This post summarizes the status of various environment bills that MACo took a position on for the 2018 Regular Session.
Septic Systems – Septic Stewardship Act of 2018: HB 361 / SB 314 is an Administration bill that would change septic fee charges and uses under the Bay Restoration Fund (BRF). The bill had three primary parts:
- The bill would have exempted a septic system owner from paying the BRF fee if: (1) the owner has a septic system using best available nitrogen removal technology (BAT); and (2) the owner did not receive a State or federal grant or income tax subtraction modification for installing the BAT system.
- The bill would have altered how the money going into the BRF septic system/cover crop account is divided. Currently, 60% of the funds going into the account goes towards septic systems (including BAT upgrades and connections to wastewater treatment plants) and 40% goes to the Maryland Agriculture Water Quality Cost Share Program within the Department of Agriculture for cover crop activities. The bill would change that distribution to 50% for septics and 50% for cover crops.
- The bill would have allowed BRF septic system money to be used by eligible homeowners for the reasonable cost of pumping out a septic system once every 5 years. In order to be eligible, the homeowner must reside in a local jurisdiction that has developed a “septic stewardship plan.” The plan must include provisions to ensure that septic systems are properly operated and maintained, including being subject to routine pump-outs and inspections.
MACo Position: MACo supported the bill with amendments to retain the current 60 % septic/40% cover crop allocation. MACo also noted the voluntary septic stewardship plan would provide another “tool in the toolbox” for county governments to address their septic system nitrogen loads.
FINAL STATUS: The House Environment and Transportation Committee gave HB 361 an unfavorable report. The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee gave SB 314 an unfavorable report.
Septic Systems – BAT Septics Near Streams: HB 719 would require a property owner to install a septic system that uses BAT or replace an existing septic system with a BAT system if: (1) the system is within 1,000 feet of a “blue-line stream” that is located in the watershed of a nitrogen-impaired body of water; and (2) there is construction activity on the property requiring the approval of a general permit for stormwater. “Blue-line stream” means a stream that appears as a broken or solid blue line or purple line on a U.S. Geological Survey topographic map.
MACo Position: MACo opposed the bill, arguing that: (1) the bill’s mandate is overbroad and that the General Assembly previously rejected a similar “BAT everywhere” mandate in 2017; (2) the use of BAT systems in these areas would result in minimal nitrogen reductions for significant cost; and (3) the bill limits county flexibility in addressing septic system nitrogen pollution.
FINAL STATUS: The House Environment and Transportation Committee gave HB 719 an unfavorable report.
Septic Systems – Watershed Implementation Plan Credits, BRF Uses, & Septic Stewardship Plans: HB 1765 would clarify how a county may take credit for nitrogen reductions for septic systems and authorize a local jurisdiction to create a “septic stewardship plan” to assist homeowners in the maintenance and operation, including pump outs, of their septic systems. The bill would:
- provide that a reduction in nitrogen for upgrading a septic system to BAT may count towards the nitrogen load reduction required in a local jurisdiction’s Phase III Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) if there is a current operation and maintenance contract for the septic system;
- authorize a local jurisdiction to use up to 10% of their BRF septic account allocation to assist eligible homeowners for the reasonable cost of an operation and maintenance contract that provides for, at least once every 5 years, the pumping out of the septic system if: (i) the homeowner verifies the operation and maintenance contract; and (ii) the homeowner resides in a local jurisdiction that has established a septic stewardship plan;
- provide that BRF septic account funds may be used to provide financial assistance to a local jurisdiction for a septic stewardship plan in fiscal years 2020 and 2021;
- specify that the financial assistance for homeowners: (i) shall be based on homeowner income, with priority given to low-income homeowners; and (ii) may be provided through grants, rebates, or low- or no-interest loans;
- require that a septic stewardship plan include: (i) specific goals consistent with the nitrogen load reduction consistent with the local jurisdiction’s WIP; (ii) public education and outreach measures that will be taken, including best management practices, legal requirements, and existing support and financial assistance; (iii) technical guidance for the siting, design, evaluation, and construction of a septic system; (iv) a requirement that a septic system located on residential property to be pumped out, inspected, and tested at least once every 5 years; (v) certification and licensing procedures for a person that pumps out and inspects septic systems; (vi) enforcement mechanisms, compliance incentives, and penalties; (vii) funding mechanisms to support the plan and expand education, demonstration projects, and inspections; (viii) requirements for record keeping; and (ix) a process for periodically evaluating and revising the plan.
MACo Position: MACo supported the bill, arguing that it gives counties another “tool in the toolbox” to meet their nitrogen reduction goals under their WIPs. As a county exhausts its options for connecting failing septic systems to public sewer or upgrading them to BAT systems, it may make sense for the county to encourage the proper operation and maintenance of septic systems.
FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed HB 1765 with MACo-supported amendments that: (1) authorized a local jurisdiction with a septic stewardship plan to receive nitrogen reduction credit for the pumping out of a septic system; (2) clarified that it is a local jurisdiction’s governing body that must adopt the septic stewardship plan, after consultation with the jurisdiction’s local health department; (3) ensuring that the appropriate local officials have access to the Department of the Environment’s BAT septic database for credit calculation purposes; and (4) several other technical and clarifying changes.
Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding – Construction Standards, Adaptation, and Mitigation: As introduced, HB 1350 / SB 1006 would : (1) add new requirements to the Coast Smart siting and design criteria; (2) subject local structure and highway facility projects to the Coast Smart criteria if the State funds at least 30% of the project; (3) require local jurisdictions subject to nuisance flooding to draft a plan to address the flooding and submit the plan to the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) for approval once every 5 years; (4) require MDP to establish a saltwater intrusion adaptation plan; (5) require the Board of Public Works to establish criteria for when state funds may be used for sea level rise and coastal flooding mitigation; and (6) require real estate vendors to provide notice to potential purchasers of certain property vulnerable to sea level rise.
MACo Position: MACo opposed the bill, arguing that: (1) the application of the Coast Smart siting and design should be required to apply to local projects where the majority of funding is provided by local governments; and (2) preparing and submitting a nuisance flooding plan to MDP for formal approval increases county costs and risks MDP imposing costly, unnecessary, or ill-fitting mandates on a county.
FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed HB 1350 and SB 1006 with MACo-supported amendments that: (1) limited the application of Coast Smart design and siting criteria to local structure projects where at least 50% of the project costs are funded with State funds and the project costs at least $500,000; and (2) required affected counties to develop a nuisance flooding plan but removed the MDP approval component. The amendments also added the State Treasurer or the Treasurer’s designee to the Coast Smart Council, included the Maryalnd Emergency Management Agency in State mitigation efforts, and deleted the real estate vendor notice provision.
Mosquito Spraying – Notice to Municipalities: HB 400 would require the State, a county, or a bi-county agency to provide at least 24 hours of notice to a municipality before spraying for mosquitoes within the boundaries of the municipality. The state, county, or bi-county agency must provide the municipality the location of spraying and the planned date and time of the spraying.
MACo Position: MACo supported the bill with amendments to waive the 24-hour notice when the spraying is needed to control an outbreak of a virus, contagion, or similar public health threat. In that case, notice should be provided as soon as practicable.
FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed HB 400 with the MACo amendments.
Recycling – Mattresses and Box Springs: HB 850 would require a county to include a strategy for managing the disposal of mattresses and box springs in their recycling plan by October 1, 2019. The strategy must include: (1) eliminating the disposal of mattresses and box springs from landfills and incinerators; (2) preventing the dumping of mattresses and box springs; (3) recycling mattresses and box springs; and (4) promoting related business and social programs that create jobs for unemployed, homeless, disabled, or formerly incarcerated individuals and disadvantaged youths. The Maryland Department of the Environment would provide technical support but no financial support.
MACo Position: MACo opposed the bill, noting that: (1) the bill would impose a costly new mandate on county governments that could be very difficult for certain counties to achieve; and (2) the mandate imposed by the bill is counter to the General Assembly’s recycling approach that has been in place for more than a decade. MACo cited many alternative recycling solutions the General Assembly has passed or considered since 2005 for other problem waste stream items that did not involve an unfunded mandate on county governments.
FINAL STATUS: The House Environment and Transportation Committee gave HB 850 an unfavorable report.