Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Environmentalists Say Legislators Are "Giving the Environment the Shaft"

Environment Maryland is claiming that the General Assembly is "giving the environment the shaft this year" and that, "the Chesapeake Bay is getting thrown under the election year bus in favor of campaign contributions." Its State Director also says, "I've never seen special interests get their way so universally... Bankers, developers, truckers, utilities, and chicken companies are getting their wishes granted by our state legislature."

Following is their press release.

For Immediate Release:
March 30, 2010

Brad Heavner, 410-227-8949
Tommy Landers, 301-442-0134

Environmentalists Are Cross at Crossover

Annapolis - Today is the crossover deadline in the Maryland General Assembly, the date by which bills must be passed out of one chamber to be guaranteed a hearing in the other chamber. In reviewing their priority bills, Environment Maryland sees little progress being made.

“Legislators are giving the environment the shaft this year,” said Brad Heavner, State Director of Environment Maryland. “The Chesapeake Bay is getting thrown under the election year bus in favor of campaign contributions.”

“I’ve never seen special interests get their way so universally,” added Heavner. “Bankers, developers, truckers, utilities, and chicken companies are getting their wishes granted by our state legislature.”

Here are the major losses and wins this year, so far, from Environment Maryland’s perspective:

Losses Are Mounting


The 2010 Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund will likely be cut significantly, with remaining funds limited to cover crops.

The Senate voted to continue diverting energy efficiency funding (RGGI funds) in FY 2012.

Program Open Space is being raided.

The Sustainable Communities Tax Credit (SB 285/HB 475) is not moving.

Both sides have passed funding restrictions for the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic.


HB 522 and SB 910, common-sense bills for comprehensive energy planning, are going nowhere.

A bill to help property owners afford clean energy projects (HB 1014) has been gutted.

An energy efficiency standard for televisions was killed in the House (SB 455/HB 349).

SB 558/HB 1224, which would have helped establish long-term contracts for clean energy, is dead.

Several energy efficient building bills are dead or moribund, including:

o Green building standards for state-funded buildings (SB 215/HB 1040)

o Building energy use disclosure at time of sale (SB 952/ HB 1291)

o Energy use benchmarking of public buildings (SB 713/HB 985)

A bill encouraging market expansion of biofuels (SB 569/HB 827) is being held by the Economic Matters Committee.

Chesapeake Bay

HB 1125, which passed the House, will grandfather an unknown number of development projects that will be exempt from upcoming stronger stormwater management standards.

SB 686/HB 999, which would create a dedicated source of funding via small fees on utility bills for a backlog of urban stormwater management projects, is stuck in the drawer.

SB 859/HB 953, which would ban arsenic-laden additives from chicken feed, is sitting in committee.

An amendment that would prevent oyster sanctuary expansion before 2011 was added to SB 342/HB 1191, a good bill to crack down on oyster poaching.

Other environmental bills

A bill to prevent toxic pollution from coal ash dumpsites (SB 653/HB 1467) is in the drawer in the EHEA Committee.

A bill to reduce plastic bag litter by creating a fee on single-use bags has been killed (SB 462/HB 351).

Three recycling bills have been voted down – recycling at apartment buildings (SB 156), recycling at bars and restaurants (HB 944), and increasing our recycling goals (HB 982).

Hope Remains on Some Bills

Transportation: The House today passed HB 1155 which will help make transportation spending line up with the state’s official smart growth goals.

Energy: Bills have passed both chambers to improve our net metering law, requiring utilities to pay for excess power generated by solar power or other on-site generators – SB 355 and HB 801.

Solar power: The Administration bill to accelerate the solar energy standard (SB 277/HB 471) passed out of the Senate Finance Committee.

Chesapeake Bay: The oyster poaching bill (SB 342/HB 1191) might get through with the bad amendment removed.

Budget: The House Appropriations Committee decided not to continue diverting energy efficiency funding in FY 2012. Now it’s up to the conference committee.