Barr to Hogan: Hear Counties Voices, Loud and Clear

After completing an unprecedented tour and meeting with elected officials from all 24 counties across the state before the Summer Conference, MACo President John Barr raised this accomplishment with Governor Larry Hogan at the Summer Conference. “I’d like to get you a letter, summing up what we heard in these visits,” Commissioner Barr offered, and the Governor expressed interest.

In President Barr’s letter, he raises a variety of issues that came up during the county visits. A widespread focus on transportation and infrastructure was a universal theme:

Across the state, this same anecdote came up time and time again – counties everywhere simply cannot keep up with proper maintenance at these historically low funding levels.

Barr’s letter also talks about cross-border effects of statewide policies — recognizing that nearly all parts of Maryland are close to a state border.

As we traveled to visit the manor corners of this beautiful state, it became very clear to me how important our state geography is. Our small state stretches across lengthy state borders – and that matters substantially for policy issues here at home.

In Washington County, we are very aware of cross-border pressures that face our businesses and services. At its narrow point, the county spans less than two miles from the West Virginia and Pennsylvania borders. Employers, homebuilders, and civic organizations must routinely be aware of out-of-state competition as they make decisions in the area.

These issues arise in every part of Maryland. We compete for residents and businesses with surrounding states who offer a dramatically different mix of taxes, regulations, labor standards, and
quality-of-life offerings. We are uniformly proud of Maryland, and want to see the state succeed.

Barr closes with encouragement on the benefits of open communication, and his own experience as MACo President:

It has been a great honor, and a personal pleasure, to serve as MACo president this year. One of the great privileges that has afforded me has been an avenue to get to know you, and to seize on ways to work together for all Marylanders. I know that partnership – both at the personal level, and at the larger state-and-county level – will mean better outcomes for the residents we all represent.

Read John Barr’s letter, as MACo President, to Governor Hogan.

NACo October 26 Webinar: Is Your County Solar Ready? Strategies for Removing Local Barriers to Solar Energy

naco logoThe National Association of Counties (NAC0) will host a webinar “Is Your County Solar Ready? Strategies for Removing Local Barriers to Solar Energy” on Wednesday, October 26, 2016 at 2 p.m.

Despite rapid growth in solar energy markets across the country, solar is still often limited by local barriers in zoning, permitting and installation. Local government ‘soft costs’ –the non-hardware and administrative costs of solar—and ‘red tape’ ultimately raise the price of solar energy systems, which is passed on to residents and businesses.

In an effort to become more solar-friendly, many counties are seeking to improve and streamline their local solar policies and processes. Join us for this webinar to dive into best practice examples of strategies and solutions currently being implemented in counties across the country. Participants will also learn more about the SolSmart program as an available resource for counties to gain no-cost technical assistance in removing local barriers to solar and an opportunity to receive high-profile, national recognition.

For more information, please contact Jack Morgan.

Click here to register.

MACo Adopts 2017 Legislative Initatives

The MACo Legislative Committee adopted its four legislative initiatives for the 2017 session during its meeting on September 21. The four topics, have all gathered broad interest and discussion across the state during the last year.

28 different initiative proposals were received from a wide swath of county officials and organizations. MACo’s Initiatives Committee met through the summer to recommend a slate of no more than four items, consistent with the MACo by-laws. The limited number of initiatives is designed to keep the Association’s focus limited — but does not preclude involvement and effort on behalf of other important issues.

________________________________

2017 Legislative Initiatives

Re-invest In Local Roads, Bridges, and Infrastructure – Recession-driven cost shifts have left local roadways lacking proper maintenance, bridges in dire need, and other public infrastructure neglected. Re-investing in infrastructure – a call being heard at every level of government – is good for Maryland jobs, business attractiveness, and quality of life across the state. Meanwhile, funding for school maintenance, water delivery systems, and public safety centers all lack predictable centralized funding commitments. MACo calls on state leaders to take action in 2017:

* Approve meaningful new FY 2018 funding for restoring Highway User Revenues – using the fair, statewide formula used for decades

* Enact a phased-in restoration of the historic 30% local share of state transportation revenues – enhancing safety and road quality for motorists everywhere

* Document and assess the state of public infrastructure across Maryland – assessing the needs and reliable revenue sources targeted for each area of service

Strong and Smart State Funding for School Construction – The State’s commitment to school construction funding needs to remain strong and smart – to best serve the modern needs of our schoolchildren, educators, and communities. Strong state funding will recognize modern cost factors as we achieve new environmental and energy standards, satisfy heightened needs for technology, ensure student safety, fulfill community resource needs, and mesh with evolving teaching methods. Smart state funding will provide flexibility for county governments seeking cost-effective solutions to meeting student and community school construction needs. A smarter state-county school construction program will reduce unnecessary regulation, revise processes to work alongside county budget decisions, provide a county voice in state school construction funding decisions, promote statewide and regional efficiencies, and provide a meaningful opportunity to pursue alternative financing for school construction.

Energy Facility Siting – For decades, the state has exercised a very narrow pre-emption of local planning and zoning authority for major power plants, grounded in the need for the larger power grid to receive ample power supply. Recent cases before the state’s Public Service Commission threaten to dramatically widen that principle, applying it to virtually any generation facility, regardless of its size or importance to the regional power grid. A new generation of power facilities – from solar farms to alternative technologies – could be freed up to ignore local zoning and oversight. This decision threatens local land use control — and the important rights of communities to guide their own historic, agricultural, and residential character.

Balancing Release of Police Body Camera Video – As governments work to implement sensible police body camera policies, the State should clarify how body camera footage is treated under Maryland’s Public Information Act (PIA). The PIA was largely created to handle paper documents and only recently updated to better handle static electronic records. However, the PIA still does not address the practical, technical, and privacy challenges facing a local government from potential requests of hundreds of hours of accumulated body camera video, all of which must be subjected to attorney review and redaction where appropriate. In light of such challenges, MACo supports legislation to strike a reasonable balance between making affected people having proper access to the footage while preventing overbroad, abusive, or invasive requests.

________________________________

In the weeks ahead, Conduit Street will feature more detail on the policy and legislative importance of each of these major topics.

Proposed BAT Septic Regs, MDE FAQ Sheet Published

The proposed regulations to repeal the mandate for best available nitrogen removal technology (BAT) septic systems outside of a critical area (beyond 1,000 feet of the waters of the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays or their tributaries) were published in the 2016-09-16 issue of the Maryland Register. Public comment on the proposed regulations is open through October 17. It is likely that the legislative committee that reviews regulations – the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review (AELR) – will request a hearing on the proposed regulations and could potentially place a temporary hold on them. Assuming no unexpected procedural disruptions, the regulations could be finalized and go into effect in early 2016.

Additionally, the Maryland Department of the Environment has released a FAQ sheet on the proposed regulations. The FAQ sheet describes the proposed regulations and then answers several questions on the implementation process and the effect on homeowners and developers. From the FAQ sheet:

When can we expect the regulations to change?

The final adoption date of draft regulations is not available at this time. The draft regulatory changes were submitted to the Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review committee (AELR) on August 22, 2016. The AELR Committee reviews the proposed changes, the draft regulations are published on the Maryland Register for 45 days, which includes a 30 day public comment period. The proposal to change the regulations may take several months; a final date is not known at this time.

Can I submit a septic permit today that does not indicate a BAT unit will be installed?

No, the regulations that are currently in place are applicable and every Approving Authority must adhere to those regulations. …

My new construction is not to be completed until next year; can I hold off on installing the BAT unit?

Yes, if the Approving Authority is in agreement and the property will meet all requirements under the draft regulation. However, use and occupancy of a new structure cannot be approved until the septic construction permit is finalized.

Can a homeowner take an existing BAT and convert it to a conventional septic system or make the BAT inoperable?

The Approving Authority may allow this proposed change on privately purchased BATs at their discretion so long as the property is approvable with a conventional septic disposal system and the draft regulations are adopted as final.

If the property received any Bay Restoration Funds (partial or full grant) for the purchase, installation, and operation and maintenance (O&M) contract, the BAT shall not be converted to a conventional septic system or be made inoperable.

Must a homeowner maintain service in perpetuity of the BAT system?

Yes, the regulation does not change the requirement for the operation and maintenance in perpetuity. Any BAT unit installed in Maryland, existing or proposed, must be serviced by a certified service provider. …

Can an existing 5 year Operation and Maintenance contract be changed to a 2 year after the regulation is in effect?

If the property received Bay Restoration Funds for the purchase, installation, and O&M contract, the O&M contract cannot be reduced. If the property did not utilize BRF funds, the homeowner may renegotiate with the manufacturer and service provider for a two year contract.

Useful Links

AELR Committee Webpage

MACo Submits County Concerns on Autonomous & Connected Vehicles

MACo submitted written testimony highlighting county issues with autonomous and connected vehicles at a 2016-09-20 briefing of the Joint Committee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology, and Biotechnology. The Joint Committee also heard testimony from Maryland’s Autonomous and Connected Vehicle Working Group, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the automotive industry. An autonomous vehicle is a vehicle that can control itself for short or extended periods of time, or does not need a driver at all. A connected vehicle is plugged into a network or other information system and can relay information and possibly receive commands through this system.

Motor Vehicle Administrator Christine Nizer discussed the activities of the Working Group, stressing that “safety is a key priority for us.” She stated the Working Group has prepared recommendations on how to move forward with fully autonomous and connected vehicles, but are waiting the guidance from NHTSA.

The NHTSA representative announced that the guidance has just been released and covers four primary areas: (1) the human/machine interface (including fail safes, data collection and privacy, etc.); (2) state model deployment (a consistent set of requirements for automotive manufacturers to follow); (3) how NHTSA will use its existing regulatory tools to assist with the transition process; and (4) potential new authority MHTSA may seek from Congress.

Renee Gibson, representing the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers expressed support for the NHTSA’s guidance approach as the technology for autonomous and connected vehicles is rapidly changing.

In its written testimony, MACo outlined three key areas: (1) planning and infrastructure; (2) law enforcement and training; and (3) liability. MACo also stressed the importance of having county representatives participate in the State’s oversight process moving forward. From MACo’s testimony:

Planning and Infrastructure

County land use and road planning will likely change as a result of fully autonomous and connected vehicles. Autonomous vehicles will present county planners and engineers with more mobility options, increased traffic efficiency, and fewer accidents. However, road infrastructure will have to change to reflect the need for clear road markings and signage to allow autonomous vehicles to properly navigate. This will be a challenge as counties are struggling with even basic road maintenance due to the current level of Highway User Revenue funding.

Even more challenging will be the implementation of any information technology (IT) infrastructure needed to enable connected vehicles. Creating a working and secure network of sensors and relays throughout a county will be beyond the fiscal and engineering means of most jurisdictions.

Law Enforcement and Training

Autonomous and connected vehicles will require changes to current traffic laws and the way they are enforced. Many current laws center on the actions of a human driver and will need to be re-tailored to accommodate autonomous vehicles.

For example, is someone who is drunk or impaired still subject to the relevant traffic law if their car is actually doing the driving? What about cell phone usage or texting? Can someone sleep while being driven by an autonomous vehicle? What about underage, elderly, or medically impaired passengers who could not qualify for a driver’s license or otherwise drive? When an accident happens with an autonomous vehicle, is the vehicle or the human passenger at fault? If there is no human passenger at all, is the car at fault? How would points and fines be assessed in such a situation?

Connected vehicles will likely have the ability to be manipulated remotely. Would a law enforcement agency have the authority to remotely order a suspect vehicle to automatically pull over or shut down? Would the processes for identifying vehicles or tracking their location change?

Any changes to law enforcement practices will also require the (potentially extensive) retraining of law enforcement personnel.

Liability

Counties are concerned about liability for both infrastructure and county-owned vehicles. Clear rules are needed for liability regarding road infrastructure (for autonomous vehicles) and IT infrastructure (for connected vehicles). Otherwise, a county will often find itself the subject of “faulty infrastructure” claims as a result of its financial resources. Furthermore, what are the reasonable steps a county should take to not be legally liable if a connected vehicle is “hacked” through a county network? Remote vehicle hacking has already occurred and fully connected vehicles will have many more access points against which an attack can be launched.

There also needs to be clarity about the liability of county-owned fully autonomous vehicles that cause an accident or injury. What is the appropriate standard of care a vehicle owner must follow to not be liable? Finally, how will insurance coverage function for autonomous and connected vehicles?

The Joint Committee also heard testimony on digital equity in public schools and the use of open source digital textbooks in colleges (leading to the elimination of physical textbooks).

Useful Links

MACo Testimony on Autonomous and Connected Vehicles

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Autonomous & Connected Vehicles

 

Former State Officials Criticize BAT Septic Repeal

A Bay Journal article (2016-09-18) reported that several former State officials are critical of Governor Lawrence (Larry) Hogan’s proposed repeal of the use of best available nitrogen removal technology (BAT) septic systems outside of the critical areas. New homes within a critical area (an area within 1,000 feet of the Chesapeake or Atlantic Coastal Bays or their tributaries) will still have to have a BAT system. The article stated that BAT septics cost about $7,500 more than traditional systems, require about $112 a year in electricity usage, and $150-$300 per year in maintenance after the first five years. The article summarized the rationale of the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) in introducing regulations to repeal the mandate:

In a brief interview, [Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben] Grumbles acknowledged that the rollback would allow more nitrogen pollution to enter the Bay, but he called the increase “insignificant.” He said state officials would figure out how to offset it as they devise a plan for keeping nutrient pollution from increasing with future growth and development in Maryland. …

In a prepared statement released by the MDE, Grumbles said, “We are customizing the statewide requirement to meet local watershed needs more effectively while still insisting on excellent environmental results.”

However, former Secretary of the Environment Robert (Bob) Summers disagreed with the repeal:

Robert Summers, who worked at the MDE for 30 years and served as environment secretary under former Gov. Martin O’Malley, said nitrogen from septic systems everywhere, not just those closest to the Bay, threatens water quality.

“I fail to see how it is an unfair regulatory burden on septic owners that they treat their wastewater when those of us on sewage systems are paying more and more for upgrades to collection systems and treatment plants,” Summers said. “The whole population needs to do its share to control pollution. Why should rural residents get a free pass?”

Former Secretary of Planning Richard (Rich) Hall echoed Summers’ concern:

Making new homes pay for less-polluting septic systems and restricting where they could be built was intended to steer development into urban cores and reduce land fragmentation, said Richard Hall, who was secretary of planning under O’Malley.

Changing the regulations is “just 360 bad,” Hall said. “You’re polluting and you’re not paying to remove that nutrient pollution, unlike the people on sewer, who are paying.”

The article stated that according to MDE, Maryland would still meet its 2017 nitrogen reduction requirements under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load even if the repeal goes forward.

Previous Conduit Street Coverage of BAT Septic Systems

Diversity Concerns Threaten Current Medical Cannabis License Awards

Several Washington Post articles reported that concerns over the Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission’s handling of geographic and racial diversity issues during its review of grower applicants could result in both legislation and litigation, potentially jeopardizing the current application progress.

Racial Diversity

Washington Post article (2016-09-10) discussed the recent concerns raised by some legislators and minority stakeholders that the Commission process used by the Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission did not properly take into account racial diversity issues, with none of the 15 preliminary grower licenses going to African-American owned businesses. The concerns have called into question the application process and could result in both legislation and litigation.

According to the article, the Commission did not give extra weight to minority-owned businesses based on a letter from the Maryland Attorney General’s Office stating that it would be illegal absent a showing of discrimination in the medical cannabis industry. However, the AG’s office subsequently clarified that the Commission could have orderd a study of disparities in similar industries, such as pharmaceutical manufacturing, to justify giving a preference to minority-owned applicants. From the article:

Del. Cheryl D. Glenn (D-Baltimore) announced the plans [to introduce emergency legislation during the 2017 Session] at a Friday meeting of the Legislative Black Caucus aimed at addressing diversity in the burgeoning and potentially lucrative medical cannabis industry. …

Paul W. Davies, chairman of the cannabis commission, met with Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) on Tuesday and said their offices will work together to come up with ways to achieve diversity. …

The ideas floated at Friday’s meeting included eliminating caps on marijuana growing licenses to allow all minority companies to compete, conducting another round of licensing exclusively for minority-owned businesses and even starting the entire application process over, with race taken into account. …

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has dispatched two top staff members to work with black lawmakers on the issue.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) pulled Glenn out of Friday’s meeting for a private conversation, later telling meeting attendees that the diversity issue was “getting thoroughly vetted.”

The article also noted that litigation by certain African-American growers was a strong possibility.

Geographic Diversity

A 2016-09-12 Washington Post article discussed the controversy generated by the Commission’s decision to pass over the two lowest scoring grower applicants who otherwise would have qualified for one of the 15 grower’s licenses in favor of two slightly lower ranked applicants in order to ensure geographic diversity. Litigation is also being considered by the two rejected growers. From the article:

“We wanted everybody who would substantially look at this to come back and say ‘you know what, the commission did create geographic diversity when we licensed marijuana,’” [Commissioner Buddy] Robshaw told prospective marijuana entrepreneurs at the meeting. …

“We were dismayed by the outcome, and believe the commission’s decision and process were improper and fundamentally flawed,” said Pete Kadens, chief executive of Green Thumb Industries-Maryland, which initially was ranked in the top 15 but was denied a license in order to make room for Prince George’s-based Holistic Industries and Shore Natural Rx, of Worchester County.

GTI had planned to grow in Washington County, west of Frederick, and was the lowest-scoring of three applicants from that county that were originally in the top 15. The other demoted company was Maryland Cultivation and Processing, the lowest-ranked of three top-tier Frederick County applicants.

“This isn’t a game like ‘Jeopardy,’ ” said Ed Weidenfeld, a partner in Cultivation and Processing. “This is a very, very valuable award from the state that was promised to go to the most suitable [applicants].”

Both GTI and Maryland Cultivation and Processing have asked the commission to preserve documents related to the licensing decision, a preliminary step for litigation, and have joined a legislative push to expand the cap on grower’s licenses from 15 to 20.

 

Libraries Evolving Into Community Anchors

A Sustainable City Network article (2016-09-07) reported that libraries, including those in rural areas, are altering the services they offer and the role they play in their local communities. The transformation of libraries is occurring in response to changes in information technology and patron needs. From the article:

The American Library Association (ALA) seeks to build and enhance existing relationships between local libraries and their communities. “Libraries are uniquely positioned at the heart of local, campus and school communities, enjoying public trust as repositories of knowledge and offering democratic access,” the association asserts on a special web site dedicated to the idea of transforming libraries for future growth. “The transformed library leverages its assets to open up new possibilities and go beyond informing to dynamically engaging communities.”

ALA calculates there are approximately 119,487 libraries of all kinds in the United States today. More than 9,000 of these are public libraries, consisting of main libraries and often, smaller branches. …

Key trends about library usage were described in the ALA’s 2015 State of America’s Libraries Report. “Academic, public and school libraries are experiencing a shift in how they are perceived by their communities and society. No longer just places for books, libraries of all types are viewed as anchors, centers for academic life and research and cherished spaces.”

The article noted that the transformation of libraries is including in both metro and rural areas:

Rural and small libraries are just as apt as their metro area counterparts to be not just places for books, but centers for applying for jobs, meeting with free volunteer tax consultants, meeting with navigators knowledgeable about the Affordable Care Act, and other social services residents have trouble obtaining elsewhere. …

[Association for Rural and Small Libraries Board President Jet] Kofoot says small and rural libraries become the de facto community center. “Often, the library is the only game in town. Many libraries keep the coffee pot on and have snacks out for patrons. In larger cities, people have coffee shops, diners and fast food places where they can meet over a cup of coffee. In many rural small towns, that isn’t necessarily the case. Libraries look at their community and see what they need, and provide it.” …

From her experience as a consultant, Kofoot offers this suggestion to libraries facing skepticism about their relevance in the 21st century. “Libraries should make a strategic plan to offer services based on community needs. Rural and small libraries are able to do that because they are closer to their community. In a big city library services can be lost in the crowd because so much is available. In a small rural community, the library is connected to the pulse of the community and can be more flexible,” she says.

The article also discussed the challenges most libraries face in attracting teenage patrons.

Useful Links

ALA Website

ALA Webpage on Transforming Libraries

ALA State of America’s Libraries Report 2015

Association for Rural and Small Libraries Website

 

 

Where Are We on Nutrient Credit Trading & AFG?

INTRODUCTION

The “Aligning for Growth” (AFG) policy (known as “Accounting for Growth” prior to the Governor Larry Hogan Administration) will determine how new development must mitigate or offset the water pollution it generates in order to remain in compliance with the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). Nutrient credit trading will allow local governments to address their water pollution goals in a more flexible, efficient, and cost-effective manner by buying or selling credits from nutrient mitigation projects. Both of these policies are critically important to counties but have a complicated and intertwined history. This article outlines the past, present, and potential future of these policies, and the actions MACo has taken on both issues.

MACo has been supportive of nutrient credit trading and argued that it is an important and necessary tool for counties to meet their water pollution reduction goals under both the Bay TMDL and Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permits. MACo has also raised specific concerns about how the AFG policy should work. (Note: Maryland is required to implement an AFG policy under its Watershed Implementation Plan.)

There have been three attempts to create an AFG/nutrient credit trading policy:

1. ORIGINAL MDE PROPOSAL (2012)

In 2012, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) proposed an AFG policy that included nutrient credit trading. Developed largely internally, MDE’s proposal was criticized by MACo, the environmental community, and the development community for lack of stakeholder input. In response to the criticism, MDE withdrew its proposal and began holding preliminary stakeholder meetings throughout 2012.

In its submitted comments, MACo addressed the following issues regarding AFG: (1) simplicity and transparency; (2) flexiblity; (3) offset loads; (4) credit options and fee in lieu; (5) verification and enforcement; and (6) cost. MACo also expressed concern that a potential lack of tradable credits could hamper the development of a robust trading market. The initial stakeholder meetings and feedback resulted in the formation of a Workgroup on Accounting for Growth in Maryland in 2013.

MACo Comments on Accounting For Growth Policy 2012-10-01

2. WORKGROUP ON ACCOUNTING FOR GROWTH IN MARYLAND (2013)

The Workgroup on Accounting for Growth in Maryland was active from January to July of 2013 and attempted to create full AFG and nutrient credit trading policies. The Workgroup included representatives from various State agencies, counties, municipalities, homebuilders, commercial builders, environmental groups, Smart Growth advocates, agriculture, and the private sector. MACo representatives included: Frederick County Sustainability and Environmental Resources Manager Shannon Moore, then-Talbot County Planner Sandy Coyman, and then-Harford County Council Member Mary Ann Lisanti. MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp was a substitute member and also served with representatives from Washington and Baltimore Counties as part of the Workgroup’s technical support subcommittee.

The Workgroup issued a final report in August of 2013. Despite vast differences in starting positions, the Workgroup largely reached consensus in the area of nutrient credit trading. The only major split in opinion regarded trading geographies – with local governments supporting statewide trading unless a local water segment was subject to a nitrogen, phosphorus, or sediment TMDL (in which case any offsets/trades must occur within that local geography). MACo also supported county flexibility to limit trading geographies to an even smaller scale if necessary.

Despite the overall consensus on trading, several key unresolved issues regarding the AFG policy kept the report’s recommendations from being implemented. MDE again considered taking unilateral action, but suspended its efforts due to the 2014 election cycle.

Final Report of AFG Workgroup (2013-08)

3. MARYLAND WATER QUALITY TRADING ADVISORY COMMITTEE (2016)

Discussions about nutrient credit trading and AFG were temporarily halted after the change in Administrations from Governor Martin O’Malley to Governor Larry Hogan. However, in January of 2016, MDE created the Maryland Water Quality Trading Advisory Committee to again take up the issues.

The Advisory Committee separated the trading and AFG issues and first worked on creating a nutrient credit trading policy among different water pollution sectors (agriculture, nonpoint sources like stormwater, and point sources like wastewater treatment plants). County members include: (1) Erik Michelsen, Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works; (2) Shannon Moore, Frederick County Sustainability & Environmental Resources Office; (3) Jim Caldwell, Howard County Office of Community Sustainability; (4) Lisa Feldt, Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection; and (5) Les Knapp, MACo. A sixth rural county representative will be added shortly.

MACo and the county representatives, in conjunction with municipal representatives, jointly submitted recommendations specifically dealing with the unique trading needs for MS4 stormwater purposes. In May, the Advisory Committee suspended its meetings from May to September in order to allow MDE to process and incorporate the significant feedback received from the participating stakeholders. The Advisory Committee will resume meeting in September to review the proposed trading practices and will then move on to developing an AFG policy.

One final sidenote: MDE introduced legislation during the 2016 Session (HB 325) that would have allowed MDE to use monies from the Bay Restoration Fund Wastewater Account to purchase nutrient credits. MACo joined with other stakeholders in reluctantly opposing the bill as premature, given the just starting work of the Advisory Committee.

MACo & Local Government Comments on MS4 Trading Principles (2016-05-18)

MACo Testimony on HB 325

CONCLUSION

MACo will continue to work with the Administration and key stakeholders on both the AFG and nutrient credit trading policies. If you have additional questions or want more information, please contact Les Knapp at lknapp@mdcounties.org or 410.269.0043.

USEFUL LINKS

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of AFG

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Nutrient Credit Trading

Medical Cannabis Creates Economic Opportunities for Support Industries

A Frederick News-Post article (2016-09-04) reported that Maryland’s burgeoning medical cannabis industry poses economic opportunities for the businesses and services needed to support it. The article highlighted the decision of Frederick-based Stulz USA to expand its production of atmospheric control units for data centers to include medical cannabis growing and processing facilities. From the article:

Stulz USA, which is headquartered in Frederick, has started manufacturing air conditioners, or atmosphere control units, for facilities that grow medical marijuana. …

“We fell into it,” said David Meadows, Stulz’s applications engineer manager. “After we fell into it, we decided, well, we’re going to go ahead and attack this as a vertical market and see what kind of traction we get with this.”

Stulz manufactures cooling and dehumidification systems for data centers. …

Meadows said the company will continue marketing the product as medicinal marijuana is legalized in more states. Company officials think business will hit a plateau, likely related to state regulations and demand for the product.

The article also described Anne Arundel County Community College Professor Shad Ewart’s class and prognosis on the opportunities created by the medical cannabis industry:

[Ewart] is teaching his fourth semester of “Entrepreneurial Opportunities in Emerging Markets: Marijuana Legalization” and said Stulz is one of many companies that will prosper from the legalization of marijuana.

Ewart said he tells his class not to wait for the competitive growers license, but to think of indirect businesses that support the industry. He compares it to the Gold Rush — people who made the money weren’t those searching for gold, but the ones selling picks and shovels.

“For every job that will be created in this growing or dispensary industry, you will see upward of three to four other jobs that will be created,” he said.