 Testimony

Resolution on Susquehanna River Basin/Conowingo Dam: As introduced, SJ 1 urges the United States Congress to authorize a review of studies related to the Conowingo Dam for the purpose of initiating and funding a project by the United State Army Corps of Engineers to address the transport of sediment and nutrients from the dam.

MACo supported the resolution, noting that while not the only component towards addressing the water pollution reduction goals in the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load, the Conowingo Dam and Susquehanna River Basin do have a significant impact on the main stem of the bay and certain bay tributaries.

FINAL STATUS: The Senate passed SJ1 with amendments expanding the resolution to cover the Susquehanna River Basin as opposed to solely focusing on the Conowingo Dam. The House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee heard SJ1 but took no action on the resolution.

MACo SJ1 Testimony

Well Drilling – Notice to Municipalities: HB 883/SB 438 requires MDE to notify a municipality of an application for a permit to drill a well if the well will be drilled inside the municipality’s boundary or within 1 mile of the boundary.

MACo did not take a position on the introduced bill as there was no county impact.  However, MACo was asked to respond to proposed amendments to HB 883 that would have required a county board of health to provide the notice to a municipality of wells subject to a water appropriation permit being drilled within the municipality or one mile of the municipality.  MACo sent a letter opposing the proposed amendments, citing: (1) additional county cost and staffing burdens; (2) no county role in the review of water appropriation permits (which are handled by MDE); and (3) notification being an improper duty for a county board of health, particularly where the county board is made up members of the County Council or Board of Commissioners.

FINAL STATUS: The House Environment and Transportation Committee gave HB 883 an unfavorable report.  The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee gave SB 438 an unfavorable report.

MACo HB 883 Letter