A press release (2019-08-14) from the Office of Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced that Hogan had signed a new executive order creating a Governor’s Task Force on Renewable Energy Development and Siting. The Task Force will study how renewable energy generation projects, such as solar and wind, should be sited in the state and ways to streamline the project approval process. From the press release:
“In my most recent State of the State address, I pledged my strong support for clean and renewable energy solutions that are affordable, reliable, and produce jobs right here in Maryland,” said Governor Hogan. “That is exactly what these announcements will help us to achieve. These innovative initiatives will provide millions of dollars in benefits to Marylanders and lower energy and maintenance costs, all while creating clean energy and green jobs opportunities.”
The Governor’s Task Force on Renewable Energy Development and Siting will include key stakeholders from state agencies along with representatives of Maryland’s agriculture community, local government, as well as the solar and wind energy sectors. The task force seeks to accelerate clean and renewable energy projects while minimizing and mitigating the impact on agriculturally or ecologically important, sensitive, and valuable areas. The task force will submit its initial findings in December 2019, with final recommendations due within a year.
Duties of the Task Force
The executive order requires the Task Force to study and make consensus-based recommendations on the siting of clean and renewable energy projects, including how to accelerate and streamline the siting of projects in desired areas, such as developed lands, brownfields, and parking lots, while minimizing the impact of projects sited in less-desired areas, such as agriculturally, ecologically, or culturally important lands. The recommendations must recognize and respect local government legal authority and private property rights.
The recommendations of the Task Force must also identify specific changes to State law, regulations, policies, and tools that would “incentivize responsible renewable energy development and siting.”
The Task Force is required to also “give careful consideration to…efforts by Maryland counties and municipalities to site renewable energy projects through comprehensive plans, planning, and zoning ordinances, taxation, and other local laws, policies, procedures, or regulations….”
Membership of the Task Force
The 15-member task force consists of the following members:
- the Secretary of Agriculture, or the Secretary’s desigee
- the Secretary of Commerce, or the Secretary’s designee
- the Secretary of the Environment, or the Secretary’s designee
- the Secretary of Natural Resources, or the Secretary’s designee
- the Secretary of Planning, or the Secretary’s designee
- the Secretary of Transportation, or the Secretary’s designee
- the Director of the Maryland Energy Administration, or the Director’s designee
- the Director of the Maryland Environmental Service, or the Director’s designee
- the Chair of the Public Service Commission, or the Chair’s designee
- two agricultural representatives recommended by the Maryland Farm Bureau
- one county representative recommended by MACo
- one municipal representative recommended by the Maryland Municipal League
- one representative of the solar energy industry
- one representative of the wind energy industry
The Governor has appointed former Washington County Commissioners President Greg Snook to chair the Task Force. Snook currently serves on the boards of the Hagerstown Community College, Meritus Medical Center, and Maryland State Roads Commission.
Task Force Outcomes
The Task Force must submit an interim report by December 1, 2019, that describes its initial work and makes preliminary recommendations for legislation in the 2020 Session. The Task Force must submit a final report detailing its recommendations on responsible renewable energy development and siting by August 14, 2020.
MACo’s Participation on the Task Force
MACo has nominated MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp to be the county representative on the Task Force. Additionally, MACo will be forming an advisory committee to help guide MACo’s deliberations and positions regarding the Task Force. All counties will be invited to participate on the advisory committee.
MACo Position on Solar Energy Siting
MACo supports solar energy development with local zoning and siting requirements as part of the project approval process. MACo recognizes that there needs to be a mix of rooftop, community, and utility-scale solar projects to meet Maryland’s renewable energy goals and has established the following prioritization for solar projects:
- rooftop solar;
- development of solar projects on brownfields, grayfields (such as parking lots and warehouse rooftops), industrial areas, and appropriate government-owned lands (such as landfills and wastewater treatment plants); and
- open space zoned for solar by local governments, with appropriate protections for prime farmland, forestlands, critical areas and wetlands, environmentally sensitive areas, and areas of cultural or historical importance.