Advisory Group Finalizing Draft Clean Water Commerce Regs

An advisory group composed of diverse stakeholders, including MACo, has been working with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to finalize draft regulations to implement the Clean Water Commerce Act (HB 417 / SB 314)  that was passed by the Maryland General Assembly during the 2017 Session. The group nearly completed its work after meeting on October 24, 2017.

HB 417/SB 314 allows MDE to purchase nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment load reductions using monies from the Bay Restoration Fund’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.

Besides MACo, the advisory group includes representatives from the Maryland Municipal League (MML), environmental groups, developers, wastewater treatment plant operators, best management practice installers, and other state agencies.

The draft regulations address the purchase process MDE must undertake, including factors MDE will consider when making purchase decisions and  establishes the baselines for determining load reductions. One remaining area of contention is the eligibility of load reductions from wastewater treatment plants. Both MACo and MML support allowing wastewater treatment plants to be part of the competitive bidding process.

Once finalized, the draft regulations will be submitted for full public comment. For further information, please contact MACo Legal and Policy Analyst Les Knapp at lknapp@mdcounties.org or 410.269.0043.