Learn to Grow Your Community Forest at Sustainable Maryland Workshops

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sustainable Maryland is offering a leadership training workshop on “Growing the Community Forest” to municipal and county elected officials and staff. The workshop is offered on three different dates in Central Maryland, Western Maryland, and the Eastern Shore.

From an email notice (2018-09-24) of the event:

The Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland will host Sustainable Maryland’s annual Leadership Training workshops in November. This training series fosters leadership skills to engage diverse stakeholders, reduce contention, and garner support for sustainability initiatives.

This year’s workshop topic, GROWING THE COMMUNITY FOREST, will incorporate examples, stories and tools that will help communities to strengthen and expand local tree canopy. Trees are unique amongst urban infrastructure, in that over time, they appreciate in both value and capacity. Learn about the benefits of a healthy community forest; funding sources and technical assistance available for maintaining and growing your town’s tree canopy; and examples of how to engage residents to support this vital green infrastructure in their neighborhoods.

The cost for county officials and staff is $35, which includes breakfast, lunch, program materials, and parking. The event is co-sponsored by MACo and the Maryland Municipal League.

The workshop dates and locations include:

  • Thursday, November 8, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm at Hyattsville City Hall, Hyattsville
  • Thursday, November 13, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm at Cambridge Police Department, Cambridge
  • Wednesday, November 14, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm at University System of Maryland, Hagerstown

A full agenda will be available soon. If you have any questions please contact Mike Hunninghake at mikeh75@umd.edu or 301-405-7956.

Useful Links

Register for November 8 Hyattsville Workshop

Register for November 13 Cambridge Workshop

Register for November 14 Hagerstown Workshop

Sustainable Maryland Website

How Did Your Legislator Score on Environmental Issues in 2018?

 

 

 

The Maryland League of Conservation Voters recently released its 2018 Environmental Scorecard. The scorecard ranks the 2018 environmental voting record and lifetime voting record of all 188 Maryland legislators.

From a League press release (2018-09-14):

The 2018 Session was a complicated year for the environment in the Maryland General Assembly. On the one hand, legislators passed several bills of environmental importance and in multiple cases the environment was a bipartisan concern. …

While those bills were important, leaders in the General Assembly failed to vote on many top environmental priorities. This inaction short changes Marylanders from truly understanding where our elected officials stand on these particular top environmental issues and further disenfranchises voters in this key election year.

In more frustrating news, we saw long-time environmental champions fail to support environmental priorities, or refuse to bring them up for a vote. In particular, we are especially concerned at the shelving of top environmental legislation, such as the Styrofoam ban.

The scorecard is based on specified pieces of environmental legislation that received a committee vote, a floor vote, or were “drawered” in committee (not receiving any vote). Examples of legislation counted by the 2018 scorecard included: (1) changes to the Bay Restoration Fund; (2) banning Styrofoam; (3) amending the Forest Conservation Act; (4) offshore wind; and (5) funding for the DC-Metro.

In the Senate, numerous senators were awarded a 100% rating for the 2018 Session. The lowest scoring senator was Johnny Ray Salling (17%). Senators with a 100% lifetime rating include William Smith and Roger Manno. The Senator with the lowest lifetime rating is Gail Bates (16%).

In the House of Delegates, numerous delegates scored at the extremes for the 2018 Session, with many receiving a 100% rating and others receiving a 0% rating. Thirty-two delegates hold a 100% lifetime rating. The delegates with the lowest lifetime scores are Warren Miller and Mark Fisher at 8%.

Useful Links

2018 Scorecard Interactive Map

Let the Sunshine In – Register Now for MACo Solar Symposium

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

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

 

Let the Sunshine In: Solar Siting in Maryland

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

Session Objectives

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

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

Useful Links

Register for Let the Sunshine In: Solar Siting in Maryland 

Sierra Club of Maryland Website

Solar United Neighbors Website

 

 

 

 

Hagerstown Highlights High Costs of New Phase II MS4 Permits

Herald-Mail Media article (2018-09-15) examined the significant fiscal costs facing those counties and municipalities subject to the newest version of the Phase II Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit. The new Phase II permits, set to take effect October 31, require a local jurisdiction to upgrade the stormwater treatment capabilities for 20 percent of their existing impervious surface. The article specifically focused on how this new requirement would affect Hagerstown.

The article noted that Hagerstown has been subject to a Phase II MS4 permit since 2002 and has roughly 2,200 acres of untreated impervious surface, meaning that the city must treat 400 to 450 acres under the new 20 percent requirement. An advisory group has been looking at how the city can meet the 20 percent requirement since this March. From the article:

“That’s mainly all the buildings, streets, roadways, rooftops in what I’ll call the downtown area,” [Hagerstown Assistant City Engineer Jim]Bender said in an interview Thursday. “It’s been here the longest. It’s been here for 150, 200 years or more. … Nobody ever thought of providing water quality treatment.”

Speaking before the Hagerstown City Council this past week, Bender estimated it could cost about $25 million to $30 million to satisfy the permit, which runs through 2023.

The article noted that the advisory group and the city were considering a variety of methods to meet the impervious surface restoration requirement but faced significant challenges. Retrofits to existing stormwater facilities are one of the most cost-effective treatment methods but many of these facilities are privately owned, requiring the city to undertake complicated negotiations with property owners. Another preferred method is forest planting, but the city’s limited free space and fiscal resources makes such projects very challenging.

Bender also noted in the article that the city is still considering how to pay for the required stormwater projects and are considering the imposition of a stormwater remediation fee (also known as a “rain tax.” However, Bender cautioned that it was “premature” to say the advisory group would include a fee recommendation when its work concludes in December.

The new Phase II MS4 permits will apply to the following counties: Calvert, Cecil, Queen Anne’s, St. Mary’s, Washington, and Wicomico. Ten other Maryland counties are subject to a broader Phase I permit that is specifically tailored for each jurisdiction.

Useful Links

Maryland Plans to Sue Trump Administration After EPA Denies Air Emissions Request

Baltimore Sun article (2018-09-17) reported that Maryland will challenge a recent decision of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) denying Maryland’s request for limitations on coal plant emissions from upwind states. EPA’s decision marks a setback in the Maryland Department of the Environment’s efforts to curb significant amounts of ozone pollution that migrates from other states.

An estimated 70 percent of Maryland’s ozone pollution originates in other states. In response, Maryland petitioned EPA under the federal Clean Air Act to require coal power plants in 5 states to run already installed ozone emission controls between the months of May and September. Affected states include Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Maryland submitted its petition in November of 2016 and EPA initially proposed denying the petition in May of 2018. EPA finalized its denial on September 14.

The article noted that Maryland will challenge EPA’s denial in federal appeals court. From the article:

Now, “litigation is the next step,” said Ben Grumbles, secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment. …

The “EPA’s decision is wrong,” [Maryland Attorney General Brian] Frosh said. “If it is allowed to stand, the air Marylanders breathe will be dirtier, especially on the hottest days of the summer — through no fault of ours.”

The article also stated that most of Maryland’s congressional delegation support the State’s legal appeal.

Useful Links

Prior Conduit Street Coverage

Cecil Breaks Ground on Elkton West Sanitary Sewer Project

Photo courtesy of Cecil County Government

Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy, County Administrator Al Wein, along with Council Vice President Dan Schneckenburger and Councilman Bob Meffley, Director of Public Works Scott Flanigan, and members of the project team took part in a groundbreaking ceremony for the Elkton West Sanitary Sewer Subdistrict Tuesday afternoon.

According to a press release:

The Marley Road Sewer Extension, slated for completion in late February 2019, is the first phase of construction.The project will extend gravity sewer from an existing tie-in location located at the entrance of AUI Power along the south side of Route 40 approximately 1000-ft. east of the Marley Road intersection. Gravity sewer will also be extended approximately 700-ft. up Marley Road north of Route 40.

This phase of the project will provide a connection location for a future sewer force main associated with phase two of the Elkton West project. There are currently three phases of construction planned along the Route 40 corridor which will result in County owned and operated sanitary sewer service from Route 279 to Marley Road upon completion.

“This is a very exciting day and I would like to express my thanks to the council members who have helped make this happen,” expressed County Executive Alan McCarthy. “This is 50 years in the making and we want to get it done!”

Read the full press release for more information.

Cecil County Sees Minor Flooding After Conowingo Opens Floodgates

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

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

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

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

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

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

Court of Special Appeals Hears Montgomery Pesticide Preemption Case

A panel of Maryland Court of Special Appeal judges will determine whether state law preempts counties from regulating pesticide applications after hearing oral arguments in the case of Montgomery County v. Complete Lawn Care on September 11, 2018. MACo and the Maryland Municipal League, concerned about the broader local preemption issues involved in the case, submitted an amicus brief to the Court of Special Appeals on June 21, 2018. The brief argued that local governments should not be preempted in enacting public health and safety measures that go beyond state minimums.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, the Montgomery County Council passed a ban on the use of EPA-registered lawn-care pesticides for public and private property. The ban  covered areas such as lawns, playgrounds, recreation areas, and child  care centers but exempted agricultural usage. The ban also contained exceptions for treating noxious or invasive weed species, addressing human health concerns, or preventing significant economic damage.

In response, Complete Lawn Care and other several other businesses and county residents filed suit in Maryland Circuit Court challenging the ban. Circuit Court Judge Terrence McGann issued a decision on August 3, 2017, finding that state law preempted the Montgomery County ordinance. The County appealed the Circuit Court’s decision to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

The three judges hearing the case included Donald Beachley, Alexander Wright, and Robert Zarnoch (retired). Edward Lattner from the Montgomery County Attorney’s Office argued that the County’s law was not impliedly preempted by state law as state law was primarily concerned with registration and labeling of pesticides and the licensing of applicators while the County law focused on putting further safety requirements on pesticide usage. Lattner noted that the General Assembly has three times previously considered and rejected legislation to explicitly prohibit local regulation of pesticides.

Plaintiff’s attorney Timothy Maloney and the counsel for Complete Lawn Care jointly argued that the County was impliedly preempted because there was a “very comprehensive state occupation” of the pesticide field, noting that the Maryland Department of the Environment also conducts numerous enforcement and inspection actions. They also argued that the  County ordinance essentially prohibited the use of pesticides approved for use in the state by both the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

Based on questions by the judges, Zarnoch appeared the most sympathetic to the County’s argument, noting that even an approved and registered pesticide could still harm humans. Wright appeared the most skeptical, questioning whether the General Assembly’s three rejections of express preemption legislation constituted an argument against the broad regulatory authority already possessed by the State through statute.

A decision in the case could come within several months. The case could be appealed by either party to the Court of Appeals. Additionally, the federal Farm Bill currently before Congress contains a provision that would expressly prohibit all local government regulation of pesticides across the nation. If the provision were to pass, the Montgomery County case would be rendered moot.

MACo remains extremely concerned about the broad and somewhat subjective common law test used by Maryland courts to determine implied preemption. As previously reported on Conduit Street, MACo has tentatively adopted addressing implied preemption as one of its 2019 Legislative Initiatives (the Initiatives will be formally adopted in January of 2019 after new and returning county elected officials are sworn in).

Useful Links

MACo and MML Amicus Curiae Brief

Circuit Court Decision – Complete Law Care v. Montgomery County (2017)

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Montgomery Pesticide Ban

Conduit Street Article on 2019 Legislative Initiatives

Howard County Council Considers Ban on Coal Tar Sealants on Roads, Driveways

Baltimore Sun article (2018-09-07) reported that the Howard County Council is considering banning the use of coal tar sealants on roadways and driveways. The proposal has drawn opposition from sealant manufacturers and trade groups.

According to the article, coal tar sealants are used to protect asphalt roads and driveways. However, the sealant, which can contain up to 35 percent of carcinogenic coal tar pitch, breaks down over time into a dust that contaminate stormwater, water bodies, and house dust. Several cancers, including skin, bladder, lung, kidney and digestive tract cancers, have been linked to occupational exposure to coal tar according to the National Institutes of Health. The article also noted that coal tar is used medicinally to treat certain skin disorders. The sealant must be reapplied to a road surface every 2-5 years in order to remain effective.

From the article:

Councilman Jon Weinstein introduced legislation to ban coal-tar at a County Council meeting Tuesday night after a group of Centennial Lane Elementary fifth-graders presented their case for a ban to Weinstein, who represents Ellicott City where the school is located, in June.

“These sorts of bans [on coal-tar sealcoat] are solutions to problems that don’t exist,” said Anne LeHuary, executive director of the Pavement Coatings Technology Council. “I would challenge the [Howard] county to look at their data.”

The article noted that coal tar sealant is already banned in Anne Arundel, Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties and the District of Columbia. The Howard County Department of Public Works does not use sealant on county-maintained roads.

A hearing on the legislation (CB60-2018) is set for September 17.

Useful Links

CB60-2018 Information

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

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

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

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

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

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

Useful Links

DNR Website

Oyster Advisory Commission Webpage