Environmentalists Unveil 2018 Session Priorities

The Maryland League of Conservation Voters (MDLCV) hosted its annual event on November 13, 2017, where the environmental community unveiled their legislative priorities for the 2018 Session. Increasing the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and strengthening the Forest Conservation Act (FCA) were among several priorities highlighted during the event.

Forest Conservation Act

A MDLCV representative discussed pending legislation that create additional FCA protections for large contiguous tracts of older forest. The representative stressed that growth should be focused in areas that have already been developed and limit growth “out in the boondocks.”

Renewable Portfolio Standard

A MDLCV representative discussed the initiative to increase the RPS so that 50% of Maryland’s energy comes from renewable sources by 2030. The proposed bill would remove waste to energy plants from the RPS and also channel money towards renewable energy jobs training. The training funding would be targeted towards small businesses and minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses.

Program Open Space

A Preservation Maryland representative recounted that over $1 billion has been taken from Program Open Space (POS) and that 2016 legislation was passed to repay a small portion of that amount and make it harder to raid POS funding in future years. The environmental community will support the funding of POS according to the 2016 legislation and oppose any proposed raids of the funding.

Styrofoam Ban

A representative from Trash Free Maryland stated that an environmental coalition plans on pushing legislation that would ban Styrofoam food packaging and shipping “peanuts” in Maryland. The representative noted that: (1) Styrofoam does not degrade but instead breaks down into smaller pieces that enter both the animal and human food chains; and (2) when heated, such as in a microwave, Styrofoam releases styrene, which is a known carcinogen. The legislation will be sponsored by Delegate Brooke Lierman and Senator Cheryl Kagan.

Pesticide Ban

A representative from MDLCV discussed planned legislation that would ban the use of pesticides containing chlorophenols. The representative stated that the United States Environmental Protection Agency was set to ban its usage until the election of President Donald Trump and that it is already banned for residential usage. The proposed legislation would ban it in agricultural uses.

Public Service Commission Transparency

A MDLCV representative unveiled an initiative that would require the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) to provide additional notice and transparency to communities that could be affected by the siting of utility scale energy projects. The proposed legislation would also require the PSC to look at the potential health effects a proposed energy project would have on nearby communities.

Historic Tax Credit

A representative from Preservation Maryland discussed legislation that would increase funding for the Heritage Structure Rehabilitation Credit, which currently provides about $9 million in tax breaks to qualifying historic rehabilitation projects. The representative noted that a similar Virginia credit provides about $100 million in relief and that the legislation would step up Maryland’s credit, going to $14.5 million for FY 2019.

State Historical Trust

The Preservation Maryland representative also spoke about legislation that would restore funding to several programs under the State Historical Trust within the Maryland Department of Planning, including: (1) the Trust’s capital grant program; (2) the survey and research grant program; and (3) the museum assistance fund.