2017 End of Session Wrap-Up: Environment

This post summarizes the status of various environment bills that MACo took a position on for the 2017 Regular Session.

Recycling – Regulation of Recycling Facilities: HB 124 requires the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to adopt regulations governing recycling facilities, in consultation with MACo and other key stakeholders. The regulations would allow for a tiered system of permits to cover different sizes and types of recycling facilities. The bill also alters the definition of “solid waste” to exclude materials managed at a recycling facility in accordance with the regulations that will be adopted by MDE.

Push Icons-IMPROVEDMACo Position: MACo supported the bill with amendments, noting that recycling facilities are handling increasing amounts of unrecyclable solid waste through the single stream process, they are at risk of needing a solid waste disposal permit – an expensive and cumbersome requirement that was never intended to apply to them. HB 124 would allow MDE to adopt a tiered system of permits that allow for more appropriate regulation of these facilities. The MACo amendment excluded residential recycling drop-off facilities, as they simply serve as collection points for recyclable materials and do not actually handle or process materials beyond collecting and shipping them to a recycling facility.

FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed HB 124 with the MACo amendment and an amendment removing the quantity of material managed as criteria for MDE to consider when establishing the tiered system of permits.

MACo Testimony on HB 124

Recycling – Yard, Food, and Organic Waste Composting Study: HB 171 / SB 99 require MDE to conduct a study regarding the diversion and composting of yard waste and food residuals. The study must include: (1) identification properties or development zones where diversion infrastructure may be developed; (2) tax or other incentives to promote composting; (3) a recommendation for a refuse disposal fee that would finance a grant program to assist with composting infrastructure; and (4) a recommendation on necessary programmatic, legislative, or regulatory changes to encourage composting.

Push Icons-IMPROVEDMACo Position: MACo supported the bill with five amendments that would have the study:

  1. Identify the infrastructure needs and challenges related to yard waste and food residuals composting and diversion unique to the different geographic regions of the state;
  2. Identify any applicable sanitary and public health concerns related to yard waste and food residuals composting and diversion;
  3. Develop, in consultation with local governments, model guidelines and best practices for the local identification of properties or development zones where diversion infrastructure may be developed instead of having MDE assume a land use role by making such identifications itself;
  4. Consider a refuse disposal fee instead of automatically recommending such a fee; and
  5. Receive the approval of the affected local governments before recommending a pilot food waste recovery program in the Elkridge and Jessup areas.

FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed HB 171 and SB 99 with the MACo amendments (the refuse disposal fee language was deleted in its entirety) and several other stakeholder amendments MACo had no issue with.

MACo Testimony on HB 171

MACo Testimony on SB 99

Recycling – Special Events: HB 1309 / SB 885 as introduced would require a county and municipal government that issues a special event permit to also enforce recycling requirements at the event. The bill lowers the threshold for the application of special events recycling requirements from 200 people to 100 people and increases the civil penalty for violating the recycling requirements from $50 a day to a flat fine based on attendance (with a range of $500 to $500,000).

Push Icons-IMPROVEDMACo Position: MACo opposed the bill, noting the cost and implementation issues of the local enforcement mandate, the problematic expansion of “special events” by lowering the attendance threshold from 200 to 100 people, and challenges in enforcing the civil penalties due to a lack of reliable attendance data. MACo dropped its opposition based on amendments that were added to the bill to address MACo’s concerns.

FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed HB 1309 and SB 885 with the proposed MACo amendments. As amended the bill: (1) requires the State, a county, or a municipality, when issuing a special events permit, to provide the event organizer with a written statement that describes the recycling requirements and penalties that apply to special events; and (2) increases the civil penalty for special events recycling from $50 per day to $300 per day.

MACo Testimony on HB 1309

MACo Testimony on SB 885

Stormwater Remdiation Fees and Charges – Application to Governmental Property: As introduced, HB 656 / SB 472 would have allowed a municipality to impose a stormwater charge (under § 4-204 of the Environment Article) on governmental property within its boundaries if: (1) the municipality established a dedicated stormwater management fund; and (2) property owned by the municipality was also subject to the charge.

Push Icons-MORE WORKMACo Position: MACo opposed the bill, arguing that the bill: (1) did not acknowledge actual mitigation responsibility; (2) lacked the flexibility to acknowledge alternative arrangements; and (3) did not create a fair or equal system as it excluded county governments in the same situation. MACo also noted that the government-on-government fee issue has been debated and rejected multiple times by the General Assembly. However, MACo worked with the affected stakeholders over the Session and ultimately dropped its opposition after reaching agreement on a series of amendments that addressed MACo’s concerns.

FINAL STATUS: The House and the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee passed HB 656 with the consensus amendments and a few additional technical changes. However, the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, who had a joint assignment, took no action on HB 656. The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee heard SB472 but took no further action on the bill.

As amended, HB 656 would have allowed a county or municipality that has a stormwater charge under §4-204 or a stormwater remediation fee under §4-202.1 of the Environment Article to impose the charge of fee on property within its boundaries that is owned by the State, a county, a municipality, a public college or university, or a local school system if:

  1. the governmental property is part of the county or municipality’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit;
  2. the county or municipality offers a credit to the governmental property if the property owner is mitigating stormwater being generated on the property;
  3. the county or municipality and the property owner have not agreed upon an alternative arrangement in lieu of the imposition of the stormwater fee; and
  4. for a stormwater charge, the county or municipality has established a dedicated stormwater management fund.

Amendments added by the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee also clarified that a governmental property owner may also voluntarily choose to pay the fee or charge.

MACo Testimony on HB 656

MACo Testimony on SB 472

Water and Sewer Plans and Solid Waste Management Plans – MDE Approval: As introduced, SB 1040 reduced the time period for MDE to review a water and sewer plan from 90 days to 60 days. MDE may extend the review period by an additional 30 days for good cause, and a further 60 days if MDE provides written notice to the affected county, county delegation members of the General Assembly, and the Governor, not less than 10 days before the expiration of the 30-day good cause extension. The written notice must include the reasons MDE failed to complete the review within the provided time period. Finally, MDE must provide written notice of approval, without conditions or reservations, to the county in the event that the plan receives approval.

Push Icons-WONMACo Position: MACo supported the bill, noting that a county water and sewer plan is a critical component of the county’s long-term land use and development plan. Without prompt approval, counties are unable to implement key Smart Growth initiatives and developers may be forced into a “holding pattern” – losing both resources and time that ultimately may lead to a project’s stagnation or even cancellation.

FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed SB 1040 with amendments agreed upon by MACo. As amended, SB 1040 does the following:

  1. MDE must approve or disapprove a county water and sewer or solid waste management plan within 60 days after submission.
  2. MDE may extend the plan review for an additional 45 days for good cause.
  3. MDE may extend the review an additional 45 days after the good cause period if MDE provides written notice to the affected county, the county delegation members of the General Assembly, and the Governor not less than 10 days before the expiration of the 45 day good cause extension. The written notice shall include the reasons MDE failed to complete the review within the provided time.
  4. MDE provide written notice that a plan is approved as per current law when MDE does not explicitly disapprove a plan in whole or in part.

MACo Testimony on SB 1040

Bay Restoration Fund – Eligibility of BNR Projects: HB 384 / SB 343 would expand the allowed uses of the Bay Restoration Fund’s (BRF) wastewater treatment plant account to include plant upgrades to biological nutrient removal (BNR).

Push Icons-WONMACo Position: MACo supported the bill, arguing that with most major wastewater treatment plants having been upgraded to enhanced nutrient removal technology (ENR), it made sense to assist major-minor and minor plants that may not even be at the BNR status yet. MACo also noted the bill was consistent with Governor Larry Hogan’s FY 2018 budget proposal, as the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2017 authorizes MDE to use up to $60 million in both BRF monies and revenue bond proceeds for BNR upgrades for FY 2017 and FY 2018

FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed HB 384 and SB 343 with several technical and conforming amendments.

MACo Testimony on HB 384

MACo Testimony on SB 343

Bay Restoration Fund – Clean Water Commerce Act of 2017: As introduced, HB 417 / SB 314 would allow MDE to use up to $10 million a year from the wastewater treatment account of the BRF for the purchase of cost-effective nitrogen and phosphorus credits to support restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay. MDE must consult with the Departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources when adopting regulations to carry out the bill’s provisions.

Push Icons-IMPROVEDMACo Position: MACo supported HB 417 / SB 314 with amendments offered by MDE that added further details about how the BRF monies could be spent, added protections for local BRF uses, and included MACo and other stakeholders in the development of the regulations. MACo noted that the amendments addressed MACo’s concerns about the broadness and lack of specificity in the bill and would create another “tool in the toolbox” to help meet Bay restoration goals.

FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed HB 417 and SB 314 with the MDE amendments as well as other changes acceptable to MACo. As amended, the bill allows MDE to purchase nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment load reductions using monies from the BRF’s wastewater treatment account. MDE may purchase reductions in FY 2018 through FY 2021. The purchases are limited to $4 million in FY 2018, increasing to a maximum of $10 million for FY 2020 and FY 2021. The purchases: (1) can only be made after funding any eligible costs for wastewater treatment plants to enhanced nutrient removal; (2) cannot be from the agricultural sector; and (3) must be for reductions created on or after July 1, 2017.

In addition, MDE must adopt regulations prior to the purchase of any load reductions that specify that a purchased reduction should provide the lowest cost per pound in reduction and be purchased in accordance with a competitive process. The regulations should be created in consultation with the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Natural Resources, and Transportation, and public and private stakeholders. The bill also contains reporting and accounting requirements for the reduction purchases.

MACo Testimony on HB 417

MACo Testimony on SB 314

Maryland Environmental Service – Collective Bargaining: HB 239 / SB 291 would require the Maryland Environmental Service (MES) to recognize and deal with an employee organization that is elected as an exclusive representative of MES employees and collectively bargain.

Push Icons-NOT IDEALMACo Position: MACo opposed the bill, 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: The House Appropriations Committee heard HB 239 but took no further action on the bill. The General Assembly passed SB 291.

MACo Testimony on HB 239

MACo Testimony on SB 291

Natural Gas Hydraulic Fracturing – Moratorium: SB 862 would extend a moratorium on natural gas hydraulic fracturing (commonly known as “fracking”) until October 1, 2019, and require MDE to propose new and stricter regulations on fracking by October 1, 2018, based on a review of studies and the regulations of other states. During the 2018 gubernatorial election, each local jurisdiction must conduct a voter referendum on whether the local jurisdiction can authorize fracking. If a majority of voters support, the jurisdiction may authorize fracking. If the majority of voters oppose, the jurisdiction may not authorize fracking unless it is approved in a subsequent referendum. A local jurisdiction may still ban or enact a stricter version of fracking requirements than the State if the majority of voters support authorization.

Push Icons-MORE WORKMACo Position: MACo supported the bill with amendments to remove the local referendum requirement. MACo stated that it did not have a formal position on fracking but should fracking ever be authorized in Maryland, it should be up to each local jurisdiction to allow fracking, impose additional requirements on fracking, or prohibit fracking. MACo argued the mandatory referendum undermines the proper role of local elected officials and establishes a precedent that could remove local decision making on other contentious policy issues.

FINAL STATUS: The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee heard SB 862 but took no further action on the bill. (The General Assembly did pass a full ban on fracking under HB 1325.)

MACo Testimony on SB 862

Liquid Waste Haulers – Vehicle Licensing and Inspections: HB 1224 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.

Push Icons-DEFEATEDMACo 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: HB 1224 was withdrawn by the bill’s sponsor after MACo and other key stakeholders agreed to meet with the bill proponents over the 2017 Interim and try to address their issues.

MACo Testimony on HB 1224