US House Passes Bill Restricting EPA From Enforcing Bay TMDL

Baltimore Sun article (2018-07-19) reported that the United States House of Representatives has passed a bill that would limit the ability of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from assessing penalties against those states that fail to meet their water pollution reduction goals under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). The bill would still have to pass the Senate, which has already rejected a previous measure sent over by the House.

While considering a bill on budget appropriations for the EPA and Department of the Interior, Republican Representative Bob Goodlatte (Virginia) again proposed the prohibition as an amendment. According to the article, the amendment passed 213-202 with Maryland’s congressional delegation voting 7-0 against the amendment (Representative Steny Hoyer did not vote).

From the article:

Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker called the amendment “shortsighted” and said it threatens progress at improving the bay’s health. …

The Senate did not approve a similar amendment the House adopted last year. Gov. Larry Hogan joined environmentalists in urging the upper chamber to reject the proposal in February, as it faced a deadline to fund the federal government.

Useful Links

Prior Conduit Street Coverage on Goodlatte EPA Restrictions

 

Administrative & Legal Appeals Surround Maryland’s Conowingo Dam Decision

Bay Journal article (2018-07-09) provided an update on the ongoing controversy over how to address the water pollution flowing through the Conowingo Dam. For decades the dam’s reservoir has trapped nutrient and sediment pollution coming down the Susquehanna River and keeping the pollution from entering the main stem of the Chesapeake Bay. However, recent studies have shown that the “trapping” capacity of the  reservoir has been reached earlier than anticipated, requiring an additional 6 million pounds of nitrogen and 260,000 pounds of phosphorus to be annually offset to meet the 2025 water pollution reduction goals set by the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).

Exelon, the owner of the dam, is currently seeking a 50-year renewal of its federal license to operate the dam. As part of federal relicensing requirements, Exelon must receive a Water Quality Certification from Maryland. In April of 2018, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) stated that it would grant the certification providing Exelon paid up to $172 million per year to address the water pollution issues surrounding the dam. Exelon has challenged the MDE decision both administratively and in state and federal courts, arguing that the while it is willing to provide some support in addressing the dam’s issues, $172 million per year figure is far more than the actual worth of the dam. Waterkeepers Chesapeake and the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association have also filed an administrative appeal, arguing that the MDE decision does not go far enough in holding Exelon accountable. The Bay Program, which administers the TMDL, has indicated the Conowingo Dam will receive its own Watershed Implementation Plan to address the issue, but has not decided who will be responsible for the additional reductions. 

The article provides a variety of perspectives from different stakeholders:

“The dam itself does not produce any pollution,” Exelon said in a statement issued May 25. “Rather, the science clearly shows that the pollutants that travel down the Susquehanna River, from New York and Pennsylvania, are the source of the nutrients and sediments that flow into the Bay.” …

In response, the MDE said it would “vigorously defend our comprehensive Conowingo plan to restore the river and the Bay. The Hogan administration is committed to using science, law and partnerships for environmental progress throughout the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed and the Conowingo plan is at the heart of our multi-state strategy to deliver the results Marylanders expect and deserve.” …

“The entire time Exelon has operated this, to their financial gain, it was known that this was going to happen someday and there were no preventative actions taken by Exelon,” said Alison Prost, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s acting vice president for environmental protection.

MACo’s longstanding position on the Conowingo Dam is that the excess nutrient and sediment pollution originating from the dam’s reservoir must be addressed. That burden should not fall on Maryland’s counties, which did not generate the pollution coming through the dam. Exelon, as the dam’s owner and beneficiary of the profits generated by the dam, should play a role in addressing the dam’s water pollution situation. Bay watershed states that generate the pollution flowing down the Susquehanna and into dam’s reservoir should also work to reduce their nutrient and sediment runoff.

Useful Links

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of the Conowingo Dam

Get the latest on the Conowingo Dam and the Bay TMDL during the 2018 MACo Summer Conference panel “Charting the Next Course for the Bay TMDL.” The panel will be held on August 16.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

The Wealth in our Water at #MACoCon

Maryland’s cup runneth over with water-related riches. At the MACo Summer Conference general session, “The Wealth in our Water,” learn about how Maryland’s waterfront keeps our economy flowing – from tiny oysters to supersized ships. port ship

  • General Session Title: The Wealth in Our Water
  • Description: Water has historically played – and continues to play – an enormous role in driving Maryland’s economy. In some ways, this is obvious…just a look outside the Ocean City Convention Center demonstrates the significant tourism draw of Maryland’s beaches and other waterview destinations. During this general session, experts will illustrate just how much we rely on water to cultivate economic opportunity – from our delicious aquaculture and gorgeous tourism offerings to the regional economic engine that is the Port of Baltimore. Find out how counties can tap into these resources in an “all ships rise” approach to Maryland’s water-driven economy.
  • Speakers:
    • Dominic Scurti, Manager, Market Planning, Maryland Port Administration
    • Andrea Vernot, President & Managing Partner, Choptank Communications
    • Ward Slacum, Director of Program Operations, Oyster Recovery Partnership
  • Moderator: The Honorable Stephen Hershey, Maryland State Senate
  • Date/Time: Thursday, August 16, 2018; 12:45 pm – 1:45 pm*

The 2018 MACo Summer Conference will be held August 15-18 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. This year’s theme is “Water, Water Everywhere.”

*new date and time from previously advertised.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Get the Latest on the Bay TMDL at #MACoCon

Get updated on the future of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and what it means for county governments at the 2018 MACo Summer Conference.

Charting the Next Course for the Bay TMDL

Description

The journey of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) is entering its third and final phase for reaching water pollution reduction goals for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment by 2025. With a new Bay Model and new Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) come revised state loads and incorporation of issues, such as accounting for growth, climate change, and the Conowingo Dam. Panelists will discuss the current and future path of the Bay TMDL and how it will affect both Maryland and its counties.

Speakers

  • D. Lee Currey, Water and Science Administration Director, Maryland Department of the Environment
  • Charles MacLeod, Attorney, MacLeod Law Group, LLC and Representative, Clean Chesapeake Coalition
  • Kimberly Grove, Office of Compliance and Laboratories Chief, Baltimore City

Date & Time: Thursday, August 16, 2018; 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

China Trade War: What It Means for MD Counties

At midnight on Friday morning, the U.S. commenced a trade war with China: the U.S. levied 25 percent tariff on $34 billion worth of Chinese imports. China immediately released a statement that the U.S. “violated [World Trade Organization] rules and launched the largest trade war in economic history to date,” and retaliated with equivalent tariffs on $34 billion worth of imported U.S. goods. President Trump has promised “to implement tariffs on an additional $16 billion worth of imported Chinese goods within the month,” according to NPR.

What does this mean for county priorities?

The Trade War and the War on Opioids

It could significantly affect the war on opioids, and particularly fentanyl, according to Kaiser Health News (via Governing). U.S. experts generally consider China responsible for as much as 90 percent of the world’s supply of the dangerous drug, which is up to 50 times more potent than heroin and largely responsible for fatal opioid overdoses nationwide. From the article:

Though Chinese officials deny that most of the fentanyl or other opioid substances originate in their country, they have in the past cooperated with U.S. efforts to control the flow of fentanyl onto American soil.

If the tariffs become permanent, though, “it’s most likely going to have a negative effect on other areas” beyond trade, said Jeffrey Higgins, a former Drug Enforcement Administration supervisory special agent. “China could say ‘We are no longer going to cooperate with the United States on controlling these synthetic opioids,’” he continued.

County Landfills Feel The Strain

China’s new restrictions on waste imports are already taking a toll on county landfills and recycling programs. China has instituted a new “foreign waste” policy that essentially bans dozens of materials that can contain dirty or hazardous wastes. The ban includes contamination by food remnants. The ban is expected to affect state and local recycling programs throughout the United States, as China has been the largest importer of recyclable materials.

Solar Struggle

China’s previous announcement of reduced plans for new solar installations could also significantly affect counties’ programs to stimulate increased solar energy generation.

Hope You Like Edamame 

Finally, Maryland’s many farmers will likely also take a hit from the China trade war. Soybeans are an obvious example. Approximately 500,000 acres in Maryland are used to grow soybeans. In 2017, the U.S. exported more soybeans than any other agricultural product – and China bought nearly 60 percent of the American edamame. Guess what China will likely source from Brazil now? Soybeans.

Read more:

Governing: What a U.S.-China Trade War Could Mean for the Opioid Epidemic

NBC News: In Trump’s trade war, China takes aim at vulnerable counties

Bloomberg: Why Soybeans Are at the Heart of the U.S.-China Trade War

Maryland Agricultural Statistics

Duluth News Tribune: Cities scramble to rewrite rules on recycling after China restricts ‘foreign garbage’

Could Global Factors Slow The Local Solar Boom?

Maryland has seen a rapid growth in both utility-scale and smaller-level solar generation capacity – witnessed by the land use pressures facing many parts of the state (and legislation in recent years to address those continuing pressures). See prior Conduit Street coverage of solar issues for a flavor of this ongoing challenge to local, especially agricultural, land use.

A report on the Bloomberg news site indicates that China’s recent announcement of reduced plans for new solar installations could trigger a contraction in this market, where growth has been strong in recent years:

The global solar market could do something this year that it’s never done before: shrink.

Solar installations in 2018 may total 95 gigawatts, down 3 percent from a year earlier, based on the most conservative of three scenarios modeled by Bloomberg NEF in a report Monday. For comparison’s sake, the typical nuclear reactor has about a gigawatt of capacity.

The forecast, even with its potential call for some retraction, still suggests an overall upward trend, possibly fueled by a decline in price for equipment and materials for installations, also resulting from reduced Chinese demand.

Bay “Dead Zone” Predicted to be Larger Than Normal Due to Heavy Spring Rains

Star Democrat article (2018-06-20) reported that University of Maryland and University of Michigan scientists are predicting a larger-than-average hypoxic (low oxygen) and anoxic (no oxygen) dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay this year. The article noted that the main cause is the heavier than normal spring rainfall. The primary cause of these dead zones is excess nutrient pollution, such as from wastewater, stormwater runoff, or agricultural runoff, that causes algae blooms which then die and leech oxygen from the water as they decompose. Various climate factors, such as rainfall, can also influence the intensity and size of these dead zones.

Despite the larger than normal prediction for this year, Bay restoration efforts are having a positive long-term effect on the dead zones. From the article:

“Despite the forecast, bottom dissolved oxygen concentrations in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay mainstem have continued to increase since 2014, and last year we recorded the second-smallest hypoxic volume ever,” said Bruce Michael, director of the Resource Assessment Service at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. “The bay is rebounding and responding, as seen by record submerged aquatic vegetation totals. Our strategic investments and sacrifices aimed at reducing nutrients and sediment are working, but more can still be done throughout the watershed.”

A Chesapeake Biological Laboratory news release (2018-06-18) provides further information:

This year, the anoxic portion of the hypoxic zone is predicted to be 0.43 cubic miles (1.78 cubic kilometers) in early summer and 0.41 cubic miles (1.7 cubic kilometers) in late summer.

“The Chesapeake Bay’s response to reductions in nutrient pollution may be gradual, involve lags, and be interrupted by the weather,” said report co-author Jeremy Testa of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Chesapeake Biological Laboratory. “The forecast illustrates these challenges well.”

Measurements of the Chesapeake Bay’s dead zone go back to 1950, and the 30-year mean maximum dead zone volume is 1.74 cubic miles.

To learn more about the overall health of the Bay and the current and future direction of restoration efforts, attend the “Clear Water: The State of the Bay” general session at the upcoming 2018 MACo Summer Conference in Ocean City, Maryland. The Conference runs from August 15-18.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

MDLCV Releases Vision 2025 Environmental Issue Guide

The Maryland League of Conservation Voters (MDLCV) Education Fund released its Vision 2025: 2018 Issue Guide on June 6, 2018. The guide details issues that will be important to the environmental community during the 2019 Session and beyond. From the guide’s introduction:

Maryland League of Conservation Voters Education Fund is dedicated to building the effectiveness of the environmental community by maximizing participation of conservation-minded individuals in public policy decisions. We are proud to present this guide to help Marylanders understand the issues facing our state over the next four years. …

Whoever is governor will oversee an administration that will determine our role as citizens of a global community, as well as the future of our citizens’ health, safety, and quality of life. The goals we reach in 2025 will be set in motion by the decisions our public servants make in the upcoming legislative session.

The guide provides a broad outline of issues that MDLCV and other participating environmental groups view as priorities in order to meet their Vision 2025 goals. These issues and goals include:

  • Setting the stage for 100% clean energy
    • Making Maryland a leader in clean, renewable energy
    • Ensuring the completion of the first large-scale Off-shore Wind farm on the East Coast
    • Building a clean energy workforce
    • Moving towards a clean transportation system, including improved public transit and electric vehicle infrastructure
  • Fishable, swimmable, drinkable state waters, and a healthier Bay Watershed
    • Improved bay ecosystem, including oyster sanctuaries and marine life
    • Smarter development policies that protect forests and open space
    • Reduced run-off from septics and agriculture
    • Conowingo Dam solution involving a federal and multi-state partnership
    • Accelerated progress in meeting targets to protect the health of the Chesapeake Bay
  • Improved health outcomes in all communities through reduced environmental degradation
    • Improved health in communities of color
    • Cleaner communities with reduced trash
    • Higher quality of life through sustainable development
  • Aggressive enforcement of environmental regulations through professionally led, well-staffed, appropriately funded state agencies.
    • Restored funding to enforcement agencies
    • Improved metrics on enforcement outcomes
    • Reduced recidivism of pollution violators
    • Renewed emphasis on protection of sensitive species, including oysters
  • An educated, energized, engaged electorate, reflecting the diversity of Maryland’s population
    • Public financing of elections
    • Improved voter access
    • Strengthened voter education

The guide also includes critical dates for the 2018 election and voter registration information. It does not include specific political endorsements.

Cecil Helps Residents Control Noxious Weeds

Noxious weeds threaten the productive land of farmers and can cause unsightly and unwanted problems in the lawns and gardens of homeowners. As a result of the region experiencing so much rain this Spring, Palmer Amaranth and other noxious weeds are multiplying at an incredible rate.

As a service to County residents, the Cecil County Department of Public Works (DPW), in cooperation with the Maryland Department of Agriculture, operates the weed control program to assist farmers, developers, right-of-way owners, federal, state, and local agencies and other landowners in controlling noxious weeds and certain other invasive species.

According to a press release:

According to the Agriculture Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland, Thistles, Johnsongrass and Shatter Cane, also known as Wild Cane, have been deemed noxious weeds and are required to be controlled by the county. The state code also defines Rosa Multiflora, or multiflora rose, as a nuisance on land used for agricultural production.

“Noxious and invasive weeds are everyone’s concern. The problem is big and getting bigger,” explained Penhollow. “This year the Thistle is overrunning a lot of areas and I haven’t even made it out of the southern end of the county yet.”

State law requires anyone owning or managing land within the State of Maryland, including public entities, to eradicate or control these noxious weeds on that land. Mowing, cultivating or treating with an approved herbicide are practices that have been approved by the state.

The County weed control program, managed by the Roads Division, provides spot and boom spraying of approved herbicides on a fee-for-service basis.

Landowners who opt to utilize the County’s weed control services are billed an hourly rate for labor plus the cost of the herbicides used. Failure to pay for services rendered can result in a lien being placed against the property by the County Finance Department.

Current rates:

  • Farm Land: $55 per hour
  • Non-Farm Land: $100 per hour
  • CRP/CREP Sites: $125 per hour
  • Aquatic Weeds: $150 per hour
  • Invasive Specie: $100 per hour
  • Helper: $25 per hour
  • Minimum Charge: $100

The Weed Control Coordinator provides inspection and noxious weed control services throughout Cecil County from April through November.

Read the full press release for more information.

Reinvest Maryland 2.0 Unveiled

MDP logo

A Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) press release (2018-06-05) announced the release of Reinvest Maryland 2.0. The report is an update of the original Reinvest Maryland and provides a toolkit for assisting local governments in infill, redevelopment and revitalization projects. The report also includes studies that are applicable in urban, suburban, and rural areas.  From the press release:

The Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission (Commission) and the Department of Planning (Planning) today released Reinvest Maryland 2.0, a report that provides resources for all levels of government to work together, strengthen collaborative efforts to support revitalization and reinvestment, and engage stakeholders in supporting Maryland’s communities to improve the quality of life.

The report examines redevelopment in Maryland and identifies tools, case studies and best practices that support redevelopment and revitalization in existing communities. …

Reinvest Maryland 2.0 addresses all aspects of the redevelopment process, including: Promoting Reinvestment; Regulatory Reform; and Financing Tools and Programs. It also includes a set of Policy Recommendations.

The Commission and its workgroups collaborated closely with Planning, which staffs the commission, as well as other state agencies, to: identify best practices in Maryland communities; identify, review and refine the recommendations; and communicate with local officials and practitioners to identify and share the most effective planning tools and resources.

The extensive research provided insight into the best ways to create vibrant places with a range of housing, employment and transportation options in Maryland, as well as identifying strategies to overcome the challenges that communities face with redevelopment. “We must continue to provide technical assistance and resources that support reinvestment initiatives in Maryland’s great communities,” said Commission Chairman Susan Summers. “Reinvest Maryland 2.0 outlines recommendations to help us grow smarter and improve quality of life.”

Planning will build upon this work with the Reinvest Maryland website, as a onestop source of redevelopment information in Maryland, and solicit additional case studies and information from local communities and practitioners to support the educational efforts of the Commission’s workgroups.

“This has been a great team effort and the new Reinvest Maryland 2.0 website provides an interactive experience for Maryland’s stakeholders,” said Secretary of Planning Robert McCord.

Special Secretary of Smart Growth Wendi Peters noted, “With Governor Hogan’s leadership, we are continuing to assist communities and change Maryland for the better.”

The report includes a series of policy recommendations broken down into several categories. The categories include:

  • Establishing a Vision for Reinvestment
  • Creating and Better Funding Innovative, Effective Reinvestment Programs
  • Identifying and Addressing Regulations and Policies that may Impede Reinvestment
  • Deploying Targeted Financial Tools
  • Promoting Equitable Development
  • Encouraging Excellence in Community Design and Preservation
  • Using Metrics to Gauge Success and Drive Reinvestment
  • Accelerating Transit-Oriented Development

In addition to the basic report and case studies, MDP has created an interactive website that provides further information on case studies, contacts for technical assistance, and a toolbox that allows users to navigate and connect with more than 100 state and federal redevelopment and infill programs.

Useful Links

Reinvest Maryland 2.0 Report

Reinvest Maryland 2.0 Interactive Website