Septic Systems, Solar Energy & Forest Conservation Act Interim Study Items for Environment & Transportation Committee

In a letter (2017-05-31) to the Legislative Policy Committee, House Environment and Transportation Committee Chair Kumar Barve described the interim activities of Environment and Transportation Committee, including examining Forest Conservation Act, septic system requirements, and solar energy production. From the letter:

Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Open Space [Subcommittee]

Forest Conservation

Senate Bill 365 of 2017 would have established the Task Force on the Forest Conservation Act Offset Policy to review and study specified issues relating to the impact of development on forested land and the extent to which forest loss is offset through reforestation policies under the Forest Conservation Act. The committee intends to meet with stakeholders over the interim to further examine forest conservation related issues, including the examination of the Act offset policy.

Environment [Subcommittee]

Septic Systems

Chapter 280 of 2009 required, among other things, the installation of septic systems that utilize the best available technology (BAT) for nitrogen removal for new construction or replacement systems in the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area (Critical Area). Through regulations adopted in 2012, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) expanded the requirements of Chapter 280 beyond the Critical Area, requiring septic systems that utilize BAT for new construction in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the Atlantic Coastal Bay watershed, and the watershed of a nitrogen-impaired water body. In 2016, MDE adopted new regulations that retracted the expansions established by the 2012 regulations, among other things. House Bill 281 of 2017 sought to codify the 2012 regulatory requirements for BAT outside of the Critical Area. Recognizing the importance of reducing nutrient pollution to waters of the State, the committee intends to further examine the issue of nitrogen pollution from septic systems, including an evaluation of State and local laws and incentives germane to this issue.

Solar Energy Production

The committee intends to investigate the role of land management as it relates to the utility scale production of solar energy. With the recent and dramatic decreases in the cost of solar energy, it has become apparent that we should consider strategies that would encourage development without unduly impacting current land use and preservation objectives.

A workgroup session on septic systems has been scheduled for July 26 at 1:00 PM in the Environment and Transportation Committee room. Topics will include:

  • The impact of expanding the use of BAT systems outside of the Critical Area, and what factors might be considered for using BAT in such areas (i.e. proximity to nitrogen-impaired waterways, soil types and conditions, etc.);
  • In light of Senate Bill 266 of 2017, as amended by the Senate, whether funds in the BRF are prioritized appropriately to address pollution from septic systems;
  • How should we address operation and maintenance and pump-outs; and
  • Whether each county is achieving its WIP goals for pollution from septic systems.

Interested parties can sign up to testify in the committee room starting at 9:00 AM on the 26th. MACo is planning to testify.