The segments below provide a brief overview of MACo’s work in the area of environment policy in the 2023 General Assembly.
MACo seeks sensible solutions to environmental issues that provide flexibility and do not place unreasonable burdens on county governments.
In addition to the swearing-in of a new governor, the 445th legislative session kicked off with more relaxed health and safety measures compared to the turbulence of the last few years. This enabled MACo’s policy team to dynamically engage with private-sector stakeholders, legislators, and representatives from all divisions of government. Under these more conventional circumstances, MACo’s advocacy led to a plethora of favorable outcomes for its members.
MACo opposed HB147/SB250. This bill requires each county to prepare resource-intensive and onerous climate crisis plans. HB147/SB250 Environment – Climate Crisis Plan – Requirement failed in the General Assembly.
MACo supported HB 530. This bill makes permanent, and modifies, provisions relating to “qualified conservation” under the Forest Conservation Act (FCA), that were enacted under Chapter 645 of 2021 and otherwise terminate June 30, 2024. The bill also increases the amount of time the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has to accomplish reforestation or afforestation with money deposited in the State Forest Conservation Fund. HB 530 Natural Resources – Forest Mitigation Banks and the Forest Conservation Fund – Alterations failed in the General Assembly.
MACo supported HB289/SB282. This bill establishes the Maryland Forestry Education Fund, a special fund administered by the Maryland Forestry Foundation. In general, the purpose of the fund is to provide small grants and specified training, education, and outreach opportunities for forest landowners, district forestry boards, local governments, and businesses. For fiscal 2025 and 2026, the Governor must include in the annual budget bill an appropriation of $250,000 to the fund. HB289/SB282 Maryland Forestry Education Fund – Establishment passed the General Assembly.
MACo supported HB723/SB526 with amendments. This bill modifies State law relating to forest preservation and retention by modifying the State’s policy to encourage the retention and sustainable management of forest lands; making various changes under the Forest Conservation Act (FCA); and requiring the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to establish a workgroup to evaluate and recommend incentives for private landowners to conserve forest. The bill’s provisions predominantly take effect July 1, 2024, though certain provisions, identified below, take effect July 1, 2023. HB723/SB526 Natural Resources – Forest Preservation and Retention passed the General Assembly.
Inspections and County Government Authority
MACo supported HB 1088. The emergency bill makes various changes related to the authority of a political subdivision to adopt ordinances, rules, and regulations that are at least as stringent as standards set by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) in the areas of ambient air quality control and refuse disposal systems and solid waste regulation. HB1088 Emissions Standards, Ambient Air Quality Standards, and Solid Waste Management – Local Authority failed in the General Assembly.
MACo supported HB90. This bill authorizes the governing body of a county or municipality to regulate (through an ordinance) invasive bamboo, including prohibiting a person from: selling invasive bamboo; planting invasive bamboo; and allowing invasive bamboo to grow on the property of the person without proper upkeep and appropriate containment measures, including barriers or trenches. The bill also authorizes the governing body of a county or municipality to provide for the enforcement of an ordinance adopted under the bill by requiring any damages caused by invasive bamboo to be mitigated and establishing a civil fine. HB90 Local Government – Regulatory Powers – Regulation of Invasive Bamboo passed the General Assembly.
MACo supported HB1209 with amendments. This bill requires the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), by July 1, 2024, to publish a statewide flood risk assessment map projected to the year 2050 that meets specified requirements; educate the public about the information in the map; and establish a model floodplain ordinance that meets specified minimum requirements. HB1209 Climate Ready Floodplain Act of 2023 failed in the General Assembly.
Waste and Recycling
MACo supported HB609/SB768. This bill requires each “waste hauler” that sold, transferred, or otherwise disposed of “waste” to a facility or disposal site located in the county to, by March 1 annually, submit a report to the county on waste disposal activities for the immediately preceding calendar year. HB609/SB768 Environment – Waste Haulers – Reporting Requirement failed in the General Assembly.
MACo supported HB284/SB222. This bill establishes a required framework for producers of packaging materials to create and implement producer responsibility plans for affected products. HB284/SB222 Environment – Statewide Recycling Needs Assessment and Producer Responsibility for Packaging Materials passed the General Assembly.
MACo supported HB161 with amendments. This bill terminates the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority’s (NMWDA) bond authority beginning June 1, 2023. The bill also requires the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) to conduct a specified evaluation, and the Maryland Environmental Service (MES) to conduct a specified review and analysis, of NMWDA. NMWDA must provide information to those entities and cooperate, as specified. By December 1, 2024, DLS and MES must submit reports on their evaluation/review to specified legislative committees and the Maryland General Assembly (MGA), respectively. Among other things, the DLS report must include draft legislation to merge NMWDA into MES. The bill further requires MES to temporarily assume the functions, employees, and contracts of NMWDA during any merger until the entity with which NMWDA merges is prepared and ready to assume those functions, employees, and contracts and an entity that assumes a portion or all of the functions, employees, or contracts to establish a system for maintaining stakeholder engagement. HB 161 Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority Sunset Act passed the General Assembly.
MACo supported HB 91. This bill requires an owner, an operator, or a manager of a hotel, by October 1, 2024, to provide recycling for hotel guests, as specified and recycle all glass, plastic, aluminum, paper, and paper products that are used by hotel staff or guests and are disposed of at the hotel. HB 91 Environment – Recycling – Hotels was withdrawn by the bill sponsor.
MACo supported HB 109. This bill establishes the Task Force on Recycling Policy and Recycling and Waste Systems in Maryland to review the Maryland Recycling Act (MRA) and study the recycling and waste systems in Maryland. HB 109 Task Force on Recycling Policy and Recycling and Waste Systems in Maryland failed in the General Assembly.
MACo supported HB1139. This bill establishes a $2 per ton statewide solid waste disposal surcharge (adjusted for inflation as specified) and a process by which counties may submit a request to establish a local solid waste disposal surcharge program that meets specified requirements. The statewide surcharge does not apply in a county that has established a local program. HB 1139 Solid Waste Disposal and Diversion and On-Farm Composting and Compost Use failed in the General Assembly.
MACo supported SB417/HB602. This bill makes several changes to standards and requirements related to shoreline restoration projects and projects on a person’s property to protect the shoreline against erosion. Among other things, the bill changes the standard by which a person is eligible for a waiver from the requirements to use nonstructural shoreline stabilization methods for shoreline erosion projects. The bill also establishes the Coastal Resilience and Living Shoreline Restoration Account within the existing Tidal Wetlands Compensation Fund to provide grants for the replacement of structural shoreline stabilization measures with nonstructural shoreline stabilization measures, as specified. SB417/HB602 Environment – State Wetlands – Shoreline Restoration failed in the General Assembly.
MACo opposed HB892/SB813. As amended bill arbitrarily diverted at least 40% of funding under the Comprehensive Flood Management Grant Program to certain communities, creating a system of winners and losers. Counties argued that funding should be awarded in a more scientific and measured manner. HB 892/SB813 Environment – Comprehensive Flood Management Grant Program – Funding for Underserved and Overburdened Communities failed in the General Assembly.