2016 End of Session Wrap Up: Environment

This post summarizes the status of various environment bills MACo took a position on for the 2016 Regular Session.

Regulations for Anaerobic Digestion and Recycling FacilitiesHB 61 is a departmental bill requiring the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to adopt regulations and permit systems governing anaerobic digestion facilities and recycling facilities.

MACo Position: MACo supported the bill with amendments that required MDE to consult with representatives of MACo and offer affected stakeholders when creating and adopting regulations for recycling facilities and anaerobic digestion facilities. MACo noted there is significant interest in anaerobic digestion technologies but that the technology would not see widespread adoption in Maryland until there was regulatory certainty over how they should operate (similar to recently adopted composting requirements). MACo supported the establishment of a recycling facility permit to prevent recycling facilities that handle increasing amounts of non-recyclable solid waste generated from single stream recycling from having to apply for the much more onerous and expensive solid waste or refuse disposal permit.

FINAL STATUS: HB 61 passed the House with the MACo amendment and other amendments  relating to: (1) how to handle permits for sewage treatment plants where anaerobic digestion takes place; (2) exempting certain farms with anaerobic digestion facilities if they comply with certain federal agricultural practice standards; and (3) some definitional changes. The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee initially gave HB 61 a favorable report but pulled the bill back to Committee from the Senate floor over concerns about the farm issue. The Committee then took no further action on the bill.

MACo HB 61 Testimony

Use of Bay Restoration Fund for Nutrient Credit PurchasesHB 325 is a departmental bill authorizing the use of Bay Restoration Fund (BRF) monies for costs associated with the purchase of cost-effective nitrogen and phosphorus nutrient trading credits in support of restoring the Chesapeake Bay.

MACo Position: MACo opposed the bill over a lack of critical details and defined limits. MACo argued these details should be developed in conjunction with relevant stakeholders and that MACo could ultimately support allowing BRF monies to be used one time to help “jumpstart” the pending nutrient credit trading market.

FINAL STATUS: The Environment and Transportation Committee heard HB 325 but took no further action on the bill.

MACo HB 325 Testimony

Beverage Container Deposits: HB 862 / SB 367 establishes the Maryland Redeemable Beverage Container Recycling Refund and Litter Reduction Program, which will be developed and run by the Maryland Environmental Service (MES). After July 1, 2017, every redeemable beverage container sold in the State will have a 5-cent refund value that is included in the wholesale and retail price of the product.  A redeemer may return an empty beverage container to a redemption center or participating retailer for a full refund of the 5-cent deposit. MES shall operate redemption centers throughout the State to collect and redeem beverage containers.  A retailer with at least 5,000 square feet shall also accept and redeem empty containers. A county or municipality may apply to operate a redemption center.

Program revenue includes: (1) money collected from the sale of redeemable beverage containers for recycling and reuse and (2) unredeemed deposits. Funding for the Program is allocated as follows: (1) 2.875 cents per redeemed container goes to MES for operating and administering the program, including up to $15 million for repayment of its initial capital investment in the program; and (2) 0.125 cents per redeemed container shall go to distributors for the first 3 years of the program and then how MES deems most appropriate for program sustainability in the 4th and subsequent years. After costs for operation and administration of the Program have been met, unredeemed deposits collected shall be used to:

  • For the first 3 years of the Program: (1) up to $27 million to local governments for documented losses claimed by curbside collection programs and recycling facilities and verified by MES; (2) up to $15 million for local governments to address Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) issues; and (3) up to $21 million to MDE for community grants for litter reduction and environmental programs;
  • Up to $2 million annually to the Chesapeake Bay Trust for environmental grants;
  • $250,000 to MDE for assistance with the Program’s implementation; and
  • Any remaining funds to the Reserve Redeemable Beverage Container Recycling Fund (see below)

Finally, the bill creates a Reserve Redeemable Beverage Container Recycling Fund. The purpose of the Fund is to maintain a reserve to ensure the viability of the Program and provide funding for litter reduction and environmental programs. The Fund consists of: (1) unredeemed deposits; (2) investment earnings; (3) annual surplus from the operation of the Program; and (3) any other money from any other source accepted for the benefit of the Fund. The Fund may only be used for implementation, operation, and sustainability of the Program. Once the Fund reaches $30 million, the annual amount of the Fund that exceeds $30 million shall be paid out annually for litter reduction and environmental programs.

MACo Position: MACo opposed the bill, believing it would divert valuable commodities from county recycling programs, provide only temporary fiscal assistance to those counties, and potentially confuse consumers who have been educated to use curbside and single stream recycling. MACo also questioned why no other state has adopted a bottle deposit since 2002 and offered alternative litter reduction suggestions.

FINAL STATUS: The House Environment and Transportation Committee gave an unfavorable report to HB 862. The Senate Finance Committee heard SB 367 but took no further action on the bill.

MACo HB 862 Testimony

MACo SB 367 Testimony

Plastic Bag Ban and Paper Bag FeeHB 31 / SB 57 prohibits a store from distributing plastic disposable carryout bags to customers at no cost and requires a store to collect a 10-cent fee for each paper disposable carryout bag provided to a customer. A store may retain 5 cents from each 10-cent fee or 7 cents if the store has a bag credit program (the store pays a customer a credit of at least 5 cents for each bag the customer provides for packaging the customer’s purchases).

Any remaining funds go to the Comptroller of Maryland, who retains an amount necessary for the administration of monies, and the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, which receives a portion to cover implementation and enforcement costs. If any funds remain after that, they go to the counties, proportional to the counties’ population for recycling and litter control, community greening, and water pollution reduction projects.

MACo Position: MACo opposed the bill over concerns that the 10-cent paper bag fee would, over time, constitute an onerous and challenging cost for many working families. Additionally, small businesses would face challenges and costs to implement the bill’s provisions, and if they chose, the bag credit program.

FINAL STATUS: The House Environmental and Transportation Committee gave HB 31 an unfavorable report. The Senate Education, Health, and Environment Affairs Committee heard SB 57 but took no action on the bill.

MACo HB 31 Testimony

MACo SB 57 Testimony

Assistance for BAT Septic System Operation & Maintenance Contracts: HB 90 requires MDE to pay up to 50% of the cost of a 3-year operation and maintenance (O&M) contract for a Best Available Technology for nitrogen removal (BAT) septic systems for low-income homeowners who live within the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bay Critical Areas. Either MDE or a local government shall determine an applicant’s eligibility and the amount of assistance MDE must provide based on the average cost of a 3-year O&M contract. The bill defines “low-income homeowner” as having income that is 60% or less of the area median income. The assistance would come from the wastewater treatment plant and stormwater account of the BRF.

MACo Position: MACo supported the bill with amendments to address concerns that: (1) some cap or limit needs to be placed on the amount of BRF funding provided for this purpose so that other allowed uses of the BRF remain viable; and (2) it should be a local decision whether the local government reviews potential applications under the bill.

FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed HB 90 with amendments addressing MACo’s concerns regarding the amount of BRF funding that must go towards the O&M assistance. The amended bill:

  •  Requires MDE to define “low-income homeowner” instead of having a definition created in law
  • Provides that the assistance shall come from the septic system account of the BRF and is part of the allowed uses of that account
  • Extends the time the assistance will cover an O&M contract from 3 years to 5 years
  • Provides MDE or a local government shall determine: (1) whether a homeowner qualifies for assistance; and (2) the amount of the assistance (based on the average cost of a 5-year O&M contract in the homeowner’s area)

MACo HB 90 Testimony

Roadside Tree Preservation and Maintenance: HB 178 requires the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to adopt regulations governing the planting, maintenance, and protection of any roadside tree. A person who desires to maintain or remove a roadside tree must apply to DNR for a permit, unless the person is trimming the lower limbs of a tree in a manner that does not harm the tree. DNR may only issue a permit if: (1) the maintenance or removal eliminates a hazard or danger to property, public safety, or health; or (2) the tree is dead, dying, or deteriorating. A permit applicant must demonstrate to the satisfaction of DNR that the applicant has made every possible effort to protect and save the tree.

A person who removes a roadside tree shall replace the roadside tree within 2 months after its removal or a time specified by DNR if the tree is removed out of planting season. DNR shall ensure that all required replacement trees are planted. A person who maintains or removes a roadside tree to eliminate a hazard or danger caused by the tree shall, if necessary, remediate the hazard or source of danger within 3 weeks of the removal of the roadside tree.

The bill also requires a permit fee of $250 for each roadside tree maintained and $500 for each roadside tree removed (although DNR will refund $250 for a tree removal permit when the required replacement tree is planted).

MACo Position: While questioning whether there was a need for the new permitting requirements proposed by the bill, MACo supported the bill with amendments to: (1) clarify that a tree subject to a replacement requirement elsewhere in State law not also be subject to the replacement requirement under HB 178; and (2) exempt (as per current regulations) State and local government agencies from paying the permit fees.

FINAL STATUS: The House Environment and Transportation Committee gave HB 178 an unfavorable report.

MACo HB 178 Testimony

Vehicle Licensing and Inspections for Liquid Waste Haulers: HB 189 / SB 348 creates a new annual vehicle licensing and proof of insurance requirements within MDE for liquid waste haulers (includes waste from septic systems, chemical toilets, cesspools, privies, composting toilets, holding tanks, and grease trap waste). MDE or a delegated local health department must inspect and approve each vehicle before it can issue a permit. MDE may set reasonable fees to cover the costs of licensing and vehicle inspections. If MDE delegates the inspection authority to a local health department, the local department may set a reasonable inspection fee. The bill also establishes penalties for haulers who violate the bill’s requirements

MACo Position: MACo opposed the bill, noting that it would replace a system of local vehicle inspections and fees for liquid waste haulers with a more centralized and “one size fits all” State-controlled system.

FINAL STATUS: The sponsors of HB 189 and SB 348 withdrew the legislation after MACo, MDE, and other key stakeholders agreed to meet with the bill proponents over the 2016 Interim and try to address their issues.

MACo HB 189 Testimony

MACo SB 348 Testimony

Yard Waste and Food Residuals Diversion and Infrastructure Task Force: HB 743 establishes a Yard Waste and Food Residuals Diversion and Infrastructure Task Force that will study and recommend ways to increase Maryland’s composting rates 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. Among the 20 members of the Task Force is a local public works department representative, to be appointed by the Governor.

MACo Position: MACo supported HB 743 with amendments requesting that MACo and the Maryland Municipal League (MML) have representation on the Task Force.

FINAL STATUS: The House passed HB 743 with amendments striking the local public works representative and adding representatives from MACo, MML, and the Maryland-Delaware Solid Waste Association. The Senate Education Health and Environmental Affairs Committee heard HB 743 but took no further action on the bill.

MACo HB 743 Testimony

Maryland Environmental Service – Collective Bargaining: HB 795 and SB 447 are identical but not cross-filed bills that would require MES to recognize and deal with an employee organization that is elected as an exclusive representative of MES employees and collectively bargain.

MACo Position: MACo opposed the bills, arguing that the collective bargaining requirement would undermine the ability of MES to deliver critical environmental services to local governments at a reasonable cost.

FINAL STATUS: HB 795 was withdrawn by the bill’s sponsor. The Senate Finance Committee heard SB 447 but took no further action on the bill.

MACo HB 795 Testimony

MACo SB 447 Testimony

Municipal Stormwater Fees: MACo considered two similar bills addressing municipalities charging stormwater fees to other levels of government. HB 1108 provides that property within the boundaries of a municipality and owned by the State, a county, a college or university, or a local school system is subject to a municipal stormwater fee if: (1) the municipality has established a dedicated stormwater management fund; and (2) property owned by the municipality is subject to the charges.

SB 719 provides that a municipality may charge a stormwater remediation fee to property located within the boundaries of a municipality that is owned by the State, a county, or an institution of higher education if: (1) the municipality has established a watershed protection and restoration fund; and (2) the municipality charges a stormwater remediation fee on property owned by the municipality.

MACo Position: MACo opposed both HB 1108 and SB 719, arguing that county-owned property was already subject to stormwater mitigation requirements under the Chesapeake Bay and local Total Maximum Daily Loads, Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permits, and various other State statutes and regulations. MACo also noted that the government-on-government fee issue has been debated and rejected multiple times by the General Assembly

FINAL STATUS: The House Environment and Transportation Committee heard HB 1108 but took no further action on the bill. The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee heard SB 719 but took no further action on the bill.

MACo HB 1108 Testimony

MACo SB 719 Testimony

Eligible Sources Under the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard: HB 1287 / SB 867 provides that after January 1, 2018, energy from these Tier 1 renewable sources are no longer eligible to meet the renewable energy portfolio standard: (1) qualifying biomass; (2) methane from anaerobic decomposition of organic materials in a landfill or wastewater treatment plant; (3) a fuel cell producing electricity from the two previous sources; (4) poultry litter to energy; (5) waste-to-energy; (6) refuse-derived fuel; or (7) thermal energy from a thermal biomass system. Sources in existence before January 1, 2017 remain eligible for inclusion.

MACo Position: MACo opposed the bill, arguing it would reduce viable options for electricity suppliers to meet their renewable energy portfolio standard goals, inhibit new technologies that could help address poultry litter and non-recyclable refuse, and potentially increase electricity prices.

FINAL STATUS: HB 1287 was withdrawn by the bill’s sponsor. The Senate Finance Committee gave SB 867 an unfavorable report.

MACo HB 1287 Testimony

MACo SB 867 Testimony