Here are the Key Chesapeake Bay Restoration Issues Facing the 2018 MD, VA, & PA Legislatures

Bay Journal article (2018-01-03) highlighted the Chesapeake Bay issues that will be debated by the legislatures of Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. The article noted that many of the issues are not new and have been debated  previously.

MARYLAND

The article noted that Maryland will consider legislation to: (1) strengthen Maryland’s Forest Conservation Act; (2) increase Maryland’s renewable energy targets; and (3) regulate air pollution from poultry houses. From the article:

Forest Conservation: Lawmakers in Annapolis are being pressed by environmental groups to take another look at tightening the state’s 27-year-old forest conservation law. …

As originally passed in 1991, the Forest Conservation Act regulates the removal of large numbers of trees for development and requires either that new ones be planted elsewhere or that the developer pay into a local government fund for later plantings. …

[Activists] contend that the 1991 law has been particularly ineffective at saving the largest and most ecologically valuable woodlands. …

“When there’s intact forest ecology, that’s basically the most important kind of forest, and that’s the forest the act is doing the least to benefit,” said Elaine Lutz, a staff attorney with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. …

Local government officials remain wary of tightening the law, but say they’d like to have more flexibility in where trees must be replanted and how they can spend funds paid by developers in lieu of replanting removed trees. But real estate interests argue the law is working and does not need a major overhaul.

“The Forest Conservation Act was never meant to be a no-net-loss policy,” said Lori Graf, chief executive officer of the Maryland Building Industry Association. The law is just one of several laws and programs aimed at halting the loss of the state’s forestland, she said, and recent data indicate the goal of maintaining the state’s overall forest acreage is being met.

Renewable Energy Targets: The article indicated that environmental advocates plan on introducing legislation that would require Maryland to generate 50 percent of its energy through renewable sources by 2030 and possibly require 100 percent by 2035. The legislation would also stop waste to energy plants from being counted as a renewable energy source.

Poultry House Air Emissions: The article noted that the Maryland General Assembly will be debating the Community Healthy Air Act, which would require the Maryland Department of the Environment to collect and report data on chicken house air emissions, including ammonia which is found in chicken waste.

VIRGINIA

According to the article, Virginia will tackle three key issues: (1) Bay restoration funding; (2) funding to upgrade the City of Alexandria’s failing waste water system; and (3) the disposal of coal ash.

Bay Restoration Funding: While the article notes that all three states will be challenged to provide sufficient funding to meet their Bay restoration goals, Virginia Bay advocates will be introducing a pair of bills to provide $69.5 million in additional funding. The first bill would add $19.5 million to the $42.5 million outgoing Governor Terry McAuliffe including in his proposed budget for agricultural best management practices (bringing the total to $62 million). The second bill would add $50 million to Virginia’s Stormwater Local Assistance Fund in future budget years. The Fund, which provides money to local governments for stormwater remediation projects, received no funding under McAuliffe’s budget.

Alexandria Sewer Overflows: McAuliffe’s proposed budget includes $20 million for Alexandria to address its chronic sewage overflows.

Coal Ash Disposal: The article indicated the Virginia legislature will consider a bill that would encourage Dominion Energy to recycle coal ash, such as using it in concrete, rather than storing it in covered pits near Bay tributaries.

PENNSYLVANIA

The Pennsylvania legislature will wrestle with: (1) funding Bay cleanup costs; (2) regulation and training for lawn fertilizer applicators; and (3) creation of a water fee.

Bay Restoration Funding for Animal Manure Processing: The article stated that Pennsylvania will be taking up the Clean Water Procurement bill, which would establish a $50 million yearly fund with payments from the state’s municipalities. The payments would be in lieu of municipalities having to do their own stormwater projects. The Fund would providing financing to private industry to address animal manure waste from the agricultural sector.  Municipal associations are opposed to the bill.

Regulation of Lawn Fertilizer Applicators: Pennsylvania will also be considering legislation that limits amount of fertilizer that can be applied to lawns and requires lawn care and landscaping company personnel to be trained and certified before they can apply lawn fertilizer. Similar legislation has already passed in both Maryland and Virginia.

Water Fee: Finally, the article indicated that Pennsylvania legislature will review a study report on proposed legislation to add a 0.01 cent fee per gallon of water withdrawn for commercial or industrial purposes. The fee would only apply to withdrawals of more than 10,000 gallons and is expected to raise $250 million a year.