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May 6, 2014

Governor O’Malley Signs Bills to Prepare for Impacts of Climate Change and Extreme Weather

by kking
Annapolis City Dock

Annapolis City Dock

Governor Martin O’Malley yesterday signed into law two pieces of legislation that will help the State prepare for the impacts of climate change and extreme weather in Maryland. The first, the Bay Acidification Bill, will create a Task Force to evaluate and address the effects of changing chemistry in the Chesapeake Bay and other Maryland waterways. The second, the CoastSmart Bill, will ensure the State follows standards to make safe and fiscally-wise investments when building or updating State agency structures located in vulnerable coastal areas.

“As severe weather events grow in size and impact, and our Bay’s resources become threatened, the costs of inaction to our economy, society and environment will only grow exponentially,” said Governor O’Malley. “This legislation helps us to get out in front of these very real, very important climate issues, and to secure the health, safety and future of our State and its citizens.”

Underscoring the critical importance of preparing for these impacts, the Third National Climate Assessment, released today by the Obama Administration, confirmed that global warming is contributing to the intensity, frequency and duration of extreme weather events, including “superstorms” such as Hurricane Sandy, extreme precipitation, heat waves, and coastal flooding due to heightened sea level rise and storm surge.

The Bay Acidification Bill (House Bill 118) will allow for the State to devise a team, or Task Force, of State leaders, and water quality, fishery and climate experts, to address how changing Bay chemistry negatively impacts Maryland’s coast and shellfish industry. The Task Force will study and assess water quality in Maryland’s Chesapeake and coastal bays, and review ocean acidification studies and findings from other states. The group will then present to policymakers recommendations for monitoring and addressing acidification, and its effects on Maryland’s commercial fishery and aquaculture industry by January 1, 2015.

The Task Force will include DNR Secretary Joe Gill and MDE Secretary Bob Summers, or their designees along with representatives from the State’s aquaculture industry, the Maryland Watermen’s Association, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The Coast Smart Council Bill (House Bill 615) directs that all new and reconstructed State buildings be planned and built to avoid or minimize future flood damage, and creates the Coast Smart Council to oversee the state infrastructure projects. The law will ensure that the State makes safe and fiscally wise capital investments in the future by following siting and design standards for new and rebuilt State agency structures located in vulnerable areas. The bill does not affect schools, roads or local government projects, only structures built by State agencies.

Governor O’Malley is currently serving as a member of President Obama’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, charged with advising the President on how federal agencies can best help states and communities understand, prepare for, and reduce the impacts of climate change. Under Governor O’Malley’s leadership, Maryland has engaged in nation-leading efforts in both addressing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing the State and its communities for the impacts of climate change. Governor O’Malley’s leadership in efforts and programs such as the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan, the Climate Change and Coast Smart Construction Executive OrderMarylanders Plant Treeslandmark no-net loss of forest legislation, and CoastSmart Communities earned him the League of Conservation Voters Climate Change Vision Award last year.

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