From the desk of Halle Van der Gaag, Executive Director
The 2013 Maryland General Assembly is here! This is a preview of the legislative issues on which Blue Water Baltimore will be focused this year. Check out our blog and our website often–more specific details, actions steps and bill numbers will be updated on our web page as they become available.
In 2013, Blue Water Baltimore will primarily be focused on three issues: the Stormwater Utility Fee passed in 2012, the upcoming bottle deposit bill, and the reintroduction of the bag bill. In addition, we will be supporting the work of our partners on a pesticide reporting bill and a ban on hydrofracturing, or “fracking.” Please read on for details about these five legislative efforts.
1. State Law (SB614 and HB987): Stormwater Utility Fees
-What is it? This is legislation that was passed in 2012 requiring local jurisdictions to create dedicated stormwater utility fees.
-How does it help to improve water quality? These dedicated fees will raise the necessary funds to mitigate impacts of stormwater pollution, which will help to clean and green our watersheds and to eliminate toxic sewage entering our streams and Harbor through the stormwater system.
-What is Blue Water Baltimore’s focus? We will be supporting Baltimore City and County efforts to design and implement State Law (SB614 and HB987). More details on the local utility will be forthcoming as the structure of the fee systems continue to be developed. Please click here to view dates and locations for the upcoming community meetings about the stormwater utility fee!
2. Bottle Deposit Bill
-What is it? Dubbed “Recycle for Real,” this legislation will require a container deposit for aluminum cans, plastic bottles and other beverage containers. Anticipated at 5 cents, this comprehensive effort will not only reduce trash and litter, but will create and sustain local jobs and enhance curbside recycling. Also, this bill will help support the reduction of greenhouse gases and energy consumption through the re-use of materials. This bill has been introduced by Baltimore’s own Delegate Maggie Macintosh (43rd district) who is the current chair of the House Environmental Matters Committee; Senator Brain Frosh from Montgomery County (16th district) will serve as the Senate Co-Sponsor.
-How does it help to improve water quality? Maryland currently recycles only 20% of our beverage containers. This bill, once passed, will reduce roadside litter and other trash washing into our waterways via our stormdrain system, where it contributes to clogs and back-ups which often cause flooding in our neighborhoods. The Inner Harbor has been officially listed as impaired for trash by the EPA, and Baltimore City and County are mandated to focus on significant trash reduction strategies
-What is Blue Water Baltimore’s focus? To help mobilize strong community and business support for this legislation, we will be spearheading a “Thunderclap,” a social media outreach tool that can reach over 40,000 people just through 100 supporters.
The Thunderclap will post only once on your behalf–at the same time as it posts on the Facebook or Twitter account of the other supporters, spreading the word about the Bottle Deposit Bill to thousands of people simultaneously. Click here to be part of the vanguard to support recycling for the health of our waters!
3. Community Cleanup and Greening Act of 2012 (Bag Bill)
-What is it? This is legislation requiring retail stores in Maryland to charge and collect a five-cent fee on disposable plastic and paper bags.
-How does it help to improve water quality? This will reduce litter in Maryland’s neighborhoods and waterways, reducing plastic bag use 60% or more; save retailers money; save consumers money when they avoid the hidden cost of “free” bags in higher prices; and create green jobs by giving counties valuable funds for community investments such as neighborhood greening, stormwater improvements, watershed implementation plans, and more.
-What is Blue Water Baltimore’s focus? Again, we will be focused on bill passage by mobilizing strong community and business support for this legislation. We are working on trash-related issues with the Trash Free Maryland Coalition. More details can be found at www.TrashFreeMaryland.org.
4. Pesticides Reporting Bill
-What is it? Pesticides pose a serious risk to our health, to the Chesapeake Bay and local waterways, and to homeland security–but Maryland lacks the information we need about some pesticide use and the sales of restricted use pesticides. We need pesticide applicators, as well as sellers of restricted use pesticides, to report the information they are already required to maintain. That way, research scientists and environmental and public health experts will have data they can use to determine if and when pesticides are affecting our health, our waters, and homeland security.
-How does it help to improve water quality? Once the experts have more information about when and where pesticides are used, we’ll be better able to protect our families and our waterways, including the Chesapeake Bay.
-What is Blue Water Baltimores focus? We will sign and promote the petition by Smart On Pesticides Maryland, telling the O’Malley Administration and the Maryland General Assembly that want them to pass a bill creating a simple and cost-neutral, centralized online pesticide reporting database in 2013.
5. Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling (“Fracking”) Ban
–What is it? While the Baltimore area will not be the home of direct drilling, we believe it is essential to support others on their efforts to eliminate this potentially serious threat to water quality and groundwater supplies.
-How does it help to improve water quality? A fracking ban would prevent any toxic waste water from this extraction process from making its way to Baltimore-area wastewater treatment facilities, where discharges may end up in the Patapsco and Back Rivers.
-What is Blue Water Baltimore’s focus? We have signed and will promote the fracking ban petition by www.FoodandWaterWatch.org. You can also sign the petition yourself by visiting the Food and Water Watch website!
Though some of these bills won’t be easy to pass, we are committed to doing everything we can to spread awareness and support of these issues. To that end, we will be focusing on each of these five priorities in our upcoming blog posts, which you can subscribe to by entering your email address in the top right corner (next to the !) or visiting www.bluewaterbaltimore.org/feed. I hope you will join us in our efforts by sharing these facts and websites with your friends and colleagues. And don’t forget to sign up for our Bottle Bill Thunderclap— a simple, one-time way to share timely information on this important bill with your social network. Check back soon to see how else you can help!
Halle Van der Gaag
Blue Water Baltimore