Maryland Legislature Bolsters Efforts to Reduce Pollution

Responds to charges of taxing the rain


By Dan Smith & Lori Baranoff

Polluted stormwater runoff from streetChallenged for much of the past year for requiring the state’s largest jurisdictions to set fees for local polluted runoff reduction projects, the Maryland General Assembly took action this week to give local jurisdictions flexibility in how they raise these important pollution-reduction funds. The Assembly also affirmed requirements that the work get done. The bill now goes to Gov. Larry Hogan for signing.

While technically repealing the “Rain Tax” mandate for a dedicated impervious surface fee (the bottom line for Gov. Hogan), new legislation (SB863, sponsored by Senate President Miller, aka the “Miller Bill”) does not let jurisdictions off the hook. It ratchets up requirements that adequate funding be identified and progress be reported annually to the state and public and identifies penalties for jurisdictions with inadequate plans.

AWS testified against the fee repeal bills introduced early in the session. With Clean Water, Healthy Families – the statewide coalition working on this issue – we also opposed the first version of the Miller bill. Following amendments in the Senate, we were neutral. With the hard work of our coalition partners and House committee leaders that led to additional strengthening amendments in the House last week, we became supporters.

Another win to celebrate is a ban on synthetic microbeads in some personal care products (HB216/SB200). These tiny plastic beads wash down drains, cannot be removed by sewage treatment plants, and end up in waterbodies where they absorb chemicals and are mistaken for food by aquatic life. Many thanks to our Trash Free Maryland Alliance, House committee chairman Kumar Barve, Senate committee chairwoman Joan Carter Conway, Delegate Dan Morhaim, Senator Paul Pinsky, and others who helped pass the strongest state ban on microbeads in the country!

Plastic bags collect along banks of Anacostia RiverUnfortunately, we did not win them all. A statewide plastic bag ban (Community Cleanup and Greening Act of 2015), pushed hard by Delegate Brooke Lierman, and a bill to restrict the use of neonicotinoid pesticides (Pollinator Protection Act of 2015) did not move forward. Coalitions and supporters drew much needed attention and support to these issues, laying strong groundwork for their consideration next year. For a more extensive overview, see the 2015 Environmental Legislative Wrap Up from the Maryland League of Conservation Voters.

Now we return our attention to two important Prince George’s County bills. The coal tar sealant ban and expanded polystyrene ban both passed favorably out of committee and will be heard on April 21 and 28, respectively, by the full County Council. Urge our Council Members to support both bills without amendments!

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