THE LATEST FROM THE MARYLAND DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT
October delivered not only brilliant colors — see Garrett County, home of the annual Autumn Glory Festival — but also significant initiatives for the environment in Maryland and its neighboring states, far and wide.
The month began with a mid-Atlantic regional summit, October 1-2, on lead poisoning prevention. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center sponsored and hosted a multi-state gathering of officials, experts, and advocates to rally support for reducing the risks of lead in housing, water, soil, and other sources. The summit highlighted the inspiring efforts of groups like Green and Healthy Homes Initiative and agencies in states and towns. This was a great prelude to Maryland’s own celebration and recommitment to prevention on October 23, during lead awareness month, as MDE and the Maryland Department of Health reported on progress on universal testing and continued declines in lead poisoning—a nearly 14% drop from last year.
On October 15, MDE submitted its draft Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan to Governor Hogan and the General Assembly, culminating a two-year effort of listening, modeling, and coordinating. The draft plan, which will be revised based on months of additional comments from citizens and policymakers in the public and private sectors, identified over 100 actions and strategies in energy, transportation, housing, natural and working lands, waste management and sustainable materials, among other sectors, to achieve and excel beyond the state’s goal of reducing 40% of our emissions by 2030. The plan incorporates Governor Hogan’s bold goal for 100% clean electricity by 2040 with the establishment and enactment of a clean and renewable energy standard.
On October 18, Governor Hogan, as chairman of the National Governors Association (NGA), convened a National Summit in Detroit, Michigan, on Infrastructure Resiliency. Over 200 officials and experts attended and shared insights on partnerships for progress in the water, energy, and transportation infrastructure sectors, including cyber security. I participated on a panel moderated by Governor Gretchen Whitmer focusing on water and energy resiliency, with a focus on extreme weather, climate change, and hazard mitigation.
And in one of the biggest steps in years for Chesapeake Bay progress, on October 29, Governor Hogan announced a landmark agreement between the owner of the Conowingo Dam, Exelon, and MDE on behalf of the state to resolve costly ongoing litigation and dramatically increase stewardship of the dam and the Susquehanna River watershed. The settlement requires Exelon to invest over $200 million for pollution prevention, climate resiliency, and ecosystem protection. This includes: $52 million to implement new requirements for flow control that will create more natural conditions in the Lower Susquehanna River, resulting in enhancements to aquatic life and the downstream ecosystem, and better upstream migratory fish passage; $47 million for climate resiliency projects, including submerged aquatic vegetation, clams, oysters, and restoration of living shorelines; $41 million to significantly increase efforts to remove trash and debris flowing down the Susquehanna River; and $25 million for an unprecedented initiative to restore a healthy population of water-filtering mussels in the Susquehanna River, including contribution of land for the construction of a 40,000 square foot, state-of-the-art hatchery.
Clean water progress for the Chesapeake got another big boost at the end of the month in Congress as the U.S. Senate joined the House in increasing funding for the federal/state Bay program. As Chair of the Bay Program’s Executive Council, Governor Hogan led a bipartisan effort with four other governors, the mayor of Washington, and the acting chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission to immediately express appreciation to both chambers and to urge Congress to support the House’s higher number, $85 million, for the upcoming year.
Also on the last day of October, with all treats and no tricks, MDE teamed up with the Maryland Energy Administration and the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Commission to launch its 2019 Maryland Charity Campaign at our Montgomery Park headquarters building. We were joined by 30 charities, two spirited Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders and Poe the Ravens mascot, along with hundreds of staff who give generously each year to help the state and all of its agencies together raise over $3 million for the inspiring work of 900 registered charitable organizations.
One of my favorite examples of the charity campaign spirit: An MDE staff member made a beautiful quilt to be donated to help our agency meet its $53,000 fundraising goal. Here’s to continued giving and thanking in November, to our military veterans and all others who make Maryland such a special and caring place.
As the colors change, the temperatures drop, and we turn our attention to cranberries and mistletoe, I will be focusing as well on the upcoming annual global conference on the Paris Climate Accord (COP-25) in Madrid, Spain. I look forward to the opportunity to represent Maryland and the Hogan Administration, as well as the 10-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and other U.S. Climate Alliance states committed to urgent action to reduce pollution and increase resiliency, locally and globally.
Air, Land, Water – Did You Know?
Comment on Maryland’s Clean Air Petition
The Ozone Transport Commission (OTC) is accepting public comment on Maryland’s petition under section 184(c) of the federal Clean Air Act calling for Pennsylvania utilities to run air pollution controls every day during the summer when it matters most. Reducing air pollution that travels from upwind states is crucial to Maryland’s efforts to meet health-based air standards. If, after public comment, the OTC approves the recommendation, it will be submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Comments must be received no later than 5 p.m. on November 22. Comments can be submitted by email to email@example.com or by mail to the Ozone Transport Commission, 800 Maine Avenue SW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20024.
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