Hogan Repeals Zero Waste Executive Order

A Baltimore Sun article (2017-06-27) reported that Governor Lawrence “Larry” Hogan announced the repeal of an Executive Order issued in the final days of former Governor Martin O’Malley’s Administration that set recycling and waste diversion targets and prohibited any future expansions of landfills. Hogan replaced the O’Malley executive order with a new executive order creating a collaborative process to continue to meet the State’s recycling goals. Hogan made the announcement on June 27 as he addressed the Maryland Municipal League (MML). From the article:

Speaking to the annual summer gathering of the Maryland Municipal League, the Republican governor said he was rescinding the policy in response to complaints from local governments.

Hogan told the group of town and city officials that his Democratic predecessor’s action “usurped local authority” and “created overflowing landfills and unnecessary hardships for local governments.”

“We are replacing that last-minute, ill-conceived and poorly devised policy with a common-sense, balanced approach to managing waste in Maryland,” he said.

Hogan said his action lifts a moratorium on permits for new landfills and sets “achievable” goals for recycling. …

Ben Grumbles, the state secretary of the environment, said [Hogan’s new] executive order on waste lays out a “collaborative” process that focuses on meeting realistic goals.

He said the policy will focus on reducing, reusing and recycling materials.

The secretary said the administration will not introduce a new rule.

“We’re not changing the law but we’re changing the policy to be more collaborative,” he said.

Grumbles said the new policy will help the state meet its existing recycling goals.

What Does the Repeal Actually Do?

O’Malley’s Executive Order 01.01.2015.01 instituted four recommendations regarding zero waste. The four policy changes were based on recommendations made in Maryland’s 2014 Zero Waste Plan. The executive order:

  1. prohibited the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) from issuing new capacity permits for municipal and land clearing debris landfills for any permit application submitted on or after January 19, 2015;
  2. set an 85% statewide waste diversion goal and 80% recycling goal by 2040, including a state government 20% recycling goal and 60% organic waste diversion goal by 2020;
  3. required MDE, in consultation with the Maryland Green Purchasing Committee, to create a source reduction checklist for use by State agencies, including for procurement purposes; and
  4. required MDE to provide local governments with information on alternatives to land-filling.

At the time the landfill ban was issued, MACo and several counties raised concerns with the incoming Hogan Administration, including lack of prior discussion on the issue or integration with long-range county solid waste plans, lack of viable alternatives for those counties nearly maxed out on their landfill capacity, and potential bond rating issues for those counties who had issued bonds based on future projected landfill fees.

Hogan’s new Executive Order 01.01.2017.13 replaces the now repealed O’Malley executive order with the following policies:

  1. establishes a Sustainable Materials Management Policy that to the extent practicable: (i) minimizes the environmental impacts of materials over their entire life cycles; (ii) conserves and extends existing in-State disposal capacity through source reduction, reuse, and recycling; (iii) captures and makes optimal use of recovered raw materials, water, energy, and nutrients; and (iv) works towards a long-term environmentally and economically sustainable materials management system;
  2. establishes through a stakeholder consultation process: (i) voluntary statewide sustainable management goals, (ii) improved recycling and source reduction data tracking, and (iii) data collection on business source reduction recycling;
  3. requires MDE to establish partnerships with various State and local agencies to: (i) identify local markets for recycled materials and siting, permitting, and technical assistance for recycling and resource recovery businesses; (ii) develop innovative technologies to recover nutrient resources in a manner protective of water quality; (iii) promote methods of recovering energy from waste, including anaerobic digestion; and (iv) develop screening criteria and guidance for the use of dredged material from the Port of Baltimore’s shipping channels; and
  4. requires MDE to identify key recyclable materials that continue to be disposed of in landfills and work with key stakeholders to conduct targeted outreach campaigns to reduce disposal for each of the key materials identified.

The Hogan executive order does not repeal the State’s 2014 Zero Waste Plan as that was not part of the O’Malley executive order, outside of the 85% waste diversion and 80% recycling goals. The Plan contained 61 proposed initiatives, some of which would require significant time, effort, and resources to implement. The Plan did not envision adoption of all 61 initiatives and instead offered them as potential options to help the State and local governments reach the Plan’s proposed waste diversion and recycling goals. Many of the Plan’s key initiatives, such as food and organic waste composting, anaerobic digestion, product packaging reduction, and bans or use restrictions on certain materials, continue to be worked on by the Administration, State agencies, and/or the General Assembly.

MACo’s Position on Zero Waste

MACo has been an active participant throughout the zero waste discussions and feels that it is worthwhile to consider a zero waste system for Maryland. Improving source reduction and recycling rates while reducing landfill disposal rates are valid goals. However, it should be done in a thoughtful and collaborative manner, and be accompanied by the resources necessary to successfully implement any new initiatives, rather than simply by imposing untenable policies or unfunded mandates on county governments. With this caveat, MACo believes that there are many more positive steps that can be taken to further the goals of reuse, recycling, and zero waste. MACo will continue to work with the Administration and the General Assembly on this important issue.

Useful Links

Hogan’s Executive Order 01.01.2017.13

Conduit Street Coverage of O’Malley Executive Order Announcement

O’Malley’s Executive Order 01.01.2015.01

Conduit Street Breakdown of Maryland’s Zero Waste Plan

Governor Hogan Press Release (2017-06-29) on MML Remarks