This post summarizes the status of various environmental bills that MACo took a position on during the 2021 Regular session.
MACo seeks sensible solutions to environmental issues that provide flexibility and do not place unreasonable burdens on county governments.
This year the Maryland General Assembly conducted a legislative session unlike any other due to the enduring COVID-19 pandemic. The unique circumstances surrounding the 442nd legislative session, including necessary health and safety measures, posed a challenge for lawmakers and advocates alike. Despite the unusual circumstances, MACo’s advocacy still led to more positive outcomes for its members.
For more information on Maryland’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic visit MACo’s COVID-19 resource page.
MACo opposed legislation that sought to create a new and vaguely defined constitutional right and an expansive new class of litigants with broad standing rights to litigate or intervene. In Maryland, environment standing (i.e. the ability to file suit, frequently to hold up decisions or action) is typically limited to an “aggrieved” party – a person with a specific interest of property right that has been harmed in a way different to that of the general public. This standing requirement properly limits legal challenges to those directly affected by a state of local action. Counties argued against the language that would result in a potentially significant increase in costs for additional unnecessary litigation. Additionally, the vague language proposed could undermine and complicate basic services that local government provides to residents, like transportation, water and sewer services, and planning and zoning. Constitutional Amendment – Environmental Rights did not advance in either chamber following its public hearings.
MACo opposed legislation that would enact a complete prohibition on the use of glyphosate by county governments. Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the county and one of the most effective tools to combat invasive species for local governments. The bill would have created an unnecessary financial and operational burden on local government weed control efforts, forcing county agencies to divert already limited taxpayer resources from other public efforts. Agriculture – Use of Glyphosate – Prohibition ultimately was withdrawn by its sponsor following its public hearing.
MACo opposed legislation that would have forced facilities that generate food residuals in certain volumes starting with two tons per week in 2023 to separate residuals from other solid waste and divert them to an organic composting facility within 30 miles. Counties expressed fears that mandating the use of the limited number of state composting facilities could lead to price gouging as food residual generators do not have another cost-effective option for disposal. Solid Waste Management – Organics Recycling and Waste Diversion passed both chambers and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
MACo stood against legislation that would have required the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to establish a statewide container deposit program by September 1, 2022 with a redemption goal of 90 percent, and a minimum deposit of ten cents. Counties argued that the move, one that Maryland has debated various times, would divert valuable commodities from county recycling programs, with no guarantee of fiscal assistance to those counties, and potentially y confuse consumers who have been educated to utilize curbside and single-stream recycling programs. Beverage Container Deposit Program – Establishment and Advisory Commission did not advance in the House following its public hearing.
MACo supported legislation that would establish a task force to review and update the Maryland Recycling Act (MRA), providing an avenue for sensible changes. This bill recognizes the central role that local governments play in achieving the State’s recycling goals, and includes representatives from state and local government as well as the waste industry. Task Force on Recycling Policy and Recycling and Waste Systems passed the House but did not advance in the Senate.
Maryland Department of the Environment
MACo supported legislation that would require the Office of recycling contained within the Maryland Department of the Environment to identify new and existing markets for recycled commodities. Counties, who must reach certain state-mandated recycling goals, have struggled to sell recycled commodities since market demand from Asia has declined. A study by MDE will benefit counties by identifying new and existing local markets to keep recycled material closer to where they were first used, reducing the costs and vehicle emissions associated with transporting commodities. Department of the Environment – Office of Recycling – Recycling Market Development
MACo supported legislation that would return the State Board of Environmental Health Specialists’ financial support to the General Fund, helping ensure stable and predictable funding. The Board licenses local Environmental Health Specialists that provide vital services, including oversight of recreation venues, ensuring food safety preparation standards are upheld, and ensuring safe water supply. State Board of Environmental Health Specialists – Fees – General Fund passed both chambers and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
MACo fought legislation that would have required local jurisdictions to conduct expansive annual mold inspections in all rental dwellings. In all jurisdictions, this would require the addition of significant new resources resulting in costly expenditures for local governments. MACo worked with the bill sponsors and other stakeholders to address county concerns, but the bill, Environment – Mold Inspections – Standards, Reporting, and Penalties, did not advance in the 2021 General Assembly following its public hearings.
MACo supported a bill with amendments that would have created a State Board of On-Site Wastewater Professionals. As introduced the bill would have superseded county licensing procedures for the entire industry of on-site wastewater professionals, and removed a revenue stream for local environmental health departments. MACo was successful in halting the bill for further study during the interim.
For more on environmental legislation tracked by MACo during the 2021 legislative session, click here.