2013 a Major Boom for Clean Energy, Bust for Many Other Issues

A roundup of the 2013 Maryland legislative session
For immediate release

At the conclusion of the 2013 session of Maryland’s General Assembly, Environment Maryland Director Tommy Landers issued the following statement:

“I am deeply proud and appreciative that after years of research and organizing and collaboration, we were able to help steer an offshore wind power bill to passage in Annapolis.  The General Assembly absolutely did the right thing by passing this year’s bill, and future generations of Marylanders will be better off because of it.

“With the real threat of global warming becoming more palpable almost each month, we have no time to waste when it comes to breaking our dependence on dirty, dangerous fossil fuels and transitioning to truly clean, renewable forms of energy like offshore wind power.

“The offshore wind power bill represents a landmark victory for our climate and for our children and grandchildren.  Gov. O’Malley’s consistent strong leadership on this issue has been essential.  Plus, the governor and the General Assembly have produced a budget that, with a few exceptions, continues an important commitment to the health both of our environment and our families.

“Despite this important progress, many other environmental bills in Annapolis this year were weakened, shot down or ignored.

“A senate committee killed three major bills that could have helped protect Marylanders from another serious threat to our environment and public health: fracking.  As we weigh our options in Maryland, fracking across the country is already furthering our dependence on fossil fuels, laying waste to acres of treasured open spaces, degrading waterways and drinking water, harming the health of children and families, and putting even more greenhouse gases into an already carbon-saturated atmosphere.

“I believe that these inherent flaws, combined with the drilling industry’s poor track record across the country, are evidence enough to keep fracking out of Maryland.  But the General Assembly nevertheless killed several bills this year that could have helped protect our state, our waters, and our families from this dangerous practice.

“The last week of session also saw the adoption of an ‘Agricultural Certainty’ program that creates a dangerous precedent in our effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay.  Truly cleaning up the Bay will require a consistent and dedicated commitment from every player who contributes to the ongoing degradation of the Bay and our local waterways.  However, the Agricultural Certainty program will allow some agribusiness operators to be exempt from any new pollution control measures for a decade.

“Environment Maryland and more than 20 other civic and environmental organizations were opposed because of several deep flaws with the legislation, and I’m disappointed that such a complicated bill passed so quickly through the legislature.  The bill only furthers the privileged status of agribusiness when it comes to a lack of public access to important information about pollution management, a lack of public accountability, and an ongoing focus on carrots without enough sticks.”

Here is a quick summary of the current status of legislation that Environment Maryland has been following most closely this year:


Legislative Roundup

WINS

Offshore Wind Power (SB 275/ HB 226)

  • Positions Maryland to be a leader in the burgeoning offshore wind power industry by creating an offshore wind energy carve-out in the state’s renewable energy portfolio standard. Passed enrolled.

Budget (SB 125/ HB 100)

  • This year’s budget for the most part continues the state’s investments in important programs to improve our environment and public health. Passed enrolled.

Pesticide Information Act (SB 675/ HB 775)

  • This bill was significantly amended during the legislative process. The final bill creates a work group charged with assessing the need and best format for a centralized database of pesticide use in Maryland. Passed enrolled.

LOSSES

Agricultural Certainty Program (SB 1029)

  • Created a program in which some agribusiness operators could get a 10-year exemption from any new pollution control measures. Passed enrolled.

Fracking Prohibition (SB 514/ HB 337)

  • Would have completely prohibited fracking in Maryland. Unfavorable report in Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

Fracking Wastewater Prohibition (SB 513/ HB 341)

  • Would have prohibited storing, treating, or discharging any fracking wastewater. Unfavorable report in Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

Fracking Moratorium (SB 601/ HB 1274)

  • Would have put a moratorium on fracking in Maryland until certain conditions were met. Unfavorable report in Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

Black Liquor Removal (SB 684/ HB 1102)

  • Would have effectively removed “black liquor,” a byproduct of the paper making process, from the first tier of the state’s renewable energy portfolio standard. The senate bill passed the Senate, but the house bill received an unfavorable report in House Economic Matters Committee.

Publication of Soil Test Results (SB 739)

  • Would have created a public database showing the soil test results of some agribusiness operations in Maryland. Passed Senate, but unfavorable report in House Environmental Matters Committee.

Community Renewables (SB 699/ HB 1128)

  • Would have allowed residents to receive energy credits by investing in community clean energy programs. Unfavorable report in House Economic Matters Committee.

Bottle Bill (SB 641/ HB 1085)

  • Would have put a 5 cent deposit on beverage containers. Unfavorable report in House Economic Matters Committee.

Plastic Bag Fee (SB 576/ HB 1086)

  • Would have required a five cent consumer charge for each disposable plastic bag a store provides. No action.

OTHER

Stormwater Utility (HB 508)

  • This bill underwent serious changes in the last few days of session, and by Sine Die the bill was overwhelmingly opposed by the environmental community. The altered bill would have imposed a two-year delay on the implementation of stormwater utility programs designed to raise funds for critical infrastructure upgrades. The bill passed both chambers in different versions, but the final version was shelved by the House.

Solid Waste Management Practices (SB 799/ HB 1266)

  • Would have created a Solid Waste Portfolio Standard, and set target recycling rates for counties.  This bill underwent several changes during the legislative process.  Passed the Senate, shelved in the House.