Change of Climate Brings Legislative Success
click for print view
by Jan Graham |
The legislature in Annapolis delivers some good news to Marylanders; other bills await action next year.
April 9, 2007, ended a legislative session that was more productive and less contentious than last years session. A change of climate (pun intended) both statewide and national, plus Al Gores award-winning documentary on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, set the stage for progress on environmental issues.
How well did Maryland do? In terms of our focus on clean cars, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and Program Open Space (a state program providing funds for state and local parks and conservation areas), this was a successful session.
Governor OMalley signed the Clean Cars Act, adding carbon dioxide, the primary cause of global warming, to the list of pollutants covered by vehicle emission standards. The Act also strengthens the standards for other pollutants and requires that a percentage of new cars sold in the state each year be advanced technology vehicles, such as hybrids. Maryland will now join other states in reducing pollutants that contribute to global warming, cancer, smog, and to the dead zone in the Chesapeake Bay.
Energy efficiency is considered a low hanging fruit. It is easy to get and very satisfying! Starting in 2009, eight additional home products will be added to the list of those covered by minimum efficiency standards mandated by the state.
Promoting renewable energy were 1) the solar energy program, an income tax credit for purchase and installation of solar elements, and 2) a solar energy addition to the renewable portfolio; both passed.
The Governor announced that he will fully fund Program Open Space. The Maryland budget for next year is in for major cuts, so the public should carefully monitor the funding process.
Other bills were extremely important this year:
Storm Water Management Act passed. Passage of this major piece took the cooperation and coordination of all our environmental partners right up to the last moment. Considering the intense growth Maryland will be experiencing in the next few years, controlling runoff from development is vital to the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
The Global Warming Solutions Act did not pass, in spite of its many sponsors and support from the environmental community.
Green Building Standards passed. This creates a council to evaluate high-performance building technology and make recommendations about state facilities.
Utility Efficiency Program did not pass. It would have restored energy efficient programs for utility customers by giving tax incentives for heating and cooling equipment.
Oyster Restoration passed. It establishes an advisory commission on oysters.
Diamondback Terrapin bill passed. It prohibits taking diamondback terrapins for commercial purposes.
Phosphorus dishwashing detergent bill passed. It bans by 2010 detergent containing more than 0.5 percent of phosphates.
Even though a number of favorable bills passed, the public should be involved in seeing them executed, especially since BRAC (the military Base Realignment and Closure process) will be bringing jobs and development to the western and northern parts of the state. It will be a challenge to insure that the passed legislation, such as the Storm Water Management Act, is fully implemented.
The Storm Water Management Act is very specific about the requirements for handling polluted runoff from new developments. Now the Maryland Department of the Environment needs to write the regulations to implement the law, and the regulations must be as strong as possible.
The proposed Inter-County Connector (ICC) is an expensive toll road through Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties that would take money away from other transportation projects needed to accommodate additional development spurred by the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) project. Lt. Governor Brown is heading the committee recently formed by the Governor to study the implications of BRAC on Maryland infrastructure, and to present a comprehensive report. We need for citizens to write to the Governor and tell him that we cant afford the ICC in light of other state priorities. (See more on the ICC in newsletter.)
Development is the number one issue on the local level. Our members should stay involved. Lots of bad stuff can happen when politicians think were sleeping during the summer months. Check newspaper notices for hearings, and send an email if you see a problem. It will always be up to the individual to protect the environment and one person can make a difference!
Overall, this was a very good year in the Maryland legislative process. Special thanks to the Governor and all of our senators and delegates who worked so hard to pass environmentally sound legislation. The legislation is a start, and now the hard part of implementation begins. We, the Sierra Club, must improve and expand our efforts to curb global warming pollutants: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, and soot. If we dont, we cannot hope to reduce the terrible consequences of our lifestyle.
Jan Graham is the Legislative Chair for the Maryland Chapter.
> 2007 Table of Contents