eMDE – Ben’s Blog: Thoughts from Sec. Ben Grumbles




Ben's Blog - Thoughts from Secretary Ben Grumbles

While 2015 is now officially in the rear view mirror, it’s good to keep in mind past accomplishments and experiences as we drive to new destinations and opportunities in 2016. Here are some of 2015’s top environmental accomplishments:

1 Phosphorus management regulations

Early in 2015, the Hogan Administration seized on the opportunity to break a long stalemate over proposed new phosphorus management regulations. The intense collaboration led to 2015’s new requirements, tools and incentives for more effective management of phosphorus and excess poultry litter, particularly on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Advocates for agriculture, the environment and natural resources came together with state government, particularly the Department of Agriculture, on a comprehensive strategy that includes scientific review, monitoring, manure transport, financial assistance and a new program for projects converting poultry litter to energy. This effort is crucial to accelerating progress on cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay and our local rivers and streams.

2 Stormwater funding flexibility and permit streamlining

Secretary Grumbles welcomes attendees to MDE's Clean Water Business Expo.

Secretary Grumbles welcomes attendees to MDE’s Clean Water Business Expo.

A major bipartisan collaboration with the General Assembly, local government and environmental interests led to the repeal of the previous statewide mandate for counties to use a particular type of stormwater funding, while also improving flexibility and environmental accountability. Counties will submit financial assurance plans to demonstrate capability and commitment to prevent stormwater pollution. In coordination with the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of the Environment committed to more efficient approval of stream restoration projects that are critical to the success of counties meeting the requirements of their stormwater permits.

3 Smog control regulations

The Department of the Environment issued regulations for the 2015 ozone season that will improve air quality and require coal fired power plants to optimize the use of controls that have already been installed. The agency also issued protective, balanced environmental regulations for emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) through the 2020 ozone season, with safeguards for public health and energy reliability.

4 Nutrient trading policy for cleaner water

The Departments of the Environment and Agriculture provided a far-reaching framework and road map for nutrient and sediment credit exchange programs to accelerate environmental restoration. The Department of Agriculture published regulations on certification and verification of credits for agricultural best management practices and the Department of the Environment signaled the opportunity for future pilot projects and programs involving stormwater, wastewater, septic systems and aquaculture in coordination with agriculture. The policies, regulations, projects and partnerships associated with trading will help Maryland meet its ambitious Chesapeake Bay total maximum daily load (TMDL, or pollution limits) cleanup plan – and save millions of dollars.

5 Lead poisoning prevention and enforcement

Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford proclaims Lead Poisoning Prevention Awareness Week, describes Hogan Administration initiative to eradicate the disease.

Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford proclaims Lead Poisoning Prevention
Awareness Week, describes Hogan Administration initiative to eradicate the disease.

The number of childhood lead poisoning cases in Maryland dropped to the lowest level recorded, Maryland’s annual survey of cases showed. The number of childhood lead poisoning cases has decreased by 98 percent since Maryland’s lead law was enacted in 1994. The Department of the Environment is taking action to reduce lead exposures in newer rental housing by enforcing a change in the law that requires owners of those properties to register them and otherwise comply with the law. The Department also supports the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s newly announced plan for all Maryland children to be tested for lead poisoning at ages 1 and 2, no matter where they live.

6 Climate change progress and energy-environment collaboration

The Department of the Environment issued a comprehensive report documenting the progress and strategies to meet state greenhouse gas emission reduction goals and boost the economy. The Department also chaired and staffed the newly established, legislatively chartered Maryland Commission on Climate Change. The Commission gathered extensive data from agencies, communities and citizens and unanimously recommended a new goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030, with equal consideration of impacts on jobs and the economy. The Department is also working closely with the Department of Natural Resources and others to improve resiliency and preparedness, in response to sea level rise, extreme weather and other stressors requiring adaptation.

7 Compliance with air quality standards

Maryland’s hard work and steady investments for clean air paid off when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined that our state is meeting the standard for the pollutant ground level ozone throughout the state for the first time. All of Maryland was already meeting the standard for soot, or fine particle, pollution. The determination for ozone was based on the current standard, set in 2008, of 75 parts per billion. A more stringent standard was announced in the fall – and Maryland is working in collaboration with other states to reduce the pollution that is carried by the wind from those states into ours. 2015 meant acknowledged success and steady progress for 2016 and beyond.

8 Redevelopment of former industrial sites for jobs and economic growth

Former Sparrows Point steel mill site

Former Sparrows Point steel mill site

The owner of the former Sparrows Point steel mill property in Baltimore County turned the corner on redevelopment of the site, making significant progress in the environmental cleanup of the property. Meanwhile, construction moved forward on a new headquarters building for Exelon at Harbor Point in Baltimore City, former site of a chromium plant. The Department of the Environment oversees the cleanup of hundreds of former industrial sites – including properties in the Port Covington area of Baltimore that are now being proposed for redevelopment – to help create jobs and a healthy economy for the state.

9 Steady progress in meeting Chesapeake Bay water quality goals

Maryland predicts it will achieve the critically important 2017 interim water pollution reduction targets Chesapeake Bay TMDL. The interim target is to be at least 60 percent toward the final, 2025 target for reductions of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment. Because of hard work, locally and statewide, before and during 2015, Maryland expects upgrades of several large wastewater treatment plants to bring significant nitrogen reductions within the next year and allow Maryland to meet its target for all three pollutants.

10 Moving forward on recycling

Even as Maryland counties continue to meet and exceed the requirements for recycling and waste diversion under State law, the Department of the Environment is focusing on the new frontier in recycling – composting of food scraps and other organic materials. Demand for food composting services has increased significantly in recent years among local governments, businesses and institutions. The Department developed new regulations to create a clearer pathway for composting facilities to be established and operate in an environmentally friendly manner.

Coming up . . .

Now it’s time to build on these accomplishments to continue to change Maryland for the better. Next time, we’ll talk about our goals and strategies for 2016. Here’s to a healthy and successful year of service, innovation and partnership.

What are your thoughts? Please share them by contacting Ben at editor.mde@maryland.gov.


Star Democrat: Nutrient trading highlighted at symposium

Both the secretary of the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Maryland Department of the Environment on Friday, Jan. 8, billed nutrient trading as a way for the state to meet its pollution reduction goal as set forth by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Read more

Secretary Grumbles delivers opening remarks at the sold-out Nutrient Trading Symposium Jan. 8 at Chesapeake College. He called market-based partnerships key to continued progress in clean water and Chesapeake Bay restoration. Transparency and verification are critical. Trading is an additional tool -- not a replacement of current regulatory approaches -- and is key to finding cost-effective ways to clean the Bay. (MDE video)

Secretary Grumbles delivers opening remarks at the sold-out Nutrient Trading Symposium Jan. 8 at Chesapeake College. He called market-based partnerships key to continued progress in clean water and Chesapeake Bay restoration. Transparency and verification are critical. Trading is an additional tool — not a replacement of current regulatory approaches — and is key to finding cost-effective ways to clean the Bay. (MDE video)

WJZ-TV: Maryland plans to seek penalties from Volkswagen

Maryland joins multiple states seeking penalties and repairs from Volkswagen, following a massive emissions cheating scandal. The automaker has admitted to rigging emissions tests for millions of its diesel models.



Maryland Water Quality Trading Advisory Committee to hold first meeting

The Maryland Water Quality Trading Advisory Committee will hold its first meeting from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in the lobby conference rooms at the Maryland Department of the Environment headquarters, 1800 Washington Boulevard, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.

The Advisory Committee will act as an ongoing consultative group to provide direction to the overall trading program and to oversee further enhancement of the trading infrastructure. Its first task will be to review and refine a comprehensive Maryland Trading Manual document. A series of four initial meetings is anticipated, with the goal of finalizing a manual document and identifying other necessary actions by the end of April.

Information: 410-537-3512.

Read more

Maryland Climate Change Commission report recommends further reductions in greenhouse gases with strengthened links to a healthy economy

A unanimously adopted report from the Maryland Commission on Climate Change calls on the State to develop and implement a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030 while strengthening efforts to improve the State’s economy and creating new jobs.

Another recent report by the Maryland Department of the Environment found that the plan required by the 2009 Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Act, which is designed to achieve a 25 percent reduction by 2020, is estimated to create a net economic benefit between $2.5 billion and $3.5 billion and help create and maintain between 26,000 and 33,000 new jobs. The MDE report shows that the State is on track to meet the 25 percent reduction goal by 2020.

“The Maryland Climate Change Commission is broad and diverse but all agree the State should be proactive and balanced in responding to the challenges and opportunities ahead,” said Commission Chair and Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. “The report reflects the members’ wide range of perspectives, tracks recent and ongoing efforts and identifies a balanced and achievable path forward based on sound science, environmental progress and a strong economy in Maryland.”

Read more

“Neil Armstrong, Jr.” sculpture captures grand prize at 14th annual Rethink Recycling contest

Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles awarded prizes for a “Copper Lion,” a “Diabetic Dragon,” and a “Steampunk Deer Skull,” – all made from reused materials – at the 14th annual “Rethink Recycling” Sculpture Contest, hosted by the department in celebration of America Recycles Day.

The contest challenges Maryland high school students to use recycled materials to create artistic and innovative sculptures. This year 60 entries from 22 high schools across the state were on display. Students from Baltimore County, Carroll County, Garrett County and Frederick County won the top prizes.

Cheyenne Reese, with judges

Cheyenne Reese, with judges

Cheyenne Reese, of Walkersville High School in Frederick County, was the Grand Prize winner for her sculpture, “Neil Armstrong, Jr.,” made using foam, bubble wrap, a fishbowl, newspaper, latex gloves, chicken wire and old shoes. She received a Surface Pro 3 for her efforts.

Sponsors of the event were Giant Food, Whole Foods, Constellation Energy, the American Cleaning Institute, Maryland Recycling Network, Call2Recycle, American Visionary Art Museum and the Can Manufacturers Institute. Contest judges were: John Lewis, Assistant Director, American Visionary Art Museum; Rowan Bathurst, local college art student; Melissa Grande, American Cleaning Institute; and Hilary Miller, Director of the Land Management Administration, Department of the Environment.

“Thanks to Maryland residents and businesses, we recycled nearly three million tons of municipal solid waste and diverted more than 48 percent of our waste from landfills and incinerators last year,” Secretary Grumbles said. “This is a wonderful accomplishment, but we must do more. Recycling protects and conserves our precious natural resources and keeps materials out of our landfills and waterways. It is up to all of us to work together to recycle, reuse and reduce whenever possible.”

Read more

Department of the Environment accepting applications for 2016 Environmental Science Student Award

The Maryland Department of the Environment is now accepting applications for the 2016 Environmental Science Student Award and Internship Program.

The Award recognizes high school seniors who have excelled in environmental science both inside and outside the classroom. Students who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership and participation in environmental projects in school or their community such as recycling drives, school beautification projects, stream or litter cleanups and other types of environmental projects are encouraged to apply. The grand prize winner will receive a paid internship at Department of Environment during summer 2016 (approximately valued at $3,000). The second-place winner will receive $500 and the third-place winner will receive $250. All three will receive a certificate for their efforts.

“Our future relies on the student environmental leaders of today,” said Secretary Ben Grumbles. “It is my hope that our Environmental Science Student Award and Internship Program will encourage those who are interested in science, technology, and engineering to continue their education and proactively participate in activities that support the environment. This internship program provides students with many opportunities to learn new skills and hone their strengths in a real world situation. We are excited to nurture the next generation of environmental scientists here at Department of the Environment.”

The deadline for nominations is May 1, 2016. Application forms and instructions are available on the Department’s website and may be submitted by email to Nadine.Jackson-Bey@maryland.gov or by mail to: Maryland Department of the Environment, Office of Human Resources, 1800 Washington Boulevard, 5th Floor, Baltimore MD 21230, Attention: Nadine Jackson-Bey. Winners will be notified via email and U.S. Postal Service on or before June 1, 2016.


Email the Editor

We’re always looking for ways to make eMDE even better. Here’s a chance to tell us what you think. Have some thoughts on what we can do better or things you’d like to see more of? An idea for a specific story? We want to hear from you. Contact us!


Our mission is to protect and restore the quality of Maryland’s air, water, and land resources, while fostering smart growth, a thriving and sustainable economy and healthy communities.