In the waning hours of the Maryland General Assembly last night, leaders of the House of Delegates stood strong for the Chesapeake Bay. Lawmakers deserve praise for refusing to approve a bad bill that would have delayed by two years municipal fees to pay for important stormwater pollution control systems.
That was just one bit of good news from the 2013 session. The state also approved a record $31.5 million for runoff pollution control projects through an innovative program called the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund (compared to $25 million, last year). And (despite fiscally lean times) the state budgeted $395 million for stormwater control systems to filter runoff from state highways and roads that would otherwise contaminate streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay.
“This session was about rolling up our collective sleeves, getting to the nitty-gritty of turning policies into practices,” said CBF Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost. “We succeeded. In neighborhoods around the state we should see construction projects and new jobs as we upgrade stormwater systems. We’ll see more trees planted along farm streams, more oyster shells collected to enlarge reefs, and more winter crops planted on fields.”
On the clean energy front, lawmakers backed Governor Martin O’Malley’s legislation to help subsidize the construction of what could be America’s first offshore wind farm, east of Ocean City. The Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013 creates a mechanism to incentivize the development of a 200 MW offshore wind facility that will support almost 850 manufacturing and construction jobs and 160 ongoing jobs, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
For details on which of CBF’s legislative priorities that passed this year, click here.
“While we have made progress, more must be done,” Prost said. “Local rivers and the Bay are still polluted, costing jobs and putting human health at risk. Clean water is a legacy we can leave to our children and grandchildren, but only if we continue the efforts and investment to implement the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint that science has developed.”
Also on the positive side, the legislature killed a bill that would have undermined an important law passed in 2012 (the so-called “septic bill.”) The septic legislation is designed to reduce suburban sprawl and preserve farmland by preventing the construction of large subdivisions on septic systems in rural areas. And, lawmakers this year passed a bill that will encourage the recycling of oyster shells in Bay reef planting projects by giving tax credits to restaurants and people who donate old shells.
On the negative side, the Maryland General Assembly failed to approve legislation to increase recycling of bottles and cans by creating a five cent deposit on drink containers. Also coming up short in the legislative session was a proposal to impose a legally-binding moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Maryland.
By Tom Pelton
Chesapeake Bay Foundation