Today, Maryland's legislative session begins! For 90 days stretching until April 10, advocates across Maryland will be busily at work passing legislation through the House and Senate and to the desk of our new Governor Moore. Here are the top bills that we'll be prioritizing at Clean Water Action and how you can take action - we can't do it without you!
Renewable Energy and Environmental Justice: Right now, Maryland's renewable energy program subsidizes polluters like trash incineration, combustion of wood wastes, and factory farm methane gas as "renewable" - even though many of these facilities pollute more per energy produced than coal plants. That's a lose-lose-lose: bad for the climate, bad for the wind and solar industries, and bad for local communities facing the brunt of the air pollution. The Reclaim Renewable Energy Act will take trash incineration, wood waste combustion, and factory farm methane gas production out of the program, so that the money currently going to profit them will go to support wind and solar development instead. Tell your representatives to support the Reclaim Renewable Energy Act!
Composting (HB253/SB262): To transition Maryland away from trash incineration and landfilling, our local communities need to do a lot of work - and the state needs to step up and support. Composting is one of the biggest-impact and most cost-effective ways to move toward Zero Waste, sequestering carbon from food waste in the soils instead of allowing it to become methane leaking out of landfills. Right now, farmers who want to be part of the solution for their counties by composting food scraps from cafeterias or grocery stores face higher restrictions on that than for bringing in manure; on the other hand, students across Maryland have been starting incredibly successful programs to divert their cafeteria waste, sending usable food for donation and the rest for compost, but without equitable funding access. To support the great work that communities across Maryland are doing on composting, tell your representatives to support On-Farm Composting and School Compost!
Waste Management Planning (HB161): Eight of Maryland's 23 counties use the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority to assist with their solid waste management and planning, a quasi-state agency that was created in 1980 and largely duplicates functions performed by the Maryland Environmental Service. The Waste Authority is outdated for Maryland's current needs, and a recent state commission recommended evaluating how and whether they fit into Maryland's future. Tell your representatives to support the Waste Authority Sunset Act!
Transportation Equity (HB9/SB19): Last year, the legislature passed the Transportation Equity Act with flying colors - but Governor Hogan vetoed it at the last second. That means that the new legislature this year must pass it again! This bill will make equity a primary goal of the Maryland Transportation Plan and require data-driven analyses of major spending and service changes to ensure that this principle works out in practice. Tell your representatives to support the Transportation Equity Act!
Community Air Quality Monitoring (HB473): The air we breathe is instrumental to our health. This bill, with Delegate Fraser-Hidalgo, will create a dispersed network of air quality monitors with an emphasis on communities already overburdened by pollution. In issuing new and updated permits, the state will have to consider the current air quality concerns and how the permit would impact pollution loads. The bill will also set up a taskforce to determine the pathway forward to require air quality improvements.
Safer Septic Systems: Clean Water Action has long worked on modernizing and improving septic system management in the state. Currently, septic system information is stored differently on a county by county basis. What information is available and how to access this information is varied and can be difficult to navigate. Many environmental problems with septic systems are linked to our inability to get information on the size, quantity, and location of systems. Other users, like real estate agents and industry members, have similar problems with getting the information they need to do their jobs. We are asking the state to create a comprehensive database that can be populated with new and existing systems to improve accessibility and ease of use.