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

Kent Could Have Sole Veto Authority If New Bay Bridge Span Were Located in Tolchester

Cecil Whig article (2018-08-03) reported that if the proposed new Chesapeake Bay crossing was located in Tolchester, Kent County could have sole veto power over the proposal. The revelation is the result of an interpretation by the Maryland Office of the Attorney General and is based on a 2013 law – § 4-407 of the Transportation Article. This section of the State code reads:

 (a)    This section applies to:
(1)    Caroline County;
(2)    Cecil County;
(3)    Dorchester County;
(4)    Kent County;
(5)    Queen Anne’s County;
(6)    Somerset County;
(7)    Talbot County;
(8)    Wicomico County; and
(9)    Worcester County.

(b)    A State agency, including the Maryland Transportation Authority, may not construct any toll road, toll highway, or toll bridge in the counties enumerated in this section without the express consent of a majority of the governments of the affected counties.

According to the Attorney General’s Office, if the new bridge span were located in Tolchester and was viewed as a toll bridge, then as the only affected county, Kent could theoretically veto the project. Legislation was proposed during the 2018 Session to repeal this section of the Code but the bill failed. The article included a portion of the written response by Assistant Attorney General David Stamper:

“(N)othing I have found in the legislative history suggests the General Assembly specifically contemplated the application of this provision to a toll bridge across the Bay. But the lack of any evidence in the legislative history on this specific point, or the suggestion that the General Assembly likely was focused primarily on infrastructure with a more significant presence on the Eastern Shore, cannot overcome the plain meaning of the statutory language, which expressly limits a State agency’s authority to construct a toll facility, including a toll bridge, in any of the nine Eastern Shore counties,” Stamper wrote. …

“In the final analysis, it is difficult to give conclusive guidance about the application of the statute in the abstract, without applying the statute to a specific proposed toll project,” Stamper wrote. “While I hope this letter is responsive to your questions, it is not an official opinion of the Attorney General.”

While not an official opinion of the Attorney General’s office, Stamper’s interpretation tracks the plain language of § 4-407 and seems likely to be upheld if the statutory language was actually put to the test. The article noted that both the Commissioners and county residents have expressed opposition to a new Bay Bridge span being located in Tolchester.

The article also discussed the ongoing wildlife specialist vacancy at the 2,000-acre Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, which could prompt the closure of the facility to the public. Maryland Delegate Steve Arentz has submitted a letter to the regional chief of the National Wildlife Service calling the refuge “a national treasure” and urging that the position be filled.

Maryland’s Military Takes “All Hands” Approach to Cybersecurity

Several branches of the Maryland Military Department are working together on cybersecurity simulators and demonstrations to improve the security of critical infrastructure.

The Maryland Military Department’s work on cyber issues is a partnership between representatives of the MD Air National Guard and the Maryland Defense Force. Together, these divisions have developed simulations of SCADA systems under cyber attack. SCADA systems may be used in critical infrastructure, such as water systems and 9-1-1 Call Centers.

Screenshot 2018-08-06 10.45.53
Click for video coverage from WBALTV

As reported by WBAL TV, Maryland’s Air National Guard’s cyber capabilities are growing:

Two new Air National Guard units have been activated in Maryland. At full strength, the units will employ more than 300 full-time and traditional airmen, focusing on federal and state missions. The Maryland Air National Guard’s new 175th Cyber Operations Group is one of only two Cyber Operations Groups in the Air National Guard.

For more, see WBALTV, Md. Air National Guard cyber security units activated

Daniel Molina, Commander, 275th Operations Support Squadron, and Colin Patrick, Branch Chief, Information Systems are both members of the cyber project and also handle cyber-related duties for their respective divisions.

Lt Col Molina’s squadron is part of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group, 175th Wing in Baltimore Maryland. He is responsible for synchronizing operations and preparing combat- ready cyberspace forces to conduct global operations in support of Air Force, Joint Task Forces, and Combatant Commands.

Colin Patrick, Branch Chief, Information Systems is part of the Maryland Defense Force. First Lieutenant Colin Patrick is responsible for network engineering, help desk management and voice-over-IP systems at Maryland Defense Force Headquarters. Currently, Lieutenant Patrick is a Senior Network Engineer for the Defense Information Systems Agency in the Mobility division, which provides smartphones capable of operating on government networks at multiple security levels.

For more information, join us for the MACo Summer Conference Session, All Hands On Deck: Cybersecurity for County Governments. In this session, speakers will share a demonstration of what happens during a cyber-attack and provide advice for counties on securing personal information and critical infrastructure including public water and wastewater systems, transportation, and energy systems.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

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

This Israeli Start-Up Could Help Your County Keep The Water Running

Cybersecurity solutions protect critical county infrastructure, including water systems.

County governments are responsible for numerous public services, many of them increasingly dependent on systems vulnerable to cyber attack.

Now an Israeli start-up focused on industrial cybersecurity could help your county safeguard water systems that your residents rely on.

tj_roe
Cybersecurity Start-up VP TJ Roe will be speaking at MACo’s Tech Expo on August 15.

At this year’s MACo Summer Conference Tech Expo, hear from TJ Roe, VP Sales North America of Radiflow Ltd., a Tel Aviv-based industrial cybersecurity company that closed an $18 million investment round, as reported by CTech.

From the article:

Founded in 2010, Radiflow pivoted from developing industry communication solutions to industrial cybersecurity in 2013, CEO Ilan Barda told Calcalist. The company now offers cybersecurity services designed to support critical infrastructure and industrial networks such as electricity and water providers, and reports more than 50 customers, primarily in the U.S. and Europe. The company is headquartered in Tel Aviv and operates another office in the U.S. It employs 35 people.

For more information see, Industrial Cybersecurity Company Radiflow Raises $18 Million

At MACo’s Summer Conference, TJ Roe of Radiflow, will join panelists from the Center for Internet Security and Maryland’s Military Department to discuss solutions for county governments seeking to assess threats and protect against them.

All Hands On Deck: Cybersecurity for County Governments

  • Wednesday, August 15, 12:45 – 1:45 PM
  • Roland E Powell Convention Center
  • Ocean City, Maryland

County government networks possess a wealth of valuable personal information, including Social Security numbers, tax ID numbers, health information, and other sensitive data. Counties also manage critical infrastructure, including 9-1-1 Call Centers, water, and waste water systems. Learn from leading cybersecurity experts how counties can work together to keep fast all data, and protect against cyber-attacks on systems integral to the health and safety of all residents.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

 

 

Carroll Concerned Over School Bus Driver Shortage

Carroll County has a shortage of school bus drivers going into the new school year – and the blame is placed on the new sick leave law.

Mike Hardesty, director of transportation with Carroll County Public Schools, told the Carroll County Times that the next school year will probably suffer from a shortage of drivers, due to the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act.

The contractors who work with the school system have indicated that they need to hire additional substitute drivers to cover for any additional absenteeism.

Hardesty told the Times:

We know some of our major contractors with a large number of buses to man for the opening of school are working hard to make sure they have an adequate number of full-time and part-time drivers.

How Technology Is Helping to Reduce Traffic Congestion & Improve Mobility

The Cobb County Department of Transportation recently announced a data-sharing partnership with Waze, the free, real-time crowdsourced traffic and navigation app powered by the world’s largest community of drivers. Designed as a free, two-way data share of publicly-available traffic information, the Waze Connected Citizens Program promotes greater efficiency, deeper insights, and safer roads for Cobb residents, along with more than 100 other partners around the world.

Launched in October 2014 with 10 city partners, the program has expanded to more than 100 partners including city, state, and country government agencies, nonprofits and first responders. The goals of the program are to reduce congestion, increase the efficiency of incident response, and make data-driven infrastructure decisions.

Waze provides real-time, anonymous, proprietary incident and slow-down information directly from the source: drivers themselves. Partners provide real-time and advanced information about government-reported construction, crash and road closure data.

According to Route Fifty:

The county has spent the last two years integrating its urban traffic control system with geographic information systems, having previously used GIS in operations like water quality assessments.

The Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System, or SCATS, can already change traffic signals automatically using cameras that monitor how many cars are queued at lights.

By joining Waze’s Connected Citizens Program, the county is improving its three-year-old Cobb Commute app notifying drivers of traffic speeds with more actionable insights. The county sends its road construction data to Waze and is piloting a dashboard showing road conditions and reported crashes at its Traffic Management Center.

A GIS-enabled traffic platform can also provide previous crash data, as well as identify problem areas on roads. This means counties can get strategic with how they spend money to make improvements.

To learn more about new technology driving new policy, listen to the most recent episodes of the Conduit Street Podcast.

Useful Links

This Georgia County Integrated GIS With Its Transportation System to Improve Mobility

Waze Connected Citizens Program

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Conduit Street Podcast: New Tech Driving New Policy – Part One

One of the hot topics in the 2018 Maryland General Assembly Session was Next Generation 9-1-1 technology. MACo’s Summer Conference Session, “Calibrating the Compass: GIS in a Next Gen 9-1-1 World,” will discuss how GIS data comes into play and what counties and others need to know as we move forward. The session is scheduled for Saturday, August 18, from 10:15 am – 11:15 am.

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:

Maybe Stay Away From the Bay Today (July 31)…

A little over a hundred years ago, Baltimore City finally completed construction of its wastewater system –  and, since it was one of the last East Coast sewer systems to come to fruition, it was one of the most modern of the day.

This means that, unlike in other East Coast cities with even older systems, not all of the stormwater gets combined with sewage and dumped into the water.

Even so, when the City gets too much rain – like this month, with its record downpours- stones-308249_640the rainwater flows into the City’s sewer system, and then out into the streams, harbor, and Chesapeake Bay. It’s an issue, and it’s why the City has its Sanitary Sewer Consent Decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Baltimore City Public Works has announced that this month was particularly bad:

July has been a month of historically heavy rainfall in Baltimore, and more is in the forecast this week.  These rains have resulted in large amounts of rainwater entering the City’s sewer mains, causing overflows into streams and the harbor.  Much of this was released through structured overflows, designed as part of Baltimore’s sewer system more than 100 years ago.  The city is in the process of eliminating these.

The updated overflow totals of stormwater mixed with sewer water due to rain stands at 45 million gallons for the period of Saturday, July 21, through Wednesday, July 25.  Data for subsequent dates will be provided when available. …

The public is reminded to avoid contact with urban waterways due to the risk of pollution. For information about health concerns as a result of sewer overflows please go to http://health.baltimorecity.gov/sanitary-sewer-overflows-sso.

Read The Sun’s coverage here.

Learn about how Baltimore got to this point from Cooper Moores, LLC’s Dana Cooper, formerly Baltimore City Department of Public Works’ General Counsel and Modified Consent Decree negotiator, at this year’s MACo Summer Conference, “Water, Water Everywhere,” at the session, Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water: Know Your Water Law.

The MACo Summer Conference will be held August 15-18, 2018 at the Rowland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. This year the conference’s theme is “Water, Water Everywhere.”

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Infrastructure Investment, One Oyster at a Time

oyster-989182_1280Governor Larry Hogan is providing millions of dollars in additional funding for oyster recovery efforts. The source? The Transportation Trust Fund.

About $8 million from the fund will support the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) over the next four years. According to DNR’s press release, the funds will support “ongoing and future [oyster] industry efforts, including dedicated funding for equipment, labor, material, supervision and support.”

Increased funding will go toward oyster propagation and replenishment efforts through 2023 with no less than $925,000 annually going to support the wild oyster fishery, with the Department of Natural Resources coordinating with county oyster committees and watermen on shared projects and priorities, including the establishment of oyster seed areas, monitoring, sampling, seed and shell plantings, surveying and transplanting.

Deputy Transportation Secretary Jim Ports alludes to the transportation nexus in the release:

The Chesapeake Bay is a great source of business to both the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore and the oyster industry. Thanks to our partnership with the Department of Natural Resources, this new oyster restoration agreement provides even more money directly to Maryland watermen to ensure a sustainable oyster industry for years to come.

Oyster experts also join forces with port powerhouses at the MACo Summer Conference general session, “The Wealth in our Water,” on Thursday, August 16 from 12:45 pm – 1:45 pm. Maryland Port Administration’s Dominic Scurti joins the Oyster Recovery Partnership’s Ward Slacum and Andrea Vernot, President & Managing Partner of Choptank Communications, to discuss the deluge of ways the Bay keeps Maryland’s economy flowing – from tiny oysters to supersized ships.

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:

 

Whose Water Bill Is It, Anyway?

Baltimore Sun reporters Ian Duncan and Pamela Wood are digging into an issue that has plagued Baltimore City and Baltimore County for years: who owes what for the ages-old water delivery system that serves the region.

The County is refusing to pay the City’s bill of $23 million – money allegedly owed by the County for the difference between the actual cost to the City to provide water to County residents, and the cost the County bills its residents for that water. The County underbills it residents for the water, and then pays the difference to the City – and currently contests the amount the City is charging.

This issue has been going on for years. From the Sun’s coverage:

In the financial year that ended in summer 2014, the city issued the county a bill of about $4.8 million to make up for customers’ underpayment. Another for just under $15.5 million followed in 2015, and a bill for $2.4 million was issued in 2016. The figure for 2017 was still being calculated at the time the consultants finished writing their report.

The county hasn’t paid any of those bills, the [City’s] consultants reported.

Duncan followed the article with a tweet referencing Moody’s recent rating downgrade of the water system:

Sure enough, last December, Moody’s Investors Services downgraded the City’s senior lien water revenue bonds to Aa3 from Aa2, and its subordinate revenue bonds to A1 from Aa3. This affects nearly $1 billion in rated debt, according to the release. It cites the following reasons:

narrowing coverage levels due to recent revenue losses that breached the total debt service coverage rate covenant in fiscal 2016 and 2017, decreased liquidity to cover revenue shortfalls, and an elevated debt position that will increase given additional capital funding plans.

Moody’s cites as a potential reason to downgrade the ratings further:

Lack of reconciliation with Baltimore County on year-end true up payments[.]

Last session, MACo supported Senate Bill 709/House Bill 923, which helps homeowners avoid going to tax sale over unpaid water bills by giving counties the tools to address the problem long before those bills become overdue. The bill passed both house and was signed by the Governor.

The previous session and over the interim, MACo worked hard to stave off legislation which would have prevented counties from collecting overdue water bills – a move which, without a doubt, would have further undermined billing systems’ bond ratings.

Learn about the flood of water billing legislation and related issues at this year’s MACo Summer Conference, “Water, Water Everywhere,” at the session, Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water: Know Your Water Law.

The MACo Summer Conference will be held August 15-18, 2018 at the Rowland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference: