LGAC Calls For Maintaining Federal Bay Funding

The Local Government Advisory Committee (LGAC) added its voice to the chorus of advocates calling for at least maintaining the current level of federal funding ($73 million) for Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts. Under President Donald Trump’s proposed FY 2018 budget, Bay funding is zeroed out.

From a letter (2017-04-04) LGAC sent to the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council:

We are writing to request your support in advocating for maintaining EPA Chesapeake Bay Program funding at the current level of $73 million. …

The elimination of funding for the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program, as proposed in the President’s 2018 Budget Blueprint, will limit our ability to protect healthy waters, put a halt to many local water protection and restoration initiatives, and threaten the scientific integrity of the restoration effort.

Local governments throughout the watershed are investing millions of dollars to protect and restore local waters. Bay Program funding and other federal programs such as the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, along with state funding, are vital to our success.

We know you share our understanding that a healthy Chesapeake Bay is an economic engine for our region and a critical resource for our nation and hope that we can count on your support of our efforts.

LGAC is an advisory body created in 1993 that provides input the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on building relationships with and providing assistance to local governments regarding environmental services and programs, including Bay restoration activities. LGAC’s membership includes local elected and appointed officials, state representatives, environmental interest groups, and labor interests.

Useful Links

LGAC Letter to Chesapeake Bay Executive Council

EPA’s LGAC Webpage

 

Study Finds Freshwater Lakes at Risk From Road Salt

A Sustainable City Network article (2017-04-19) reported that many Midwestern and Northeastern lakes are seeing increases in their salt levels based on the application of road salt to nearby streets and highways. The finding is based on a recently published study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which examined 371 freshwater lakes larger than 4 hectares and with at least 10 years of previous recorded chloride data.

The study found that 44 percent of sampled lakes are undergoing long-term salinization. The study was conducted by the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON) Fellowship Program. From the article:

Lead author Hilary Dugan, a limnologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and former Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies Postdoctoral Fellow, explains, “We compiled long-term data, and compared chloride concentrations in North American lakes and reservoirs to climate and land use patterns, with the goal of revealing whether, how, and why salinization is changing across broad geographic scales. The picture is sobering. For lakes, small amounts of shoreline development translate into big salinization risks.” …

Since the 1940s, the use of road salt to keep winter roads navigable has been escalating. Each year, some 23 million metric tons of sodium chloride-based deicer is applied to North America’s roads to melt away snow and ice. Much of this road salt washes into nearby water bodies, where it is recognized as a major source of chloride pollution to groundwater, streams, rivers, and lakes.

To gauge road salt exposure, the research team assessed road density and land cover within a 100- to 1,500-meter buffer around each of the 371 study lakes. Roadways and impervious surfaces such as parking lots and sidewalks are reliable proxies for road salt application because as developed areas, they are susceptible to high levels of salting and runoff.

Results were clear: roads and other impervious surfaces within 500 meters of a lake’s shoreline were a strong predictor of elevated chloride concentrations. In the North American Lakes Region, 70 percent (94 out of 134) of lakes with more than 1 percent impervious land cover in their 500-meter buffer zone had increasing chloride trends. When results are extrapolated to all lakes in the North American Lakes Region, some 7,770 lakes may be at risk of rising salinity.

The article noted that high chloride levels can negatively affect a lake’s animal and plant ecosystem, resulting in a decline in species richness and abundance and also create low oxygen conditions that kill aquatic life and degrade water quality. In response to the findings, the study’s authors call for better shoreline management and lake monitoring practices:

The study’s authors recommend that best lake management practices recognize that shoreline management extends well beyond a lake’s perimeter. While many states and municipalities acknowledge the importance of shoreline management, they note that zoning regulations are often only enforced within 300 meters, and many lakes lack the monitoring programs needed to adequately track lake health.

Coauthor and Fellowship advisor Kathleen Weathers, an ecosystem scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and co-chair of GLEON, comments, “In the North American Lakes Region – where road salt is a reality – roads and other impervious surfaces within 500 meters of a lake’s shoreline are a recipe for salinization. We need to manage and monitor lakes to ensure they are kept ‘fresh’ and protect the myriad of services they provide, from fisheries and recreation to drinking water supplies.”

A lake’s chloride status may also provide a window into the ecological health of its watershed. Co-author Samantha Burke, a graduate student at the University of Waterloo, adds, “Unlike flowing streams and rivers, water resides in lakes for long periods of time. This makes them vulnerable to pollution from their watersheds and good early warning indicators of environmental disruption.

Useful Links

GLEON Website

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies Website

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Road Salt Issues

Frederick County Asks PSC For Pause in Solar Projects While Finalizing Zoning Bill

A Frederick News-Post article (2017-04-19) reported that Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner and County Council Vice President M.C. Keegan-Ayer a letter to the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) on April 11 requesting the PSC hold consideration of two utility scale solar projects while the County finalizes zoning legislation for solar farm siting. The two projects, LeGore Bridge Solar Center and Biggs Ford Solar Center, have applied for a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) with the PSC and have requested expedited consideration. The PSC must grant a CPCN before the projects can begin construction. From the article:

The intent of the letter was to make the commission aware that the County Council was working on local legislation, Gardner said Tuesday. …

Keegan-Ayer wrote the [zoning] bill that is currently in front on the council, which would regulate the construction of commercial-scale solar on agricultural land. The bill protects the county’s prime agricultural soils and the viewshed along U.S. 15, which is also recognized as the Journey Through Hallowed Ground.

Another aim of the letter was to alert the commission that the companies may be trying to accelerate their applications and projects in order to circumvent the county’s solar bill, should it pass, Keegan-Ayer said. …

“We’re really trying to strike a balance between the needs of green energy and solar collection, and … our agricultural communities and our agricultural heritage,” Gardner said.

The article also discussed energy siting legislation (HB 1350 of 2017) that was passed by the Maryland General Assembly and is awaiting signing by Governor Lawrence “Larry” Hogan. The legislation was a MACo 2017 Legislative Initiative designed to give a greater local government voice in the siting of energy generation facilities.

Across Maryland, local jurisdictions are having issues controlling energy development, said Leslie Knapp, legal and policy counsel for the Maryland Association of Counties. There have already been lawsuits in Kent County over a solar project and in Allegany County about a wind project.

A state bill that passed both chambers of the General Assembly last session requires the commission to consider whether a proposed energy generating station is consistent with a jurisdiction’s comprehensive plan and its zoning.

The article stated that the current version of the County’s zoning legislation would limit commercial solar facilities  on agricultural land to 75 acres.
Useful Links

Legislators & Environmental Advocates Urge Trump to Fund Bay Restoration

A Capital Gazette article (2017-04-17) reported that a coalition of environmental advocates and predominantly Democratic legislators urged President Donald Trump to provide $100 million in funding for Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts. Trump’s proposed budget is provides $0 for the Bay clean up, representing a $73 million reduction.

From the article:

“The federal partner must not quit now,” Chesapeake Bay Foundation president William Baker said. “It’s critical for human health, and it’s central to our economy.” …

By highlighting two Eastern Shore leaders — Salisbury’s Democratic Mayor Jake Day and Del. Sheree Sample-Hughes, D-Salisbury — the group focused much of the Monday press conference on the poultry industry’s effect on the Bay with the Chesapeake Bay Bridge’s shadow at their backs. …

Sen. Ben Cardin said the repeal of federal money threatens to undermine progress made to bring back the waterman and crabbing industries. …

Cardin also highlighted Republican Rep. Andy Harris and his support for restoring the federal funding, saying the issue of Bay cleanup is “bi-partisan.” …

While five House Republicans joined 12 Democrats in writing a letter urging Trump to maintain the Bay cleanup budget, it’s unclear what level a GOP-led Congress would attempt to restore the money.

 

DLS 90 Day Report: Capital Budget

The Department of Legislative Services (DLS) has released its annual summary of the legislative session, The 90 Day Report – A Review of the 2017 Legislative SessionThe report is divided into 12 parts, each dealing with a major policy area. It also includes information relating to the final operating and capital budgets, including aid to local governments. 

Links to sections on the Capital Budget and relevant portions impacting local governments are provided below.

Capital Budget

From page A-63 on Revenue Bonds for the Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR) Program:

A significant feature of the fiscal 2018 capital budget is a change in the funding mechanism for the Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR) Program. In prior years, grants to local governments for upgrades of wastewater treatment plants to the BNR standard were funded with general obligation bonds. A provision in the BRFA of 2017 authorizes the use of up to $60 million of tax-supported revenue bonds from the Bay Restoration Fund (BRF) to fund BNR projects, while House Bill 384 (passed) permanently expands the allowable uses of the BRF to include BNR projects.

The fiscal 2018 capital budget bill de-authorizes $11 million of GO bonds authorized at the 2016 session for BNR projects and funds these projects and $49 million of new BNR projects from the revenue bond issuance.

The fiscal 2018 capital budget also includes $300 million of planned non-tax supported revenue bond issuances by MDE to further capitalize the Water Quality Revolving-Loan Fund and the Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund to fund loans to local governments for various water quality and drinking water infrastructure projects. MDE will issue the debt over the next several years as project funding proposals from local governments dictate.

From page A-68:

Community colleges receive $59.6 million in fiscal 2018 GO bonds, or 14.9% of higher education funding. This includes $2.0 million of recycled GO bond funds leftover from prior local community college projects. Community college funding is also matched by $54.3 million in local support in fiscal 2018.

Exhibit L-2, Fiscal 2018 Public School Construction Funding (by Local Education Agency)

From page A-70 on School Construction:

The fiscal 2018 capital budget includes $347.5 million in GO bonds for public school construction. … The General Assembly also added language to the school construction authorization that, for fiscal 2018, IAC shall allocate 100% of the funds available for public school construction projects, including available contingency funds. Under the language, the IAC allocations are not subject to BPW approval and are deemed approved pursuant to State law. IAC made recommendations for 75% of the preliminary school construction allocation for fiscal 2018 in December 2016, which were approved by BPW on January 25, 2017. By March 1, 2017, IAC made recommendations for the allocation of 90% of the school construction allocation in the capital budget (which included the initial 75% approved by BPW). Following enactment of the capital budget bill, IAC will make recommendations for 100% of the funding available for fiscal 2018 school construction projects, and pursuant to this language, the IAC recommendations will be the final allocations not subject to BPW approval.

An additional $62.5 million is funded through the Capital Grant Program for Local School Systems with Significant Enrollment Growth or Relocatable Classrooms established by Chapter 355 of 2015. … In the 2017 session the General Assembly increased the amount authorized for the program by $22.5 million for a total of $62.5 million. … While § 5-313 of the Education Article establishes a funding formula for the eligible counties, the additional $22.5 million is allocated outside of the statutory formula with specific allocations to the participating jurisdictions set forth in the MCCBL of 2017. Significant enrollment growth is defined as having full-time equivalent enrollment growth that exceeds 150% of the statewide average over the past five years, and significant relocatable classrooms means an average of at least 300 relocatable classrooms over the past five years. Currently, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard, Montgomery, and Prince George’s counties are eligible.

Click here for information on school construction funding in Part L, Education.

From page A-70 on Aging Schools and Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB) Programs

The capital budget bill provides $6.1 million in GO bonds for the Aging Schools Program allocated as grants to county boards of education as specified in § 5-206 of the Education Article. …

Public school construction funding is further supplemented with $4.823 million of QZABs authorized in House Bill 153. QZABs may be used in schools located in federal Enterprise or Empowerment Zones, or in schools in which 35% of the student population qualifies for FRPM. QZAB funds are distributed to local school systems through competitive grants including grants to the Breakthrough Center and public charter schools.

2017 End of Session Wrap-Up: Environment

This post summarizes the status of various environment bills that MACo took a position on for the 2017 Regular Session.

Recycling – Regulation of Recycling Facilities: HB 124 requires the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to adopt regulations governing recycling facilities, in consultation with MACo and other key stakeholders. The regulations would allow for a tiered system of permits to cover different sizes and types of recycling facilities. The bill also alters the definition of “solid waste” to exclude materials managed at a recycling facility in accordance with the regulations that will be adopted by MDE.

Push Icons-IMPROVEDMACo Position: MACo supported the bill with amendments, noting that recycling facilities are handling increasing amounts of unrecyclable solid waste through the single stream process, they are at risk of needing a solid waste disposal permit – an expensive and cumbersome requirement that was never intended to apply to them. HB 124 would allow MDE to adopt a tiered system of permits that allow for more appropriate regulation of these facilities. The MACo amendment excluded residential recycling drop-off facilities, as they simply serve as collection points for recyclable materials and do not actually handle or process materials beyond collecting and shipping them to a recycling facility.

FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed HB 124 with the MACo amendment and an amendment removing the quantity of material managed as criteria for MDE to consider when establishing the tiered system of permits.

MACo Testimony on HB 124

Recycling – Yard, Food, and Organic Waste Composting Study: HB 171 / SB 99 require MDE to conduct a study regarding the diversion and composting of yard waste and food residuals. The study must include: (1) identification properties or development zones where diversion infrastructure may be developed; (2) tax or other incentives to promote composting; (3) a recommendation for a refuse disposal fee that would finance a grant program to assist with composting infrastructure; and (4) a recommendation on necessary programmatic, legislative, or regulatory changes to encourage composting.

Push Icons-IMPROVEDMACo Position: MACo supported the bill with five amendments that would have the study:

  1. Identify the infrastructure needs and challenges related to yard waste and food residuals composting and diversion unique to the different geographic regions of the state;
  2. Identify any applicable sanitary and public health concerns related to yard waste and food residuals composting and diversion;
  3. Develop, in consultation with local governments, model guidelines and best practices for the local identification of properties or development zones where diversion infrastructure may be developed instead of having MDE assume a land use role by making such identifications itself;
  4. Consider a refuse disposal fee instead of automatically recommending such a fee; and
  5. Receive the approval of the affected local governments before recommending a pilot food waste recovery program in the Elkridge and Jessup areas.

FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed HB 171 and SB 99 with the MACo amendments (the refuse disposal fee language was deleted in its entirety) and several other stakeholder amendments MACo had no issue with.

MACo Testimony on HB 171

MACo Testimony on SB 99

Recycling – Special Events: HB 1309 / SB 885 as introduced would require a county and municipal government that issues a special event permit to also enforce recycling requirements at the event. The bill lowers the threshold for the application of special events recycling requirements from 200 people to 100 people and increases the civil penalty for violating the recycling requirements from $50 a day to a flat fine based on attendance (with a range of $500 to $500,000).

Push Icons-IMPROVEDMACo Position: MACo opposed the bill, noting the cost and implementation issues of the local enforcement mandate, the problematic expansion of “special events” by lowering the attendance threshold from 200 to 100 people, and challenges in enforcing the civil penalties due to a lack of reliable attendance data. MACo dropped its opposition based on amendments that were added to the bill to address MACo’s concerns.

FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed HB 1309 and SB 885 with the proposed MACo amendments. As amended the bill: (1) requires the State, a county, or a municipality, when issuing a special events permit, to provide the event organizer with a written statement that describes the recycling requirements and penalties that apply to special events; and (2) increases the civil penalty for special events recycling from $50 per day to $300 per day.

MACo Testimony on HB 1309

MACo Testimony on SB 885

Stormwater Remdiation Fees and Charges – Application to Governmental Property: As introduced, HB 656 / SB 472 would have allowed a municipality to impose a stormwater charge (under § 4-204 of the Environment Article) on governmental property within its boundaries if: (1) the municipality established a dedicated stormwater management fund; and (2) property owned by the municipality was also subject to the charge.

Push Icons-MORE WORKMACo Position: MACo opposed the bill, arguing that the bill: (1) did not acknowledge actual mitigation responsibility; (2) lacked the flexibility to acknowledge alternative arrangements; and (3) did not create a fair or equal system as it excluded county governments in the same situation. MACo also noted that the government-on-government fee issue has been debated and rejected multiple times by the General Assembly. However, MACo worked with the affected stakeholders over the Session and ultimately dropped its opposition after reaching agreement on a series of amendments that addressed MACo’s concerns.

FINAL STATUS: The House and the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee passed HB 656 with the consensus amendments and a few additional technical changes. However, the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, who had a joint assignment, took no action on HB 656. The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee heard SB472 but took no further action on the bill.

As amended, HB 656 would have allowed a county or municipality that has a stormwater charge under §4-204 or a stormwater remediation fee under §4-202.1 of the Environment Article to impose the charge of fee on property within its boundaries that is owned by the State, a county, a municipality, a public college or university, or a local school system if:

  1. the governmental property is part of the county or municipality’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit;
  2. the county or municipality offers a credit to the governmental property if the property owner is mitigating stormwater being generated on the property;
  3. the county or municipality and the property owner have not agreed upon an alternative arrangement in lieu of the imposition of the stormwater fee; and
  4. for a stormwater charge, the county or municipality has established a dedicated stormwater management fund.

Amendments added by the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee also clarified that a governmental property owner may also voluntarily choose to pay the fee or charge.

MACo Testimony on HB 656

MACo Testimony on SB 472

Water and Sewer Plans and Solid Waste Management Plans – MDE Approval: As introduced, SB 1040 reduced the time period for MDE to review a water and sewer plan from 90 days to 60 days. MDE may extend the review period by an additional 30 days for good cause, and a further 60 days if MDE provides written notice to the affected county, county delegation members of the General Assembly, and the Governor, not less than 10 days before the expiration of the 30-day good cause extension. The written notice must include the reasons MDE failed to complete the review within the provided time period. Finally, MDE must provide written notice of approval, without conditions or reservations, to the county in the event that the plan receives approval.

Push Icons-WONMACo Position: MACo supported the bill, noting that a county water and sewer plan is a critical component of the county’s long-term land use and development plan. Without prompt approval, counties are unable to implement key Smart Growth initiatives and developers may be forced into a “holding pattern” – losing both resources and time that ultimately may lead to a project’s stagnation or even cancellation.

FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed SB 1040 with amendments agreed upon by MACo. As amended, SB 1040 does the following:

  1. MDE must approve or disapprove a county water and sewer or solid waste management plan within 60 days after submission.
  2. MDE may extend the plan review for an additional 45 days for good cause.
  3. MDE may extend the review an additional 45 days after the good cause period if MDE provides written notice to the affected county, the county delegation members of the General Assembly, and the Governor not less than 10 days before the expiration of the 45 day good cause extension. The written notice shall include the reasons MDE failed to complete the review within the provided time.
  4. MDE provide written notice that a plan is approved as per current law when MDE does not explicitly disapprove a plan in whole or in part.

MACo Testimony on SB 1040

Bay Restoration Fund – Eligibility of BNR Projects: HB 384 / SB 343 would expand the allowed uses of the Bay Restoration Fund’s (BRF) wastewater treatment plant account to include plant upgrades to biological nutrient removal (BNR).

Push Icons-WONMACo Position: MACo supported the bill, arguing that with most major wastewater treatment plants having been upgraded to enhanced nutrient removal technology (ENR), it made sense to assist major-minor and minor plants that may not even be at the BNR status yet. MACo also noted the bill was consistent with Governor Larry Hogan’s FY 2018 budget proposal, as the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2017 authorizes MDE to use up to $60 million in both BRF monies and revenue bond proceeds for BNR upgrades for FY 2017 and FY 2018

FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed HB 384 and SB 343 with several technical and conforming amendments.

MACo Testimony on HB 384

MACo Testimony on SB 343

Bay Restoration Fund – Clean Water Commerce Act of 2017: As introduced, HB 417 / SB 314 would allow MDE to use up to $10 million a year from the wastewater treatment account of the BRF for the purchase of cost-effective nitrogen and phosphorus credits to support restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay. MDE must consult with the Departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources when adopting regulations to carry out the bill’s provisions.

Push Icons-IMPROVEDMACo Position: MACo supported HB 417 / SB 314 with amendments offered by MDE that added further details about how the BRF monies could be spent, added protections for local BRF uses, and included MACo and other stakeholders in the development of the regulations. MACo noted that the amendments addressed MACo’s concerns about the broadness and lack of specificity in the bill and would create another “tool in the toolbox” to help meet Bay restoration goals.

FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed HB 417 and SB 314 with the MDE amendments as well as other changes acceptable to MACo. As amended, the bill allows MDE to purchase nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment load reductions using monies from the BRF’s wastewater treatment account. MDE may purchase reductions in FY 2018 through FY 2021. The purchases are limited to $4 million in FY 2018, increasing to a maximum of $10 million for FY 2020 and FY 2021. The purchases: (1) can only be made after funding any eligible costs for wastewater treatment plants to enhanced nutrient removal; (2) cannot be from the agricultural sector; and (3) must be for reductions created on or after July 1, 2017.

In addition, MDE must adopt regulations prior to the purchase of any load reductions that specify that a purchased reduction should provide the lowest cost per pound in reduction and be purchased in accordance with a competitive process. The regulations should be created in consultation with the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Natural Resources, and Transportation, and public and private stakeholders. The bill also contains reporting and accounting requirements for the reduction purchases.

MACo Testimony on HB 417

MACo Testimony on SB 314

Maryland Environmental Service – Collective Bargaining: HB 239 / SB 291 would require the Maryland Environmental Service (MES) to recognize and deal with an employee organization that is elected as an exclusive representative of MES employees and collectively bargain.

Push Icons-NOT IDEALMACo Position: MACo opposed the bill, arguing that the collective bargaining requirement would undermine the ability of MES to deliver critical environmental services to local governments at a reasonable cost.

FINAL STATUS: The House Appropriations Committee heard HB 239 but took no further action on the bill. The General Assembly passed SB 291.

MACo Testimony on HB 239

MACo Testimony on SB 291

Natural Gas Hydraulic Fracturing – Moratorium: SB 862 would extend a moratorium on natural gas hydraulic fracturing (commonly known as “fracking”) until October 1, 2019, and require MDE to propose new and stricter regulations on fracking by October 1, 2018, based on a review of studies and the regulations of other states. During the 2018 gubernatorial election, each local jurisdiction must conduct a voter referendum on whether the local jurisdiction can authorize fracking. If a majority of voters support, the jurisdiction may authorize fracking. If the majority of voters oppose, the jurisdiction may not authorize fracking unless it is approved in a subsequent referendum. A local jurisdiction may still ban or enact a stricter version of fracking requirements than the State if the majority of voters support authorization.

Push Icons-MORE WORKMACo Position: MACo supported the bill with amendments to remove the local referendum requirement. MACo stated that it did not have a formal position on fracking but should fracking ever be authorized in Maryland, it should be up to each local jurisdiction to allow fracking, impose additional requirements on fracking, or prohibit fracking. MACo argued the mandatory referendum undermines the proper role of local elected officials and establishes a precedent that could remove local decision making on other contentious policy issues.

FINAL STATUS: The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee heard SB 862 but took no further action on the bill. (The General Assembly did pass a full ban on fracking under HB 1325.)

MACo Testimony on SB 862

Liquid Waste Haulers – Vehicle Licensing and Inspections: HB 1224 creates a new annual vehicle licensing and proof of insurance requirements within MDE for liquid waste haulers (includes waste from septic systems, chemical toilets, cesspools, privies, composting toilets, holding tanks, and grease trap waste). MDE or a delegated local health department must inspect and approve each vehicle before it can issue a permit. MDE may set reasonable fees to cover the costs of licensing and vehicle inspections. If MDE delegates the inspection authority to a local health department, the local department may set a reasonable inspection fee. The bill also establishes penalties for haulers who violate the bill’s requirements.

Push Icons-DEFEATEDMACo Position: MACo opposed the bill, noting that it would replace a system of local vehicle inspections and fees for liquid waste haulers with a more centralized and “one size fits all” State-controlled system.

FINAL STATUS: HB 1224 was withdrawn by the bill’s sponsor after MACo and other key stakeholders agreed to meet with the bill proponents over the 2017 Interim and try to address their issues.

MACo Testimony on HB 1224

Montgomery County Community Solar Co-Op Largest in Community Power Network

A My Green Montgomery news post (2017-02-10) announced the formation of the first county-wide community solar co-op by MD SUN. My Green Montgomery, an initiative of the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection, is a “one-stop-shop” designed to help County residents access environmental programs and resources. MD SUN is a non-profit organization that works to advance the use of solar energy in Maryland and assist groups of residents start up community solar projects. From the news post:

 

In MD SUN‘s first attempt at creating a county-wide solar co-op, the Montgomery County Solar Co-op made history. It is the largest single co-op in the Community Power Network! Congratulations to the 90 people who joined the Co-op, MD Sun and all the partners! …

MD SUN organized the co-op with promotional help from the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection, the Cities of Rockville, Gaithersburg and Takoma Park, Poolesville Green, and the Adat Shalom congregation in Bethesda. …

The Co-Op’s work has resulted in 790 kilowatts of solar being installed and more than $2 million dollars invested by Montgomery County homeowners in clean energy. By the end of the sign-up period in September,  244 Montgomery County homeowners had joined the group and countless more learned about the importance of solar.

Useful Links

My Green Montgomery Website

MD SUN Website

Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection Website

 

The Last Day: How Did Counties Fare?

With several issues coming down to the final day of the 2017 legislative session, here’s a quick wrap-up of their final disposition. As is almost always the case, the final results are a mixed bag of successes and disappointments.

ENERGY SITING BILL PASSESHB 1350 included a final compromise to grant counties greater input into the certificate process to approve large-scale energy generation facilities.

ATTORNEYS FEE LEGISLATION DEFEATED ON SENATE FLOORSB 705, a bill that spent most of the last three weeks of the session on the Senate floor, was defeated after several more “special order” motions to delay its consideration. MACo had opposed the bill, citing its broad effects and costs from lawsuits well beyond the targeted “access to justice” sphere.

NEXT-GEN 911 COMMISSION AND FLEXIBILITY BILL DIES IN HOUSE COMMITTEESB 466, an amended-down version of legislation to advance Maryland 9-1-1 call centers toward “next generation” technology failed to receive a vote in its House Committee, and was defeated. MACo had supported the modest bill, but questions kept the Health and Government Operations Committee from taking the bill up on Monday.

ELECTION SCANNERS COST SPLIT FAILS – A late session effort (SB 406) to codify the 50/50 state/county cost split passed the House, but failed to progress through its final procedural steps and was defeated as time ran out.

STORMWATER COMPROMISE STALLS IN SENATEHB 656 was a bill MACo initially opposed, but committed to lengthy negotiations and developed into a compromise to fairly apply government stormwater charges on properties owned by other governments. The House approved the compromise, but the Senate was unable to gather the support from the dually assigned committees, and the bill died. The framework of the bill, however, may offer a roadmap for county/municipal agreements in the future, even without passage.

MDE Holding Public Meeting, Seeking Comments on Dredged Material Use

A Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) press release (2017-03-30) announced  that MDE is holding a public meeting and seeking public comment on proposed criteria for the use of dredged material. From the press release:

Newly developed Maryland Department of the Environment guidelines will help allow for dredged material to be safely reused in innovative ways that protect and benefit the environment.

The Department of the Environment developed the draft guidelines in collaboration with the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Port Administration (MPA). The draft guidelines are for reuse of dredged materials, as an alternative to disposal, for such purposes as: fill for brownfields redevelopment; construction and roads; landfill cover; and restoration or creation of aquatic habitats such as marshes. They are designed to clarify regulatory requirements – and, in turn, encourage further private sector innovation in using dredged materials to benefit water quality or as useful products.

“Putting valuable material to work for communities and ecosystems makes sense, and the Maryland Department of the Environment is providing a road map to doing just that in ways that protect public health and benefit the environment,” said Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles. “Through science, innovation and public-private collaboration, we can advance the greening of Maryland and strengthen our economy with valuable dredged materials.”

“Finding innovative ways to manage sediment removed from the shipping channels serving the Port of Baltimore is a priority for the MPA. With the development of MDE’s Draft Guidance Document and Technical Screening Criteria, there is now a clear path forward for making innovative reuse a reality, not just for the MPA, but for the private sector and related industries throughout Maryland,” said MPA Director of Harbor Development Chris Correale. “The MPA is grateful for MDE’s leadership on this effort – we share the same goal that dredged material, as a valuable natural resource, can safely be reused while driving innovation, benefiting the environment and growing Maryland’s economy.”

The Department of the Environment considers dredged material a valuable resource for achieving its mission to protect and restore the environment for the health and well-being of all Marylanders. Most dredged material from the Chesapeake Bay, including Baltimore Harbor’s navigation channels, is made up of clean sediments that can be used on the land as soil amendments or fill or in water to create aquatic habitat.

Dredged material has been safely reused to restore islands, such as Poplar Island in the Chesapeake Bay. That project also increases wetlands and upland habitat for nesting birds. Dredged material could be reused for projects to protect shorelines from erosion or from rising sea levels as a result of climate change, to create wetlands that improve water quality or to restore contaminated sites to safe and productive use. Other potential uses include as aggregate products for block or pavement or for use as base material for highways. Reuse of dredged material from Baltimore Harbor that would otherwise be disposed of in the MPA’s Cox Creek Dredged Material Placement Site would also effectively extend that facility’s lifespan.

The Maryland Dredge Material Management Program’s executive committee assigned a broad-based workgroup the task of reviewing current law and regulatory programs and recommending policy revisions to promote the reuse of dredged material. The newly developed technical guidance is in response to a recommendation in that workgroup’s June 2016 report.

The draft guidance is designed to assist scientists, engineers and other technical professionals seeking approvals to innovatively or beneficially reuse dredged material. The guidelines are designed to allow applicants to better understand what information is required, leading to increased transparency and efficiency in the permitting and approval process.

A public meeting to present the draft guidance and answer questions is scheduled for 6 p.m. April 25 at the Department of the Environment’s Baltimore headquarters, 1800 Washington Boulevard. Public comments on the document will be accepted through May 26. The department will review and consider all comments received.

MDE will host a public meeting to discuss and answer questions about the draft guidance on April 25 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM at MDE’s headquarters (1800 Washington Blvd., Baltimore, MD 21230). The public review and comment period runs from March 20 through May 26. Comments may be submitted by email to mde_dredge.material_reuse@maryland.gov or  mailed to:

Matthew Rowe
MDE
Science Services Administration
Suite 540
1800 Washington Blvd.
Baltimore, MD 21230

Useful Links

Draft Dredging Guidance Document

MDE Dredging and Dredged Material Webpage

MACo Energy Siting Initiative Poised For Final Passage

The Senate Finance Committee gave a favorable report to HB 1350 on April 6, which the House had amended to become its version of MACo’s energy siting Legislative Initiative, SB 931. HB 1350 will need to pass second and third-reader votes in the Senate prior to the General Assembly adjourning Sine Die on Monday, April 10. SB 931 has already passed the Senate unanimously (47-0) and it is expected HB 1350 will also pass with no issues.

MACo adopted the siting of energy generation facilities as a 2017 Legislative  Initiative in response to concerns from both rural and urban counties who are seeing large-scale energy projects being proposed in sensitive agricultural, historic, or environmental areas. Going forward, MACo believes the bill will ensure that the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) will properly weigh local land use concerns when deciding whether to grant an energy generating station a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) and encourage better communication and outreach practices between energy developers and local governments.

As amended by the House, HB 1350 would:

  1. require the PSC, as part of its review of an application for a CPCN for an energy generating station to give due consideration to: (i) the consistency of the application with the comprehensive plan and zoning of each county or municipal corporation in which any portion of the generation station is proposed to be located; and (ii) the efforts by affected parties to resolve any issues presented by such a county or municipal corporation
  2. require the PSC to provide notice of any CPCN application to the executive branch of any affected local government in addition to the local governing body, include a copy of the application to the affected local governments with the notice, and offer to provide a copy of the application to state legislators representing the affected local governments

In a separate letter to the Finance Committee, MACo also reiterated 4 other commitments that were made outside of the bill language:

  1. The Power Plant Research Program will conduct an informal study on improving notice and communication between the State, local governments, and energy developers.
  2. MACo, utility scale solar developers, and other interested stakeholders will work together to develop proposed best practices for developers operating in Maryland.
  3. Senate Finance Chair Thomas “Mac” Middleton will hold interim discussions with interested stakeholders on setting protections regarding energy development on lands subject to a State land preservation or conservation easement or in a Rural Legacy Area.
  4. MACo will commit to not introduce legislation directly affecting the PSC’s CPCN process for the next several years unless there is a significant change in the energy development landscape or the provisions of SB 931 [or HB 1350] are not working as intended.

Senator John Astle sponsored SB 931. Delegate April Rose sponsored HB 1350.

Useful Links

HB 1350 of 2017

SB 931 of 2017

Commitment Letter for SB 931

Prior Conduit Street Coverage on Energy Siting