The Senate Finance Committee gave a favorable report to HB 1350 on April 6, which the House had amended to become its version of MACo’s energy siting Legislative Initiative, SB 931. HB 1350 will need to pass second and third-reader votes in the Senate prior to the General Assembly adjourning Sine Die on Monday, April 10. SB 931 has already passed the Senate unanimously (47-0) and it is expected HB 1350 will also pass with no issues.
MACo adopted the siting of energy generation facilities as a 2017 Legislative Initiative in response to concerns from both rural and urban counties who are seeing large-scale energy projects being proposed in sensitive agricultural, historic, or environmental areas. Going forward, MACo believes the bill will ensure that the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) will properly weigh local land use concerns when deciding whether to grant an energy generating station a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) and encourage better communication and outreach practices between energy developers and local governments.
As amended by the House, HB 1350 would:
- require the PSC, as part of its review of an application for a CPCN for an energy generating station to give due consideration to: (i) the consistency of the application with the comprehensive plan and zoning of each county or municipal corporation in which any portion of the generation station is proposed to be located; and (ii) the efforts by affected parties to resolve any issues presented by such a county or municipal corporation
- require the PSC to provide notice of any CPCN application to the executive branch of any affected local government in addition to the local governing body, include a copy of the application to the affected local governments with the notice, and offer to provide a copy of the application to state legislators representing the affected local governments
In a separate letter to the Finance Committee, MACo also reiterated 4 other commitments that were made outside of the bill language:
- The Power Plant Research Program will conduct an informal study on improving notice and communication between the State, local governments, and energy developers.
- MACo, utility scale solar developers, and other interested stakeholders will work together to develop proposed best practices for developers operating in Maryland.
- Senate Finance Chair Thomas “Mac” Middleton will hold interim discussions with interested stakeholders on setting protections regarding energy development on lands subject to a State land preservation or conservation easement or in a Rural Legacy Area.
- MACo will commit to not introduce legislation directly affecting the PSC’s CPCN process for the next several years unless there is a significant change in the energy development landscape or the provisions of SB 931 [or HB 1350] are not working as intended.
Senator John Astle sponsored SB 931. Delegate April Rose sponsored HB 1350.