THE LATEST FROM THE MARYLAND DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT
Coming Together for Maryland’s Environment
For the fourth year in a row, Maryland’s General Assembly delivered some important environmental victories in coordination with the Hogan administration. It was our best year yet for “green funding” to protect and restore the environment, including the Chesapeake Bay, our coastal bays, Deep Creek Lake and beyond. Governor Hogan’s proposed budget in January set the tone for and led the way to record levels of smart investing. The legislature also provided broad support for continuing to fight the causes of climate change and increasing preparedness and resiliency in our communities and passed specific bills to boost environmental stewardship and regulatory partnerships on matters ranging from septic tanks and water reuse to small ponds.
And this all happened in a bipartisan fashion – showing, as Governor Hogan said, that in Maryland we work together in a common sense way to get things done.
Funding for clean water and the Chesapeake Bay
The governor’s fiscal year 2019 budget invests a record $1.2 billion in state funds toward wide-ranging Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts, continuing the Hogan administration’s commitment to protecting Maryland’s most precious natural asset. With more than $4 billion toward restoration efforts since taking office, no governor in state history has invested more in their first four years.
The record levels of funding for key Chesapeake Bay conservation and regulatory innovation programs includes $52.9 million for the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund, marking the third year in a row that the Hogan Administration has fully funded Bay restoration efforts. The fiscal year 2019 budget marks the first time since 2008 that no funding for transfer tax programs, including Program Open Space, is diverted to the General Fund. In total, these programs receive $253 million, an increase of $67 million from the prior fiscal year.
The governor’s budget, adopted by the General Assembly, includes robust wastewater and drinking water grant and loan funding for MDE: $306 million in the Water Quality Revolving Loan Fund, $32 million in the Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund, $70 million in Bay Restoration Fund wastewater projects and $15 million for Bay Restoration Fund septic system upgrades. The budget also provides $6 million for the administration’s Clean Water Commerce Program for innovative nutrient and sediment reduction projects and $8 million for MDE’s Energy and Water Infrastructure Program, which reduces emissions and the cost of cleaning water by deploying energy efficiency and renewable energy projects at water and wastewater treatment plants.
Maryland is a leader in fighting the causes of climate change and increasing preparedness and resiliency
On April 5, the governor signed the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Extension Act (SB 290), which reaffirms Maryland’s strong commitment to the multi-state, regional partnership combating climate change known as RGGI. The new law prevents future administrations from withdrawing from RGGI without legislative approval. Maryland is very active in and committed to RGGI. We are proud of our role over the last year in strengthening, extending and expanding the size and reach of RGGI. We are working with other member states of RGGI to grow the program to include Virginia and New Jersey.
Earlier this year, the Governor committed Maryland to participate in the U.S. Climate Alliance. In Maryland’s letter joining the alliance, we made it clear that we intend to share our insights, experiences and strategies in meeting and excelling beyond the requirements of the Paris climate accord and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. MDE also continues to oppose efforts to repeal and replace the federal Clean Power Plan unless the replacement is as effective and enforceable as RGGI. We view Maryland’s participation in the alliance as an opportunity to encourage more states to adopt clean air standards and greenhouse gas goals and actions as strong and aggressive as Maryland’s. MDE supported HB3/SB138, which requires the Governor to report annually on the state’s participation in the alliance. The legislation also prevents future administrations from withdrawing from the alliance without legislative approval.
The General Assembly also passed legislation strengthening state programs to manage sea level rise and coastal adaptation through increased preparedness and resiliency in communities. HB1350/SB1006 expands the applicability of Coast Smart siting and design criteria and strengthens requirements included in the criteria. The legislation also requires the establishment of plans and criteria relating to saltwater intrusion, hazard mitigation and nuisance flooding. In its annual report, the Maryland Climate Change Commission projected likely sea-level rise in Maryland between 2.2 and 4.1 feet with unrestrained growth in global emissions, and between 1.4 and 2.8 feet even if emissions are reduced to achieve the International Panel on Climate Change mitigation scenario. This projection, coupled with the increasing frequency of nuisance flooding in places such as Annapolis, underscores the importance of addressing the causes of sea level rise and adapting to its effects.
HB1765 promotes the development of local Septic Stewardship Plans and expands the Bay Restoration Fund to provide financial incentives to promote septic pump-outs for homeowners. The legislation also provides regulatory incentives for ensuring proper operation and maintenance of Best Available Technology septic systems as well as regular pump-outs of all septic systems. Much of the legislation is based on the Hogan Administration’s Septic Stewardship Act introduced at the beginning of the year.
Providing incentives for local Septic Stewardship Plans will help ensure that septic systems are properly operated and maintained and will allow counties to prioritize septic pollution reductions.
Providing incentives for routine pumping of septic systems will help prevent their premature failure. Delaying this service risks expensive repairs, as well as potential impacts to the health of the public and the environment. Pumping out the contents of a septic tank also removes some nitrogen that might otherwise discharge to groundwater and eventually surface waters and the Bay.
SB496 bill allows homeowners to use graywater — the relatively clean waste water from baths, sinks, washing machines and other kitchen appliances — for residential purposes like household gardening, composting, lawn watering, landscape irrigation and toilet flushing. MDE will adopt regulations to implement the legislation and boost conservation. Properly designed graywater recycling can safely manage and reduce wastewater quantities and reduce overall water consumption. This not only has environmental benefits but can also save money for ratepayers and for users of residential wells.
SB100 provides flexibility to establish regulatory partnerships for safety at small low hazard ponds rather than through a standard dam safety permit from MDE. The department intends to provide this authorization to the Maryland Department of Transportation’s State Highway Administration and to Baltimore City. By designating SHA and Baltimore City as approval authorities for these small ponds, the efficiency of the permitting process will be improved, and MDE’s Dam Safety Division will be able to redirect resources toward more critical public safety responsibilities such as ensuring the integrity of high- and significant-hazard dams.
Common sense, common ground
The 2018 Maryland General Assembly session clearly underscored the value of bipartisanship and the priority Marylanders place on the environment. While there were some disappointments along the way, the legislature produced some solid results in the end and built a foundation for another successful session next year. Working together, we can find common ground on sensible solutions for continued environmental progress while greening and growing Maryland’s economy.
Air, Land, Water – Did You Know?
Hogan administration urges EPA to drop plan to weaken vehicle air pollution emissions standards
Due to the known effects of increased air pollution on public health and the environment, as well as the potential for higher costs to consumers, Governor Larry Hogan is calling on federal environmental regulators to drop plans to weaken vehicle emissions standards. The Hogan administration is urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to leave the current greenhouse gas emissions standards for light-duty vehicles in place and to allow states like Maryland to continue to adopt vehicle emissions standards that are more protective than federal standards.
Check out MDE’S new interactive map for fish consumption advisories
The Maryland Department of the Environment has development an interactive map that provides modernized, user-friendly information on fish consumption advisories. It is one of the only “clickable” maps for fish consumption advisories in the nation. A consumption advisory is a recommendation to limit or avoid eating certain species of fish caught from specific water bodies due to environmental factors.
The map is accessible on the department’s website at http://clickmeterlink.com/MDEfishmap.
For complete information on the fish consumption advisories and how to use the new map, go to http://clickmeterlink.com/MDEfishadvisories.
Department of the Environment traveling Maryland for Earth Month
April 22 marks the 48th celebration of Earth Day. The MDE Outreach program and employee volunteers will be putting in numerous hours educating Marylanders about protecting the environment or serving the community through the Patapsco event and other cleanup projects in the month long period. Proclamations signed by Governor Larry Hogan honoring Earth Day will be given to a number of event organizers attended by MDE staff during April.
MDE will be attending the following events:
Apply now for the Maryland Green Registry Leadership Award
Is your business or organization committed to sustainable practices? We want to hear about it! Apply for a Maryland Green Registry Leadership Award and get the recognition you deserve.
The Maryland Green Registry Leadership Awards are presented each year to five organizations that have shown a strong commitment to sustainable practices, measurable results, and continual improvement. The winners represent a variety of facility types and sizes, but all have several key factors in common that contribute to their success: an organization-wide commitment to environmental performance, a green team that meets on a regular basis, annual environmental goals and measurement of results.
The application, which asks for brief responses to just two questions, is due April 30. Applicants must be members of the Maryland Green Registry. Not a member yet? Joining is free and easy to do. Find more information here.
MDE employees win by giving
The Maryland Department of the Environment recently won its third Governor’s Cup Award in four years for employee giving during recent Maryland Charity Campaigns.
The most recent announcement was for the 2017 campaign, when MDE employees not only met their goal of $61,494 but exceeded it by five percent with the final tally of $65,114. That’s the most money raised within the agency since the 2008 total of $66,233, according to campaign records.
MDE’s Governor’s Cup Awards are for outstanding performance among medium-sized state agencies. In addition to the Governor’s Cup Awards, MDE won the 2016 Spirit of Giving Award.
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