There was even more pressure on this year’s already-tight Maryland General Assembly Session, due to the pandemic-related cancelation of much of last year’s. Despite the time crunch, the MDGA made some strides toward a healthier, more protected environment. You can find the results of each bill we supported below, but here’s a summary of what’s changing:
- Maryland citizens have increased rights to intervene in matters of water quality and pollution, upholding the protections of the Clean Water Act
- Maryland’s stormwater design standards got a 21st-century update to mitigate urban flooding and require better private-sector development
- The State Commission on Environmental Justice has strengthened goals, authority, and reporting requirements.
- Maryland is now required to keep public, electronic records of water pollution and enforcement data.
- Five million new trees, including 500,000 in urban watersheds, will be planted in the next ten years.
- All buses purchased by the Maryland Department of Transportation beginning in 2023 must be electric.
- The Transportation Trust Fund is funded for the next 6 years to repair and maintain the public transit system
Our thanks to all of the community advocates who got involved this year to restore and protect our environment! And of course, our thanks to the hard-working members of our House and Senate– and their staff– who sprinted through this packed Session and fought hard for our communities.
Our Top Priorities
Climate Solutions Now – House Bill583, Senate Bill 414
Sponsored by Senator Pinsky and Delegate Stein
Failed but some measures passed in other bills.
At the 11th hour, the Senate and House were unable to reach compromise on key issues, including emissions reductions. Read more about the saga here.
The good news. Senator Pinsky was able to “tack on” certain requirements in other bills, which passed. These include:
- 5 million new tree plantings
- Maryland Transit Authority required to purchase more zero-emissions buses
Statewide Plastic Bag Ban – House Bill 314, Senate Bill 223
Sponsored by Senator Augustine and Delegate Lierman
With amendments, this bill was on the agenda for the last day of Session, but the clock ran out before a vote. Still, the compromises reached give us hope for next year! Read more here.
Blue Water Baltimore followed legislative initiatives spearheaded by other environmental organizations, including:
Did not advance out of committee
Everyone deserves the right to clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment. Everyone. Yet our laws do not currently protect this right. The Amendment would ensure that the right to a healthful environment would be enforceable, that all levels of government would be mandated to protect it, and that public and environmental health would remain a top priority regardless of administrative and political changes in leadership. It will also create a compelling legal impetus to pass additional environmental legislation that will protect our environment, economy, and public health.
This bill ensures that Maryland citizens have the unconditional right to intervene and participate in Clean Water Act cases brought by the state, a concept that has been misinterpreted by our courts. Under this bill, citizens, cities, and counties can intervene in state court, leading to cleaner water through stronger enforcement and penalties.
Sponsors: Senator Carter and Delegate Love.
Water Pollution – Stormwater Management Regulations and Watershed Implementation Plans – Review and Update – HB295
Due to the effects of global climate change, it’s raining and flooding more in Maryland. Despite this fact, regulators are using 15-years-outdated rainfall data in their permits and modelling. This bill increases community resilience and mitigates urban and coastal flood impacts by adapting MD’s stormwater design standards and imposing climate-smart criteria on private-sector development to help the state meet existing climate pollution load requirements by 2025.
Sponsors: Delegates Love and Henson and Senators Elfreth, Hester and Pinsky
Transit Equity Recovery Package (2 bills) – While Blue Water Baltimore does not generally work on transportation issues, these bills are critically important for Baltimore’s residents and air and water quality.
Transit Safety and Investment Act – HB 114 / SB 199 This is the reintroduction of a 2020 bill will broad support that mandates increased state funds from the Transportation Trust Fund for critical transit repairs, maintenance, and improvements over 10 years.
Sponsors: Delegate Lierman and Senators McCray and Zucker
- Zero-Emission Bus Transition Act – HB 334 / SB 137 reintroduction of a 2020 bill that requires contracts for state-purchased budget, beginning in 2024, be for zero-emission vehicles, in order to completely transition the fleet by 2035.
Sponsors: Delegate Korman and Senator Zucker