PSC Changing of the Guards

Jason M. Stanek has taken over the helm of Maryland’s Public Service Commission (PSC), following the departure of former PSC Chair Kevin Hughes on June 30.

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Former PSC Chair Kevin Hughes

The Natural Resources Defense Council provides a warm tribute to Hughes, who served as Governor Martin O’Malley’s deputy legislative officer:

Respectful describes Hughes’ working style perfectly, and explains how he was able to accomplish big things while on PSC. For example, in 2015 he led fellow Commissioners and staff as they developed and issued a historic order vaulting Maryland up in the rankings of state energy efficiency policy published annually by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Key components of this order were then enacted into law by the Maryland legislature and Governor Hogan in 2017, underscoring the importance of this achievement.

Stanek most recently served as Senior Counsel to the Energy Subcommittee of the US House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee. Prior to that, he served 16 years in progressively senior positions in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Stanek holds a B.A. in International Relations from Tulane University and a J.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo, School of Law.

Governor Larry Hogan said of Stanek:

Jason Stanek’s impressive career working in positions related to energy and utility policy demonstrates his vast experience and understanding of these complex issues. He is knowledgeable in nearly every aspect of the utility industry, and I have no doubt that he will serve Maryland well in this new role.

Could Global Factors Slow The Local Solar Boom?

Maryland has seen a rapid growth in both utility-scale and smaller-level solar generation capacity – witnessed by the land use pressures facing many parts of the state (and legislation in recent years to address those continuing pressures). See prior Conduit Street coverage of solar issues for a flavor of this ongoing challenge to local, especially agricultural, land use.

A report on the Bloomberg news site indicates that China’s recent announcement of reduced plans for new solar installations could trigger a contraction in this market, where growth has been strong in recent years:

The global solar market could do something this year that it’s never done before: shrink.

Solar installations in 2018 may total 95 gigawatts, down 3 percent from a year earlier, based on the most conservative of three scenarios modeled by Bloomberg NEF in a report Monday. For comparison’s sake, the typical nuclear reactor has about a gigawatt of capacity.

The forecast, even with its potential call for some retraction, still suggests an overall upward trend, possibly fueled by a decline in price for equipment and materials for installations, also resulting from reduced Chinese demand.

Federal BUILD Act Expands Brownfield Redevelopment Opportunities

A Miles & Stockbridge Environment & Energy blog article (2018-06-15) reported that recently passed federal legislation provides significant incentives for brownfield revitalization and redevelopment. The Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development Act of 2018 (BUILD Act) improves the existing brownfield program creates new redevelopment incentives. The article noted that there are approximately 450,000 brownfield sites throughout the nation.

The article highlighted the BUILD Act’s: (1) new and enhanced incentives under the Brownfields Program; (2) codification of tenant liability protection under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA); and (3) incentives for redevelopment of waterfront brownfields and sites using renewable energy.

When discussing  waterfront redevelopment, the article cited an example from Baltimore, Maryland:

Many former industrial sites were sited along waterways out of necessity and are ripe for reuse as mixed use commercial and residential areas. A successful example of this can be found in Baltimore, Maryland. Former warehousing and manufacturing sites along the Patapsco River contaminated with heavy metals, petroleum, and PAHs, were converted into commercial and residential use though Maryland’s voluntary cleanup program, grants from EPA, and private investment. …

Cleanup of Superfund sites and brownfields sites has been a priority of the current administration and the current EPA. Through the BUILD Act, Congress has provided EPA and the market with additional tools in the form of additional liability protections and financial incentives that will boost redevelopment and reuse of contaminated sites through the Brownfields Program.

Useful Links

BUILD Act of 2018

Maryland Local Governments Receive $700,000 in Climate Resilience Grants

A Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) press release (2018-06-19) announced the award of $700,000 in Climate Resilience Grants to local governments. The competitive grants help local governments perform risk assessments, prepare for, and recover from flooding and other severe weather events. County recipients included Anne Arundel, Cecil, Somerset, Talbot, and Worcester. From the press release:

“We have already witnessed the devastating effects that severe rain and storms can cause in our communities,” Maryland Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton said. “This program aims to help our local partners become better prepared and more resilient so they are able to recover from and respond to climate-related challenges, risks and threats, be it flooding or sea level rise.”

Maryland communities awarded grant funding this year include:

Anne Arundel County – Funding for the West River United Methodist Center to address erosion, sea level rise and stormwater pollution by a living shoreline and regenerative stormwater conveyance systems in the West River.

Cecil County – To develop a countywide green infrastructure network and plan using state planning tools and public input.

City of Annapolis – Assistance to the city in its application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System and public outreach on risk reduction to flooding.

City of Annapolis – To assist St. Mary’s Catholic Church in the development of a living shoreline along Spa Creek that works in tandem with on-site stormwater practices to address water quality and quantity.

City of Laurel – Assistance to the city in its application to Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System and public outreach on risk reduction to flooding.

Somerset County – To conduct an assessment of drainage ditches in two areas of Deal Island, which will also identify mitigation needed to alleviate localized flooding.

Talbot County – To develop communication strategies around flooding risk and impacts, what community members should do during a flood, and how flooding impacts may change in the future

Town of Berlin – To develop a Resilience Element for the Comprehensive Plan, including public engagement, and addressing short and long term climate impacts.

Town of Charlestown – To develop a system wide inventory of the town’s stormwater drainage system with a prioritized list of improvements. Evaluate the town’s floodplain management regulations.

Town of Deale Beach – Assistance to the Deale Beach Citizens Association in the design of a living shoreline and to address storm impacts and wave energy.

Town of Hebron – To support the development of a study and resulting stormwater management plan to mitigate flooding issues.

Town of Oxford – To design green infrastructure practices that address coastal storm impacts, tidal flooding, and stormwater runoff on public and private properties.

Worcester County – To design a natural shoreline stabilization and marsh restoration project along Isle of Wight Bay to address recurrent community flooding and sea level rise.

Worcester County – To develop a wetland restoration and natural shoreline stabilization project on Tizzard Island in Chincoteague Bay.

Grants will be used to identify and prioritize vulnerable communities, incorporate climate change data and information into existing plans and policies, and develop nature-based or natural solutions to control flooding.

Useful Links

DNR Funding Opportunities Web Page (including Resilience Grants)

NJIT Offers Two Free Brownfield Training Sessions

 

 

 

The New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) is offering two one-day training sessions on brownfield redevelopment on August 1 and 2 in Catonsville, MD. The courses are part of NJIT’s Technical Assistance to Brownfield Communities Program (TAB).

TAB Background

Basic background on the program is provided by an NJIT TAB Flyer:

NJIT provides free technical assistance to state, regional, county, tribal, and local government entities and nonprofit organizations interested in learning about, identifying, assessing, cleaning up, and redeveloping brownfield sites in EPA Region 1 (New England), Region 3 (Mid-Atlantic), and Region 4(Southeast).

Types of Assistance provided by NJIT TAB include (but are not limited to):

  • Guidance on funding opportunities
  • Explaining laws and regulations
  • Navigating regulatory programs
  • Consultant Procurement (review of draft RFPs, creation of evaluation criteria, consultant selection)
  • Review and critique of grant applications
  • Interpretation of technical and scientific reports and data (such as site characterization results)
  • Development of Strategic Plans
  • Development of community specific site evaluation and prioritization processes
  • Development of Corridor Assets and Needs Studies
  • Development of Site Redevelopment Visions
  • Explaining clean-up technologies
  • Design and conduct of community engagement activities
  • Educational workshops such as Brownfields 101
  • Seminars, Webinars, and Boot Camps on specific brownfield related topics
  • Community planning and visioning workshops
  • All-EPA Brownfield grantee meetings
  • And much more!

All services under TAB are provided free of charge.

Brownfield Basics Seminar

Date & Time: August 1, 2018, 1:00 pm – 4:30 pm

Location: 5522 Research Park Dr. Catonsville, MD 21228

Basic Information from the Brownfield Basics Flyer:

WHAT:  Join us in learning about Brownfields, methods for grant writing, and funding sources available for brownfield redevelopment.

WHO:  This workshop is open to Communities and non-profit groups from the Mid-Atlantic area interested in learning about Brownfields and federal funding programs to support Brownfields revitalization community efforts.

The cost of the seminar is free but attendees must register in advance.

Brownfields Green Infrastructure Boot Camp

Date & Time: August 2, 2018, 9:00 am – 3:30 pm

Location: 5522 Research Park Dr. Catonsville, MD 21228

Basic information from the Brownfields Green Infrastructure Flyer:

WHAT: This boot camp will be a hands-on session which will provide attendees with an understanding of the challenges, applications, techniques, and benefits of using Green Infrastructure (GI) on any project site, including the challenges of implementing GI on brownfield sites.

WHO: This boot camp seeks to engage community stakeholders, municipal officials, redevelopment authority staff, and planners.

There is no cost for the boot camp but attendees must register in advance.

If you have questions about TAB or either of the sessions, please contact Gary White at gwhite@njit.edu.

MDLCV Releases Vision 2025 Environmental Issue Guide

The Maryland League of Conservation Voters (MDLCV) Education Fund released its Vision 2025: 2018 Issue Guide on June 6, 2018. The guide details issues that will be important to the environmental community during the 2019 Session and beyond. From the guide’s introduction:

Maryland League of Conservation Voters Education Fund is dedicated to building the effectiveness of the environmental community by maximizing participation of conservation-minded individuals in public policy decisions. We are proud to present this guide to help Marylanders understand the issues facing our state over the next four years. …

Whoever is governor will oversee an administration that will determine our role as citizens of a global community, as well as the future of our citizens’ health, safety, and quality of life. The goals we reach in 2025 will be set in motion by the decisions our public servants make in the upcoming legislative session.

The guide provides a broad outline of issues that MDLCV and other participating environmental groups view as priorities in order to meet their Vision 2025 goals. These issues and goals include:

  • Setting the stage for 100% clean energy
    • Making Maryland a leader in clean, renewable energy
    • Ensuring the completion of the first large-scale Off-shore Wind farm on the East Coast
    • Building a clean energy workforce
    • Moving towards a clean transportation system, including improved public transit and electric vehicle infrastructure
  • Fishable, swimmable, drinkable state waters, and a healthier Bay Watershed
    • Improved bay ecosystem, including oyster sanctuaries and marine life
    • Smarter development policies that protect forests and open space
    • Reduced run-off from septics and agriculture
    • Conowingo Dam solution involving a federal and multi-state partnership
    • Accelerated progress in meeting targets to protect the health of the Chesapeake Bay
  • Improved health outcomes in all communities through reduced environmental degradation
    • Improved health in communities of color
    • Cleaner communities with reduced trash
    • Higher quality of life through sustainable development
  • Aggressive enforcement of environmental regulations through professionally led, well-staffed, appropriately funded state agencies.
    • Restored funding to enforcement agencies
    • Improved metrics on enforcement outcomes
    • Reduced recidivism of pollution violators
    • Renewed emphasis on protection of sensitive species, including oysters
  • An educated, energized, engaged electorate, reflecting the diversity of Maryland’s population
    • Public financing of elections
    • Improved voter access
    • Strengthened voter education

The guide also includes critical dates for the 2018 election and voter registration information. It does not include specific political endorsements.

Lower Crime, Fewer Foreclosures, Faster Permitting…Data Tracking Contributes to County Performance

Prince George’s County’s transforming neighborhoods initiative has contributed to positive results through a CountyStat program focused on gathering and analyzing information from 3-1-1 calls and other sources.

The National Association of Counties article, Building Trust: Performance Metrics in Counties, profiles performance management programs in county governments in Maryland, North Carolina, and Illinois.

NACo writes:

Counties across the country are in a continuous process of performance improvement. From running local health departments to overseeing elections, counties deliver a variety of services and represent an industry of half a trillion dollars in annual operations. Performance metrics have become especially important for counties in face of rising state and federal mandates, decreasing funding shared by states with counties and multiplying state limitations on counties’ ability to raise revenue.

The presentation by Prince George’s CountyStat Director Ben Birge shared several ways that his county program has been able to deliver results, including public safety and customer service outcomes.

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Prince George’s CountyStat program offers service improvements based on data analysis.

MACo’s Summer Conference will include an Open Government and Data Work Group Roundtable, led by Mike Morello of the Governor’s Office of Performance Improvement, and Ben Birge of Prince George’s County Stat.

The conversation at MACo will include insight into how counties can improve outcomes and increase efficiency with existing resources and select the best targets for results from county performance tracking.

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The National Association of Counties survey found that data collection and metric identification to be top hurdles to county government performance improvement programs.

The National Association of Counties found that the biggest hurdles to data analysis for county governments were data gathering and identifying metrics. At MACo, the Governor’s Office of Performance Improvement will offer Round Table will bring forward for conversation:

  • Free data available from the State of Maryland, and
  • Metrics that make the biggest difference to your county’s bottom line

The Round Table will be held on Wednesday, August 15, from 4:30 pm – 5:30 pm at the Roland E Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, MD. To attend the Open Government Work Group Round Table, register for the MACo Summer Conference. Daily registration options are available.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Reinvest Maryland 2.0 Unveiled

MDP logo

A Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) press release (2018-06-05) announced the release of Reinvest Maryland 2.0. The report is an update of the original Reinvest Maryland and provides a toolkit for assisting local governments in infill, redevelopment and revitalization projects. The report also includes studies that are applicable in urban, suburban, and rural areas.  From the press release:

The Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission (Commission) and the Department of Planning (Planning) today released Reinvest Maryland 2.0, a report that provides resources for all levels of government to work together, strengthen collaborative efforts to support revitalization and reinvestment, and engage stakeholders in supporting Maryland’s communities to improve the quality of life.

The report examines redevelopment in Maryland and identifies tools, case studies and best practices that support redevelopment and revitalization in existing communities. …

Reinvest Maryland 2.0 addresses all aspects of the redevelopment process, including: Promoting Reinvestment; Regulatory Reform; and Financing Tools and Programs. It also includes a set of Policy Recommendations.

The Commission and its workgroups collaborated closely with Planning, which staffs the commission, as well as other state agencies, to: identify best practices in Maryland communities; identify, review and refine the recommendations; and communicate with local officials and practitioners to identify and share the most effective planning tools and resources.

The extensive research provided insight into the best ways to create vibrant places with a range of housing, employment and transportation options in Maryland, as well as identifying strategies to overcome the challenges that communities face with redevelopment. “We must continue to provide technical assistance and resources that support reinvestment initiatives in Maryland’s great communities,” said Commission Chairman Susan Summers. “Reinvest Maryland 2.0 outlines recommendations to help us grow smarter and improve quality of life.”

Planning will build upon this work with the Reinvest Maryland website, as a onestop source of redevelopment information in Maryland, and solicit additional case studies and information from local communities and practitioners to support the educational efforts of the Commission’s workgroups.

“This has been a great team effort and the new Reinvest Maryland 2.0 website provides an interactive experience for Maryland’s stakeholders,” said Secretary of Planning Robert McCord.

Special Secretary of Smart Growth Wendi Peters noted, “With Governor Hogan’s leadership, we are continuing to assist communities and change Maryland for the better.”

The report includes a series of policy recommendations broken down into several categories. The categories include:

  • Establishing a Vision for Reinvestment
  • Creating and Better Funding Innovative, Effective Reinvestment Programs
  • Identifying and Addressing Regulations and Policies that may Impede Reinvestment
  • Deploying Targeted Financial Tools
  • Promoting Equitable Development
  • Encouraging Excellence in Community Design and Preservation
  • Using Metrics to Gauge Success and Drive Reinvestment
  • Accelerating Transit-Oriented Development

In addition to the basic report and case studies, MDP has created an interactive website that provides further information on case studies, contacts for technical assistance, and a toolbox that allows users to navigate and connect with more than 100 state and federal redevelopment and infill programs.

Useful Links

Reinvest Maryland 2.0 Report

Reinvest Maryland 2.0 Interactive Website

Growth Commission Presents 2018 Sustainable Growth Awards

The Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission presented its 2018 Sustainable Growth Awards in Annapolis on June 4, 2018. The awards highlight individuals, groups, programs, or projects that further the principles of smart and sustainable growth. From a Commission press release (2018-06-04):

The Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission today presented awards for leadership, community planning, and conservation at its sixth annual awards ceremony at the Maryland State House in Annapolis. The awards recognize individuals, organizations, and programs that exemplify well-planned economic and community development initiatives throughout the state. “These award recipients from across Maryland represent creativity, innovation, and passion – traits that we see in leaders across our great state,” said Governor Larry Hogan. “My administration is proud to celebrate their contributions and their commitment to helping change Maryland for the better.” The six winners are individuals and organizations that demonstrate their commitment to sustainable growth – development or redevelopment that is compact, walkable, and takes advantage of existing infrastructure while preserving the rural landscape – in Maryland. “The commission and I are thrilled to recognize these outstanding Maryland projects,” said Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission Chair Susan Summers. “These awards are the highest level of recognition for well-planned economic and community development and sustainability in the state.” “Today’s recipients characterize the resourcefulness, imagination, and originality that makes Maryland a leader in cultural preservation, community and economic development, and environmental stewardship,” said Wendi Peters, Special Secretary of Smart Growth. “I join the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission in celebrating today’s award winners who demonstrate what can happen when great ideas and local vision come together in the spirit of creating economic opportunities, robust communities, and a superior quality of life for Marylanders.”

From Left to Right: Special Secretary of Smart Growth Wendi Peters, SGC Chair Susan Summers, Rock Hall Mayor Brian Jones, Maryland Delegate Jay Jacobs, Maryland Delegate Steven Arentz, Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, and Maryland Senator Stephen Hershey

This year’s award winners included the following (award category is in parentheses):

  1. Rock Hall Mayor Brian Jones (Leadership & Service)
  2. Anacostia River Trail, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Segment (Sustainable Communities)
  3. Havre de Grace Opera House (Sustainable Communities)
  4. Stavros Niarchos Foundation Parkway Theatre Baltimore City (Sustainable Communities)
  5. R House in Baltimore City (Sustainable Communities)
  6. ECO City Farms (Preservation and Conservation)

Useful Links

2018 Sustainable Growth Award Winners Web Page (includes videos for each award winner)

SGC Web Page

Still Time To Speak Up On Maryland Transportation Plan

There’s still time to provide your input into the Maryland Transportation Plan!

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Courtesy MDOT

A few months ago, the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) released a survey to allow Marylanders to weigh in on State transportation priorities. MDOT continues to receive comments and questions on the Plan at 2019MTP@mdot.state.md.us. All comments received through June 29 will be addressed in the draft plan anticipated in Summer 2018.

MDOT develops a new Maryland Transportation Plan every five years. The Plan articulates a 20-year vision for transportation priorities in the State, and provides a rubric for transportation investment decision-making.

MDOT has released this video explaining the planning process:

For even more information on the Maryland Transportation Plan, visit MDOT’s very informative website.