How Did Environmental Issues Fare in The Assembly This Session?? ~ Annapolis Capital Punishment

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How Did Environmental Issues Fare in The Assembly This Session??

The first part below is from Bay Daily and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF). The second part is from the Maryland League of Conservation Voters (MD LCV). I should remind readers that CBF and other groups were at odds over stormwater this session.CLICK HERE....

Posted: 13 Apr 2010 12:42 PM PDT
Oystersonboat The oysters dodged a bullet.
Working late into the night in its final day of the session, the Maryland House of Delegates wisely decided not to approve a bill that would have delayed for at least the year the creation of oyster sanctuaries.
This is good news, because it allows Governor Martin O’Malley’s administration to proceed with its proposal to protect 9,000 acres of oyster reefs with no-harvesting zones, or about 25 percent of the remaining healthy reefs.
With oyster harvests at less than 1 percent of their historic levels, protecting large communities of the  remaining oysters allows them to reproduce more and fend off disease and other challenges more effectively.
Other important environmental programs avoided disastrous outcomes in this General Assembly session, as well.  And at least one important Bay program fared well. It was a tough session, because the recession created a $2 billion budget gap for Maryland, and painful cuts have been in imposed in many areas. And the economic slump sparked a fight over stormwater regulations for builders (see letter below).
Despite the grim financial picture, the General Assembly did not follow through on threats to slash a fund devoted to cutting runoff pollution into the Bay, the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays 2010 Trust Fund.  Governor Martin O’Malley proposed $20 million for the fund, and lawmakers discussed trimming this back by half or more.
But in the end, the legislature approved $22.5 million for the fund, which pays for pollution reduction projects, like planting buffer strips of trees along streams on farms.
In other good news: Program Open Space, which buys and protect forests and fields using real-estate transfer taxes, was fully funded for next year – avoiding another potential cut.
The skirmish over oyster sanctuaries was one of the more intriguing subplots of the session.  Senator Brian Frosh from Montgomery County introduced legislation, Senate Bill 342, that would have allowed the state to revoke the licenses of watermen who poach oysters.
Eastern Shore Senator Richard Colburn, who represents many watermen, added an amendment that would have prohibited the Maryland Department of Natural Resources from creating its proposed oyster sanctuaries.  This amendment passed the senate 27-16 on March 25, with Frosh and others voting against it.
So at the end of the session, there was this good bill that would have helped law enforcement on the Bay that had this bad amendment tacked onto it.  Thankfully, the Maryland House of Delegates did not vote on the amended bill, and so it died.
For a more detailed discussion of the General Assembly session, including the battle over stormwater regulations, read this letter from CBF Maryland Executive Director Kim Coble.
Letter from Maryland Executive Director Kim Coble to CBF members:
I am happy to report the end of the 2010 General Assembly. This year Maryland faced perhaps its toughest economic climate in decades, and legislators confronted a $2 billion gap between revenue and spending. Fortunately, with your help, we were successful in our efforts to address our number one legislative priority: protecting much of the state's budgeted spending on environmental programs and agencies. We also defended against potentially devastating efforts to roll back environmental regulations.
Below is a summary of our top priority issues.

We were able to persuade the Maryland General Assembly to actually double the funding to one of the state's most critical programs for cleaning up the Bay, The Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays 2010 Trust Fund. The legislature appropriated a total of $22.5 million to the program, after  we lobbied intensely. Thanks to all of you who contacted your legislators! We argued that money spent on the Trust Fund substantially reduces nutrient pollution from stormwater and farm pollution and also increases jobs. Contractors who hire employees based on the annual funding in such programs testified convincingly to lawmakers. The final amount actually exceeded Governor O'Malley's initial budget proposal of $20 million!  
Much of Maryland's land conservation funding was also poised to be cut, despite the governor's proposal that called for full funding. In the last days of session the General Assembly broke the gridlock on this important funding and fully funded Program Open Space (including funding for rural programs and agricultural land preservation programs). Most of the governor's proposed budget related to land conservation was adopted.  Having these funds restored will protect 5,000 acres around the state, much of those in working lands, thereby also supporting jobs and Maryland families.
We also were pleased that funding for state agencies was left fairly intact by lawmakers. We defeated proposals for substantial reductions, although some agencies were hit with small reductions.

As the 2010 Session started in January builders and local town and county governments argued that new regulations meant to reduce stormwater pollution from new development and redevelopment would cripple the already ailing construction and real estate industry. The argument resonated with a large portion of the legislature. Recognizing that we needed to engage quickly and strategically in order to stop these potentially devastating attempts to gut the regulations, we teamed up with some of our other environmental partners and entered into tough negotiations with builders and local jurisdictions.
What emerged and ultimately was approved as emergency regulations by the legislative committee that oversees regulations preserves intact two of the most critical aspects of the rules:
1) Builders still will have to substantially increase how much and how well they treat stormwater. They must use Environmental Site Design technology which is more effective than traditional retention ponds and pipes.
 2) The final rules do potentially allow more projects initially to build under older rules; however, this provision is only available to those projects that had already invested significantly in design and engineering plans to meet the old rules. The key provision to remember, however, is while we agreed to more flexibility for developers on the front end, we also secured a new and important improvement to the regulations that ensures that any construction after 2017 will need to meet the new regulations. 
There have been some press stories recently questioning the effectiveness of the emergency stormwater regulations as well as CBF's involvement. We stand behind our position because of two very important facts:
1) The water quality treatment standards were not changed. 
2) We also negotiated some improvements to the emergency regulations.
Lastly, the politics of the 2010 General Assembly were such that a complete rollback of the regulations was possible, we believed, if we didn't negotiate.

In December, Governor O'Malley announced Maryland's new oyster restoration plan. CBF applauds this plan as a welcome new direction and strong first step towards significantly increasing oyster numbers in the Chesapeake Bay. Included in the plan is a significant increase in the area of productive oyster beds to be set aside as sanctuaries. These will provide more habitat for fish, help improve water quality, and provide protected populations of oysters.
The sanctuary plan came under legislative attack this session. With the help of many you, we were able to stave off attempts to delay the governor's plan to protect 24% of the Bay's reefs as sanctuary. In the end the General Assembly honored the state's commitment to re-establish a significant oyster population, and state agencies can now proceed with regulations to implement the new sanctuaries. 


The Administration introduced a bill to establish the Sustainable Communities tax credit. Its primary objective is to support existing communities as desirable places to live and work and to reduce outward pressure for sprawl development. CBF supported this bill and we are pleased it passed.

The General Assembly approved bi-partisan legislation to create the Chesapeake Conservation Corps, a priority of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller. The bill will allow young adults to undertake a variety of critical Bay restoration and energy conservation projects.
Recognizing that the 2010 Session was going to be dominated by the challenging economic situation facing Maryland, CBF focused on protecting the environmental budget and ensuring that poor economic times were not used as an excuse to move backwards on environmental policies. Even with this reduced agenda, the session proved a challenge, but when I review the above accomplishments I view the session as a resounding success. We doubled funding the to the 2010 Trust Fund, and proved once again that one does not have to choose between the environment or the economy. Sound environmental policies go hand-in-glove with a strong economy.
We are fortunate to have members who care about the Bay and are willing to act on its behalf. The many calls, e-mails, and letters you sent to legislators on key environmental issues made the difference and is one of the reasons Bay funding was restored.

Kim Coble
Maryland Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

and now from the MD LCV:

2010 Legislative Session -- What Happened?  
Dear Paul,
The Maryland General Assembly adjourned last night. A few days ago, Maryland LCV was ready to declare this session a washout. But as the final bells rang, closing out the session last night, there were some losses and a few things to celebrate.

The General Assembly was strong on the budget, including $22.5 million for the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Costal Bays Trust Fund and preserving most of the funding for Program Open Space (with the help of a strong last minute push by Governor O’Malley and Speaker Busch.)  With the help of Senate President Miller, legislators passed a bill ensuring that Maryland’s transportation decisions improve our quality of life.   

Unfortunately, neither chamber passed bills to create a funding stream for much needed stormwater management projects or tried to stop the diversion of energy efficiency funds, both issues that we will be addressing in 2011. 

Read our full 2010 Environmental Legislative Wrap-up online now.

Want to hear the inside story? We are holding two conference calls this Wednesday at noon and 7 pm to summarize what happened behind the scenes in Annapolis during the 2010 session. RSVP to receive the call in number.

Thank you for all your work this session, your emails, phone calls, visits, and attendance at the environmental summit helped us pass laws to protect our air land and water. We couldn’t have done it without you! Stay tuned for our 2010 General Assembly Scorecard in June. 

And remember, 2010 is an important election year and Maryland LCV will be there working to elect pro-conservation candidates—we look forward to it and hope you will join us!

Thank you for making your voice heard,

Cindy Schwartz
Executive Director
Maryland LCV Education Fund

LISTEN TO CP Publisher Paul Foer on 1430WNAV at 8:15 every weekday morning or click on the WNAV icon to the right. READ CP Publisher Paul Foer's "The Ninth Ward" every Wednesday in The

Identified comments are always welcome. ALL ANONYMOUS COMMENTS will be automatically rejected without being opened.


blogger templates | Make Money Online