Maryland Court Rejects Exelon’s Conowingo Dam Lawsuit

Baltimore Sun article (2018-10-11) reported that a Baltimore Circuit Court judge has rejected Exelon’s lawsuit against the state of Maryland over proposed requirements for the Conowingo Dam. As previously reported on Conduit Street, Exelon has appealed the State’s water quality certification requirements, which is needed as part of the dam’s federal relicensing process, both administratively and judicially. The article stated that Judge Pamela White ruled that Exelon must first exhaust its administrative remedies before appealing to Maryland’s courts. The ruling does not affect Exelon’s administrative appeal or its federal court lawsuit.

From the article:

[Maryland Governor Larry] Hogan said “historic progress” at improving the Chesapeake Bay’s health could be put at risk “if we do not pursue a comprehensive regional approach to reducing pollution in the Susquehanna River.”

Maryland environment Secretary Ben Grumbles called the ruling “great news for clean water and a step forward in the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay.”

Exelon officials said they plan to continue to contest the state permit, known as a water quality certification, because it “sets a precedent of assigning sole responsibility for pollution to the Conowingo Dam.”

Useful Links

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of the Conowingo Dam

MACo Symposium Shines a Light on Solar Siting Issues

County elected officials, planners, and other technical staff from across the state attended a MACo-sponsored symposium on the benefits and challenges posed by community and utility scale solar facilities. The symposium addressed the role of solar in Maryland, the approval process for large solar facilities, different stakeholder perspectives on solar, county planning and zoning issues, and county revenue and taxation issues.

Maryland Public Service Commissioner Michael Richard discussed how the solar siting process worked. Richard noted that while the Public Service Commission (PSC) can preempt local authority in siting solar facilities, it was a power that should be used very judiciously and carefully. Richard also stressed that the PSC gives serious consideration to local government recommendations and concerns on solar sites. Solar United Neighbors Lauren Barchi provided the industry perspective on the approval process and discussed how different kinds of solar projects are categorized.

From L to R: Amy Moredock, Katheleen Freeman, and Derick Berlage

Kent County Planning, Housing, and Zoning Director Amy Moredock; Caroline County Planning and Codes Director Katheleen Freeman, and Prince George’s County Countywide Planning Division Chief Derick Berlage described how each of their respective counties developed zoning rules for large solar facilities. Key concerns raised by the panel included (1) protecting prime agricultural lands, historical sites and viewsheds; (2) managing Forest Conservation Act requirements; (3) and how to handle sensitive environmental lands, such as within critical areas.

Carroll County Management and Budget Director Ted Zaleski and MD-DC-DE-VA Solar Energy Industries Association Executive Director David Murray discussed how counties can earn revenue from solar sites. Zaleski focused on property tax assessments, personal property tax assessments, Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) programs, and permitting fees.

From L to R: David Murray, Colby Ferguson, David Smedick, Nicholas Redding, Lynn Heller

A separate panel provided different stakeholder perspectives on solar projects. The panel included Murray, Maryland Farm Bureau Government Relations Director Colby Ferguson, Sierra Club Maryland Chapter Campaign and Policy Director David Smedick, Preservation Maryland Executive Director Nicholas Redding, and Climate Access Fund Founder/CEO Lynn Heller.

The symposium also provided information on several successful solar projects in Frederick and Prince George’s Counties and included a facilitated audience discussion at the end of the day.

The Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club and Solar United Neighbors co-sponsored the symposium.

Useful Links

Sierra Club Maryland Chapter Website

Solar United Neighbors Website

 

Nature Conservancy Hosting Listening Sessions on Solar & Wind Siting

The Nature Conservancy is hosting three listening sessions across Maryland to discuss how to better site solar and wind facilities in the state while still protecting other land uses. County officials are invited to participate. There is no cost to attend but you must register in advance.

From the registration page:

The Nature Conservancy is hosting three listening sessions to gather input from a wide variety of stakeholders about renewable energy deployment across Maryland. These facilitated discussions will focus on how we can accelerate renewable energy development in places that balance impacts on natural resources and other vital land uses. From the input received, we will develop a report that evaluates the feasibility of future development and identifies hurdles for deployment.

Each listening session will address the same questions (more detail on the topics will be provided upon registration) so please attend whichever session is most convenient. Snacks and refreshments will be provided.

The three sessions include:

Frederick, MD
October 17, 2018
12:30-3:30 PM
Olde Mother Brewing
526 N Market St, Frederick, MD 21701

Annapolis, MD
October 22, 2018
12:30-3:30 PM
Governor Calvert House
58 State Circle Annapolis, MD

Salisbury, MD
October 26, 2018
12:30-3:30 PM
Evolution Craft Brewing Co. & Public House
201 E Vine St, Salisbury, MD

Useful Links

Registration Page

Nature Conservancy Website

Sustainable Growth Commission Discusses A Better Maryland, Transportation, and Parks Plans

The Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission heard on updates on the new State Development Plan, A Better Maryland; the 2040 Maryland Transportation Plan; and the Maryland Land Preservation and Recreation Plan at its September 24, 2018, meeting in Leonardtown.

A Better Maryland

Maryland Secretary of Planning Robert McCord, Special Secretary of Smart Growth Wendi Peters and other Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) representatives provided an update on the new State Development Plan, A Better Maryland. The plan, which is expected to be finalized in 2019, is currently being developed by MDP after several rounds of statewide listening tours.

The plan will broadly focus on environment and economic development issues – the two top areas of concerns raised by listening tour participants. The plan will be developed around four issue groupings: (1) environmental issues; (2) economic development issues; (3) community development issues; and (4) collaboration/coordination issues. MDP has currently identified 14 issues that will fall under these four issue groupings.

Environmental Issues

  • Sustaining the environment into the future
  • Preserving land
  • Adapting and becoming resilient to climate change

Economic Development Issues

  • Tackling the economic development needs of the next century
  • Improving economic growth and development in existing communities
  • Meeting renewable energy goals
  • Addressing Maryland’s transportation, infrastructure, and technology challenges and opportunities

Community Development Issues

  • Creating workforce/affordable housing
  • Building capacity in communities
  • Protecting historic and cultural resources
  • Creating quality places

Collaboration//Coordination Issues

  • Coordinating State agencies in planning process
  • Respecting regional distinctions
  • Improving the delivery of programs and services to local jurisdictions

The plan will provide further details on addressing each of these issues as a full draft of the plan is developed.

2040 Maryland Transportation Plan

Charles Glass from the Maryland Department of Transportation provided an update on the state’s draft 2040 transportation plan, which will chart Maryland’s long-range transportation funding and project programming. The plan is updated every 5 years. The 2040 plan contains seven overall goals:

  1. Provide better transportation choices and connections
  2. Ensure a safe, secure, and resilient transportation system
  3. Maintain a high standard and modernize Maryland’s multimodal transportation system
  4. Improve the quality and efficiency of the transportation system to enhance the customer experience
  5. Promote fiscal responsibility
  6. Facilitate economic opportunity and reduce congestion in Maryland through strategic system expansion
  7. Ensure environmental protection and sensitivity

Each goal includes a set of objectives and strategies for achieving those objectives. The 2040 plan will include significant components to begin addressing: (1) electric vehicles; (2) autonomous and connected vehicles; (3) climate impacts; and (4) the shared mobility economy.

Public comments on the draft 2040 plan are due by November 14.

Maryland Land Preservation and Recreation Plan

Sandi Olek from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources provided a short update on the state’s recreation plan. The recreation plan, which includes information and plans created by local governments, is needed to access federal funding for parks and land preservation. The theme of the pending plan will be connectivity, including ensuring equitable access to green space.

Leonardtown Update

Leonardtown Mayor Dan Burris and Town Administrator Lachelle McKay provided an overview of the town’s revitalization and growth plans. Both noted their positive working relationship with St. Mary’s County Board of County Commissioners. Commissioners James Guy, Tom Jarboe, and Michael Hewitt also attended the meeting.

MACo representatives on the Commission include Garrett County Planning and Land Management Director Deborah Carpenter and MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp. The Commission’s next meeting is scheduled for November 26, 2018, in Gaithersburg.

Useful Links

Sustainable Growth Commission Webpage

Let the Sunshine In – Register Now for MACo Solar Symposium

MACo, in partnership with the Sierra Club of Maryland and Solar United Neighbors, is offering a free one-day symposium to county officials (elected and non-elected) on the benefits and challenges of siting community and utility-scale solar generation facilities within your county.

The symposium, titled Let the Sunshine In: Solar Siting in Maryland, will provide an overview of solar’s role in Maryland, including existing laws; offer perspectives from different stakeholders, such as agriculture, community/health, and the environmental community; discuss local zoning and taxation best practices; and showcase several solar “success stories.” The symposium will be concluded with an open facilitated discussion where attendees can raise solar-related issues and questions important to their local jurisdiction.

 

Let the Sunshine In: Solar Siting in Maryland

  • Date: Thursday, October 11, 2018
  • Time: 10:00 am – 3:45 pm (morning coffee and lunch provided)
  • Location: North Laurel Community Center, 9411 Whiskey Bottom Road, Laurel, MD 20723
  • Eligible Attendees: County elected and non-elected officials
  • Cost: Free but registration is required by October 3

Session Objectives

  • Provide key information on factors affecting solar energy development in Maryland relevant to the needs and policy decisions of county officials
  • Present examples of Best Practices in solar development
  • Offer opportunity for dialogue among county officials and experts engaged in specific technical and policy areas relevant to solar development

Space is limited and registrations are accepted on a first come, first serve basis. A full agenda will be released shortly. For further questions about the symposium, please contact Les Knapp at lknapp@mdcounites.org or 410.269.0043.

Useful Links

Register for Let the Sunshine In: Solar Siting in Maryland 

Sierra Club of Maryland Website

Solar United Neighbors Website

 

 

 

 

Rural Revitalization Guide Highlights Resources for Struggling Communities

Preservation Maryland news release (2018-09-04) announced the publication of a new guide for rural community revitalization.  The guide was developed and published in partnership with the Rural Maryland Council. From the news release:

Revitalizing communities is complex and challenging work. For rural communities, the work often comes with even greater obstacles and hurdles to overcome. The creation of this rural resource guide is Preservation Maryland’s latest effort to support this critical work in smart growth and rural revitalization.

Comprehensive Guide to Rural Revitalization

The 50+ page report entitled, Revitalizing Rural Maryland: A Resource Guide for Rural Communities, is divided by the different resources available to rural communities, including:

  • Grants and Loans
  • Tax Credits
  • Technical Assistance
  • County Specific Resources
  • Case Studies

 

RMC logo

 

 

Useful Links

Revitalizing Rural Maryland Report

Preservation Maryland Website

Rural Maryland Council Website

Cecil County Sees Minor Flooding After Conowingo Opens Floodgates

An Aegis article (2018-09-13) reported that Cecil County experienced some minor flooding along its Susquehanna River shore after 14 of the dam’s 50 floodgates were opened at the Conowingo Dam to alleviate rising waters behind the dam. The Port Deposit area saw most of the flooding effects. The current water release is not associated with Hurricane Florence but both the dam’s owner, Exelon Generation, and state officials are monitoring the storm’s track carefully. At this point, Exelon does not believe Florence will have an effect on the dam or its reservoir. From the article:

“We’re in contact with all of our local communities and emergency responders,” Deena O’Brien, a spokesperson for the dam’s parent company, Exelon Generation, said Wednesday afternoon. …

Weather conditions that are “most impactful to” Conowingo Dam, which spans the Susquehanna between Cecil and Harford counties, happen in central Pennsylvania, O’Brien said.

“The hurricane is not expected to have any impact in central Pennsylvania, thank goodness, so we’re not expecting a significant event with the hurricane,” she said.

The article also discussed actions that Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and state officials are taking in response to Florence’s potential threat and Exelon’s efforts to remove debris that comes down the Susquehanna. Debris that is not captured by Exelon is released into the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries where it can create public safety and environmental hazards. The article noted that an unusually heavy debris release in July after record rainfall prompted both state and local government concern.

The article provided a hotline number that people can call to get information on floodgate openings: 1.877.457.2525. The hotline report is updated every eight hours.

St. Mary’s Extends Public Comment Period for Oyster Aquaculture Moratorium

Bay Journal article (2018-09-12) reported that the St. Mary’s Board of County Commissioners have extended a public comment period for a proposed ordinance that would create an 18-month moratorium on using commercial docks for oyster aquaculture leases. The new comment period runs until December 4. The article noted that the decision came after an August 28 public hearing in which more people spoke against the proposed moratorium than in support.

Supporters of the moratorium cited concerns that oyster aquaculture can pose navigational hazards, disrupt water recreational and hunting activities, and decrease property values. Opponents argued that the State considers such concerns prior to issuing an oyster aquaculture lease and that aquaculture can generate jobs and improve water quality. The article noted that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has issued 97 oyster leases and considering 44 more applications for in St. Mary’s County. From the article:

Mike Hewitt, another St. Mary’s County commissioner, said he believed that the county had gotten the state’s attention with its proposed moratorium. He expressed sympathy for waterfront property owners, who he said were being unfairly accused of opposing leases because they don’t want to see aquaculture activity from their shore. …

Hewitt and Randy Guy, the president of the county commissioners, both called for the formation of a local focus group to hash out their issues. If any local agreement can be reached, they said, perhaps it could form the basis of changes in state law or policy to give waterfront property owners and local officials more notice and more say in how and where oyster farming occurs.

In response, DNR has convened an informal workgroup that includes local officials to address the concerns raised and also speed up the licensing process.

1000 Friends of Maryland Merges With Preservation Maryland

Land use and Smart Growth advocacy group 1000 Friends of Maryland recently merged into historic preservation group Preservation Maryland. Former 1000 Friends Executive Director Kimberly Golden Brandt will now oversee a new campaign for the combined organizations called Smart Growth Maryland. From the Preservation Maryland webpage on Smart Growth Maryland:

Smart Growth Maryland is a campaign of Preservation Maryland which advocates for a more environmentally and economically sustainable future that creates opportunities for all Marylanders through better development patterns. …

Smart Growth Maryland focuses its work in three critical areas: advocacy, education and technical assistance.

The staff of Smart Growth Maryland advocate at the local, state and federal level for programs and policies which incentivize smarter growth patterns and protect critical natural, cultural and historic resources. In addition, Smart Growth Maryland also presents at workshops, trainings, seminars and conferences throughout the state to provide access to the latest trends in smart growth. Smart Growth Maryland’s professional staff also works throughout the state to assist counties, municipalities and developers that are contemplating smart growth projects. Staff provides a wide range of expert technical assistance with projects aimed at revitalization, land-use planning and resource conservation.

The webpage notes that Smart Growth Maryland is a program fully within Preservation Maryland and will be annually reported on Preservation Maryland’s IRS 990 form. Tax-deductible contributions made to Preservation Maryland can be specifically restricted to the Smart Growth Maryland campaign.

Useful Links

Preservation Maryland Website

DNR Recommends Somerset’s Manokin River as Final Tributary For Large-Scale Oyster Restoration

A Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) press release (2018-09-05)  announced that DNR will recommend the Manokin River in Somerset County become the last tributary to be targeted for large-scale oyster restoration under the requirements of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement.

Under the Bay Agreement, Maryland must identify five of its Bay tributaries for major oyster restoration efforts, in conjunction with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, United States Army Corps of Engineers, and other partners. The recommendation replaces a prior DNR recommendation of having Breton Bay in St. Mary’s County serve as the fifth location. The Breton Bay recommendation was rescinded after a survey of the tributary found that it was unsuitable for restoration efforts. From the press release:

Working with the Interagency Oyster Restoration Workgroup, Oyster Advisory Commission, county oyster committees and other partners, the department will restore the tributary using state funds. The restoration work would occur in deep water to avoid any public safety and navigation hazard to anglers, boaters and commercial watermen. The department will engage local watermen in field work, plantings and surveying.

If selected, the Manokin will join Harris Creek, Little Choptank,  Tred Avon and Upper St. Mary’s as the state’s large-scale oyster restoration tributaries. The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement set a goal of restoring oyster reefs and populations in 10 Chesapeake Bay rivers – five in Maryland and five in Virginia – by 2025.

The press release also discussed DNR’s ongoing work with oyster sanctuaries in Anne Arundel County.

Useful Links

DNR Website

Oyster Advisory Commission Webpage