Climate Change Recommendations Provoke Robust Discussion by Mitigation Working Group

The Mitigation Working Group had a robust but respectful discussion on proposed climate change recommendations at its August 2, 2018, meeting, including proposals that would directly affect county governments. A cap and trade program for carbon emitted from transportation, the full electrification of the state’s school bus feet, mandatory energy efficiency retrofits to existing buildings, upgrading the Forest Conservation Act, and ending the permitting of landfills and moving to zero waste are a few of the recommendations under consideration.

The Working Group is part of the Maryland Commission on Climate Change and is tasked with producing recommendations to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in the state in order to achieve a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from their 2005 levels by 2030. Maryland is general on track to meet a prior emission reduction goal of 25% by 2025. MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp is the county representative on the Working Group. Prince George’s County Council Member Deni Taveras is MACo’s representative on the Commission.

The proposed recommendations included a draft “straw-man” version prepared by the Maryland Department of the Environment and a series of additional recommendations submitted by various stakeholder groups. The Working Group is seeking consensus on as many recommendations as it can and will then focus on recommendations where there is majority support. The list of Mitigation Working Group recommendations contains numerous proposals that remain under discussion. The following recommendations would directly effect counties:

  • The Commission should urge MDE to include in the 40 by 30 plan a section that is specifically focused on identifying and assessing longer-term greenhouse gas emission reduction strategies. This section should explicitly address steps that can be taken to insure that proposed 40 by 30 programs and strategies are compatible with achieving zero net emissions in the 2050 to 2060 timeframe.

  • The Commission should urge MDE to include in the 40 by 30 plan strategies and programs that will insure that the state meets and accommodates its current EV goals and projections (60,000 EVs by 2020; 300,000 by 2025) with continued vigorous increase after 2025 that is compatible with longterm net zero emissions two to three decades after 2030. As part of this process, we further recommend that the Commission urge MDE to specifically assess the following strategies: setting a goal to fully electrify bus transport in Maryland by 2035, including aggressive targets for the rapid deployment of EV school buses, as well as provisions for low-interest financing.

  • The Commission should urge the General Assembly to implement stricter building code and other energy efficiency upgrades, including the establishment of annual residential and commercial building retrofit targets (e.g. 100% commercial building compliance by 2040), the requirement that all new residential and commercial buildings be carbon neutral by 2030, and an expansion of government and utility supported efficient electric heating and cooling system policies and programs.

  • The Commission should urge the General Assembly to enact, by 2020, a sustainable agricultural land preservation law which permits/facilitates the deployment of joint renewable energy and regenerative agriculture development, in order to simultaneously maximize the reduction and sequestration of carbon emissions while improving soil health.

  • The Commission should urge the General Assembly and the Governor to require net forest and tree canopy gains in Maryland by 2025 through the enactment of various forest management and tree planting programs and initiatives; including a strengthened Forest Conservation Law.

  • The Commission should urge the General Assembly and the Governor to enact, by 2022, more aggressive and explicit compact development and sustainable growth incentive and management programs and regulations.

  • The Commission should urge the General Assembly and the Governor to enact the following zero waste policies: ending the permitting of solid waste landfill capacity by 2019; requiring large producers (more than 2 tons per month) of organic waste to compost or anaerobically digest all of their waste by 2020; and increase state government and local jurisdiction recycling rates to 60% by 2020 and 80% by 2035.

Only the first two recommendations listed above were discussed at the August 2 meeting. Knapp joined with several other Working Group members in objecting to the inclusion of a regional transportation sector carbon emissions cap, noting that the proposal received little discussion or study during the Working Group’s 2018 meetings. Knapp suggested that the proposal be further studied as part of the Working Group’s 2019 agenda. Knapp also expressed concern about the school bus electrification recommendation, noting that the assessment should not be tied to an explicit date and that counties and local boards of education be part of the discussion.

The Working Group’s next meeting will take place on August 30. At that time, the Working Group hopes to finalize its recommendations.

Useful Links

Maryland Commission on Climate Change

Governor Hogan Urges Other States to “Step Up” Bay Restoration Efforts

Several news articles reported on Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s recent efforts to hold upstream states more accountable for the debris and runoff that flows down the Susquehanna River and through the Conowingo Dam. As previously reported on Conduit Street, the recent heavy rainfalls created a deluge of debris and sediment that washed into the Chesapeake Bay, threatening Bay recovery efforts.

Hogan called for the upstream Bay states to do more at the August 7, 2018, meeting of the Chesapeake Executive Council. (The Council is composed of the executives of all of the Bay watershed states and Hogan is currently the Council’s chair.) Hogan has also continued to push the Conowingo Dam’s owner, Exelon Corp., to also do more to address sediment coming through the dam.

A WTOP 103.5 FM article (2018-08-07) outlined Hogan’s position:

Hogan has been increasingly critical of Maryland’s neighbors to the north over the condition of the Bay watershed. …

“We have done our part,” [Hogan] said, referring to Maryland’s efforts, “but other people need to step up.”

“We have to have the upstream states and the EPA take some responsibility for the stuff that’s pouring down the Susquehanna [River] over the Conowingo [Dam] into the Bay,” he said.

The WTOP article also detailed Hogan’s recent efforts to have Exelon contribute more to Bay restoration efforts. Maryland must provide a certification before Exelon can be re-licensed to continue operating the dam and Hogan has tied the recertification to Exelon’s commitment to help address the water quality issues that are. Exelon has challenged the State’s certification requirements both administratively and in the courts.

The Clean Chesapeake Coalition, an advocacy effort of Maryland counties formed to address Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) issues in 2012, was one of the early stakeholder groups that raised concerns about sediment and water pollution coming down the Susquehanna River and through the Conowingo Dam.

Washington Post article (2018-08-07) provided additional details, including the somewhat lukewarm response from other states to Hogan’s proposal:

New York’s representative at the meeting, Deputy Commissioner James Tierney of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, said water leaving the state’s borders is cleaner than when it reaches the bay.

Pennsylvania’s environmental secretary, Patrick McDonnell, declined to commit resources to cleaning up the debris, saying his government has been dealing with historic flooding that killed two people in the state.

“We were, frankly, in flood response mode,” McDonnell said.

The Post article also included criticism from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation on the efforts of Pennsylvania to address agricultural runoff. Pennsylvania has previously been criticized by the United States Environmental Protection Agency for being “significantly off track” in meetings its water quality goals under the Bay TMDL.

Useful Links

Prior Conduit Street Coverage on the Recent Debris and Sediment Surge From the Conowingo Dam

Clean Chesapeake Coalition

Anne Arundel Announces Community Beach Cleanup Initiative

Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh today announced the Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works (DPW) will assist in cleaning up debris off communities beaches resulting from the recent incident at the Conowingo Dam.

According to a press release:

“Now is a time for our County to work together as we begin the cleanup from July’s heavy rainfalls,” said Schuh. “We want to make it as easy as possible for our communities to come together and return our beaches to usable condition.”

The Department of Public Works will lead this program and has identified highly impacted communities for this effort.

The staging of dumpsters will be offered to these communities along their private, bayfront beaches for several days. Debris loading would be the community’s responsibility. The Department of Public Works will retrieve dumpsters for disposal following cleanup activities
Communities would not be charged for recycling or disposal of collected debris.

Communities with private, bayfront beaches can request an assessment from the Department of Public Works by calling 410-222-7321 or emailing pwcust00@aacounty.org.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Heavy Rainfalls Send Debris, Sediment Plume Through Conowingo Dam

Conduit Street Podcast: What’s up with the Bay? SALT Suit, & Recruiting Top-Tier Teachers

From ruptured water mains to natural floods, counties must work with local water agencies to ensure that comprehensive crisis management plans are in place to address emergencies quickly and efficiently.

This year’s MACo Summer Conference will feature a session on comprehensive crisis management. The session, “Batten Down the Hatches! Weathering a Water Crisis,” is scheduled for 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm on Thursday, August 16, 2018.

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.”

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Maryland Wildfire Crew Heads to Northern Rockies

Maryland has assembled and mobilized its second crew of wildland firefighters to battle raging wildfires in the Western United States, as part of a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources:

Maryland State (MDS) #2 has been dispatched to battle the Tenmile Fire, which is burning about 372 acres (zero percent contained) in the Kootenai National Forest in Northwest Montana.

The 20-person crew arrived yesterday in Missoula, Montana.

MDS #2 consists of seven representatives from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, including employees from the Maryland Forest ServiceMaryland Park Service and Wildlife and Heritage Service. They join an additional 160 people assigned to the Tenmile Fire for a 14-day tour.

Maryland has participated in mobilizing certified, equipped and fully-trained wildland firefighters since 1974.

Read the full press release for more information.

Volkswagen Settlement will Help Replace Aging School Buses

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has a plan to spend an additional $76 million on specific projects to reduce diesel emissions from the transportation sector – and it plans to make $12 million available for transit bus and school bus replacements.

According to MDE, $4 million dollars will be set aside to replace aging school buses, with another $8 million to replace aging transit buses.

In 2015, the federal government found Volkswagen AG liable for violations of the Clean Air Act, because from 2009 to 2016, the company sold diesel vehicles with devices installed that allowed for illegal amounts of nitrogen oxide emissions. The resulting settlement agreement with the automobile manufacturer created the Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund, which includes $2.7 billion earmarked for projects that remediate excess nitrogen oxide emissions from the air.

Maryland is eligible to receive about $75.7 million of that money – but first, it must complete and have approved a plan for how it will allocate the funds. After consulting with the Maryland Departments of Energy and Transportation, MDE released its draft plan this week outlining how it plans to spend the money.

According to MDE:

Local Governments and Communities and Environmental Justice (15.8%): Local governments and communities will be given a chance to submit project ideas for funding. Funding will be awarded on a competitive basis based on the primary goals of this spending plan. Proposals from highly affected communities (communities with heightened levels of ground-level ozone) will be weighted. A portion of the funds will be set aside specifically for transit bus and school bus replacements.

MDE will be accepting comments on the proposed Mitigation Plan until close of business on August 31, 2018. Comments can be emailed to mde.vw@maryland.gov.

MDE is also already accepting proposals from counties and others for eligible mitigation projects that can potentially be incorporated into future versions of Maryland’s Mitigation Plan. Those wishing to propose a project for inclusion in the plan may complete and submit this form by close of business on December 31, 2018.

Those sending comments or proposals by mail may use this address:

Mobile Sources Control Program
Maryland Department of the Environment
1800 Washington Blvd. Ste. 705
Baltimore, MD 21230

Helpful Links

State Proposes Volkswagen Remediation Spending Plan, $12M for Counties

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has a plan to spend an additional $76 million on specific projects to reduce diesel emissions from the transportation sector – and it plans to make about $12 million of those funds available to counties.

In 2015, the federal government found Volkswagen AG liable for violations of the Clean cars and air pollutionAir Act, because from 2009 to 2016, the company sold diesel vehicles with devices installed that allowed for illegal amounts of nitrogen oxide emissions. The resulting settlement agreement with the automobile manufacturer created the Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund, which includes $2.7 billion earmarked for projects that remediate excess nitrogen oxide emissions from the air.

Maryland is eligible to receive about $75.7 million of that money – but first it must complete and have approved a plan for how it will allocate the funds. After consulting with the Maryland Departments of Energy and Transportation, MDE released its draft plan this week outlining how it plans to spend the money.

The draft includes spending 15.8 percent of the funds – about $12 million – on projects proposed by local governments and communities:

Local Governments and Communities and Environmental Justice (15.8%): Local governments and communities will be given a chance to submit project ideas for funding. Funding will be awarded on a competitive basis based on the primary goals of this spending plan. Proposals from highly affected communities (communities with heightened levels of ground-level ozone) will be weighted. A portion of the funds will be set aside specifically for transit bus and school bus replacements.

MDE will be accepting comments on the proposed Mitigation Plan until close of business on August 31, 2018. Comments can be emailed to mde.vw@maryland.gov.

MDE is also already accepting proposals from counties and others for eligible mitigation projects that can potentially be incorporated into future versions of Maryland’s Mitigation Plan. Those wishing to propose a project for inclusion in the plan may complete and submit this form by close of business on December 31, 2018.

Those sending comments or proposals by mail may use this address:

Mobile Sources Control Program
Maryland Department of the Environment
1800 Washington Blvd. Ste. 705
Baltimore, MD 21230

Helpful Links

Heavy Rainfalls Send Debris, Sediment Plume Through Conowingo Dam

DelmarvaNow article (2018-08-01) reported that the recent heavy rainfalls have sent a plume of sediment and debris down the Susquehanna River, through the Conowingo Dam, and into the upper stem of the Chesapeake Bay. Exelon, the dam’s owner, recently opened the dam’s floodgates in order to relieve pressure from the rising waters in the dam’s reservoir.

In the article, a representative from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation described the event:

“This was a fairly unprecedented event,” said Doug Myers, Maryland senior scientist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “It swelled rivers and streams throughout the watershed. We saw satellite images that showed a brown plume going through the length of the Susquehanna through Pennsylvania. Then we saw that plume of suspended sediment come out into the bay.” …

“The sediment is a visible thing, but it’s not the thing the bay is most concerned with,” he said. “We’re seeing big piles of debris all along the shoreline and that has a tendency to scour over the Susquehanna flats, which is our largest seagrass bed in the bay. That debris pulled a lot of the grasses out of the mud.”

The article noted that since the dam’s reservoir has reached its capacity to trap sediment, heavy rainfall events will wash excess sediment through the reservoir and directly into the Bay. Such discharges can undermine the restoration efforts of Bay watershed states and local governments. In the article, Myers discussed the negative consequences these discharges can have on nutrient pollution and wildlife.

The article also discussed the efforts of Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to reach an agreement with Exelon on addressing the issue posed by the Conowingo Dam. While Exelon has offered to play some role in addressing the water quality concerns posed by the dam, it remains opposed to the State’s current proposal and also argues that it cannot capture all debris washed down the Susquehanna during flood events. Multiple legal and administrative challenges are currently underway and a final solution to the Conowingo problem remains elusive.

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:

 

Two Studies Critical of Maryland’s Renewable Energy Strategy

Baltimore Sun article (2018-07-29) reported on the release of two new studies that have criticized Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), arguing that: (1) the RPS subsidizes “dirty” forms of energy such as waste incineration and paper byproduct known as black liquor; and (2) allowing utilities to purchase renewable energy credits in lieu of actually purchasing renewable energy directly undermines a full transition to renewable energy sources. Maryland’s RPS currently requires that 25% of the state’s energy come from renewable sources by 2020.

The first study was released by the environmental advocacy group Food & Water Watch and assigned letter grades to the renewable energy efforts of each state. Maryland received an “F” grade because the RPS includes waste incineration and black liquor as renewable. Other states receiving an “F” included Delaware, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The two highest grades went to Hawaii (“B-“) and Vermont (“C+”). From the article:

Del. Dereck Davis, a Prince George’s County Democrat and chairman of the House of Delegates Economic Matters committee, said he thinks Maryland is “making strides” at growing its renewable energy supply and promoting development of solar and wind projects across the state.

He dismissed the state’s F grade from Food and Water Watch, pointing out that many states — 21 of them, according to the group’s study — don’t offer any renewable energy incentives at all.

Another study released by Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility (Chesapeake PSR) criticized Maryland’s use of renewable energy credits and argued that the practice was delaying a full transition to renewable energy within the state. The study argued that utilities could use credits to subsidize renewable energy producers “often in far away places” while continuing to meet Maryland’s energy needs through the use of fossil fuels. The study recommended that utilities only be allowed to purchase renewable energy from in-state producers.

Useful Links

Cleanwashing – How States Count Polluting Energy Sources as Renewable (Food & Water Watch Study)

Food & Water Watch Website

Unbundled – How Renewable Energy Credits Undermine Maryland’s Transition to Clean, Renewable Energy (Chesapeake PSR Study)

Chesapeake PSR Website

Howard County Council Passes 1-Year Development Moratorium Around Ellicott City

Howard County Times article (2018-07-27) reported that the Howard County Council has unanimously passed emergency legislation that would freeze development around Ellicott City for one-year. The legislation is in response to the two devastating floods that inundated the City’s Main Street area and will provide additional time to address the City’s flooding issues. County Executive Allan Kittleman has stated that he will sign the measure.

The article indicated that the moratorium would affect about planned 600 housing units in the Tiber River and Plumtree Branch stream watersheds. County Council Member Jon Weinstein proposed the moratorium. While the moratorium was supported by many residents the proposal generated opposition from the Maryland Building Industry Association. The Association argued that studies had indicated development was not a primary cause of the flooding. From the article:

The council’s moratorium “ignores the lessons from previous flood studies,” the association said in a statement.

“While development may not be the primary cause, it is a contributor,” Weinstein said. “The studies that have been done that suggest that it isn’t as big a contributor I would say are tempered by the reality of our current climate.” …

“It’s heartbreaking to see what happened,” said Jen Terrasa, a council member. “I don’t think we can keep thinking of it in terms of catastrophic floods anymore. We need a new measure.”

Useful Links

Council Bill 56-2018

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Ellicott City Flooding

Conduit Street Podcast: What’s up with the Bay? SALT Suit, & Recruiting Top-Tier Teachers

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson discuss how and why recent storms have sent sediment and debris pouring into the Chesapeake Bay, examine the multistate lawsuit against the federal government in response to the $10,000 limit on the federal deduction for state and local taxes (SALT), and break down the Kirwan Commission’s High-Quality Teachers and Leaders workgroup.

MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

You can listen to previous episodes of the Conduit Street Podcast on our website.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Kirwan Commission Considers Major Pay Increase for Teachers

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Maybe Stay Away From the Bay Today (July 31)…