EPA Relaxing Enforcement of Environmental Regulations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that it will temporarily rollback enforcement of environmental regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic. For weeks several industries including oil and gas have asked the federal government to relax regulations. The industries argue that they are experiencing worker shortages, and that compliance with what they deem non-essential regulations is inhibiting their ability to distribute fuel. They specifically ask for leniency toward testing and reporting requirements. In response the EPA…

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Chesapeake Bay Program Releases Latest Bay Barometer

The Chesapeake Bay Program has released its 2018-2019 Bay Barometer that provides an overview of the Chesapeake Bay's health and the status of restoration efforts. The Bay Barometer includes updates on crab and oyster populations, underwater grasses, invasive species, and pollution reduction strategies. From a statement on the publication: The data in Bay Barometer reflect the Chesapeake Bay’s health over the course of many years and, in some cases, decades. The publication offers a snapshot…

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2020 End of Session Wrap-Up: Environment

This post summarizes the status of various environmental bills that MACo took a position on during the 2020 Regular Session. MACo seeks practical solutions to environmental issues that do not impose unreasonable mandates or costs on county governments. This year, for the first time in since the Civil War, the General Assembly closed session early on March 18, due to precautionary social distancing measures taken to curb the spread of COVID-19. Consequently, many bills did…

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Maryland Issued “Mediocre” Rating for Infrastructure

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has given Maryland an overall 2020 infrastructure grade of C. The group gives Maryland high marks in areas like bridge resiliency and airport capacity but highlights issues with transit, citing an eight-year decline in ridership. ASCE issues grades in various infrastructure categories based on the following criteria: capacity, condition, operation and maintenance, funding, future need, public safety, resilience, and innovation. Consistent throughout the report are references to a…

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Local Agencies: Be Careful What You Flush

As citizens are making heightened efforts to promote clean environments for living and work, many are increasing the types of products they flush away. Local public works departments are asking residents to refrain from flushing products other than toilet paper as many products, including those labeled "flushable" can cause expensive system blockages. Due to the outbreak of novel coronavirus many residents may be tempted to dispose of disinfecting wipes by flushing them away. Additionally, toilet…

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Bill Allowing Expanded Use of Bay Restoration Fund Passes Legislature

HB 1035 Bay Restoration Fund – Use of Funds – Municipal Wastewater Facilities has passed third reader in the Maryland Senate 45-0. This bill would not change the amount of funds placed in the Bay Restoration Fund, but would expand the authorized uses of funds to include costs associated with the connection of a property using an on-site sewage disposal system to an existing municipal wastewater facility that has signed a funding agreement with the…

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Counties Support Stable Funding for Local Environmental Health Boards

MACo Policy Associate Alex Butler testified before the House Appropriations Committee to support HB 1484 (CF SB 673) - State Board of Environmental Health Specialists - Fees - General Fund. MACo also submitted testimony in February to support the cross-filed Senate Bill 673. This bill would help ensure stable and predictable funding for the State Board of Environmental Health Specialists, which is responsible for licensing Maryland's Local Environmental Health Directors. From the MACo Testimony: The…

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Water Quality Certification Bill Withdrawn

HB 1128 Environment – Water Quality Certifications – Requests (Water Quality Certification Improvement Act) has been withdrawn by the sponsor. The bill would have required more individual water quality permits and would have led to both significant costs, and project delays for local governments. Current structure allows for certificate approval typically within three weeks, and a change in the permit structure was estimated to cause up to six month delays for some local projects. MACo…

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Water Quality Accountability Act Bill Given Unfavorable Report

HB 1416/ SB 820 was given an "unfavorable" report by the House Environment and Transportation Committee on Wednesday. The bill would have required very specific inspection processes and plan development that would burden local jurisdictions and not lead to better water quality outcomes. MACo, along with The Maryland Municipal League, Food & Water Action, The Maryland Association of Municipal Wastewater Agencies, and many other organizations opposed the bill over concerns that it would apply unnecessary…

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Bay Restoration Fund Use Bill Passes Both Chambers

HB 78/SB 172- Bay Restoration Fund - Authorized Uses have passed third reader in both the House and Senate. The bills now head to their opposing chambers before being sent to the Governor for final approval. HB 78/SB 172 expands authorized uses of the Bay Restoration Fund to include climate resiliency and flood control. The bill requires these uses to be a criteria by which the Maryland Department of the Environment uses to determine the…

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