Commitment to the Environment
Protecting our environment so that our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy the same standards of living we enjoy is a top priority of mine. Since my appointment as Vice-Chair of the Environment and Transportation Committee in 2015, I have been able to influence the outcome of important environmental legislation. As Chair of the Environment subcommittee, I oversee legislation affecting the Chesapeake Bay and environmental issues such as banning plastics, promoting recycling, and numerous other issues affecting our State’s environment. I’m very proud to serve the State of Maryland in both of these roles.
Recycling is a demand-driven industry. Without consistent, long-term demand, we cannot recycle our materials. If we can develop local markets, it will not only help the Maryland economy, but will also reduce transportation costs to ship recyclable material to market. To make recycling successful in Maryland, we need to create new markets and strengthen existing markets for recyclables.
This bill establishes a recycling market development program led by the Department of the Environment’s Office of Recycling. It would require the Office to expand reporting requirements and evaluate the availability of recycling markets and identify businesses in the State that use recycled materials.
House Bill 164 would encourage Maryland businesses to use recyclable materials, offer opportunities for new recycling businesses, and expand state buy recycled programs.
Wildlife killing contests do not align with Maryland’s hunting traditions of sportsmanship and fair chase. The brutal slaughter of countless animals purely for reward is not right.
Opponents have said that these contests were done for predator management. But science-based wildlife management says otherwise. Many wildlife management professionals and hunting groups criticized these contests because they’re not based in science, in addition to being cruel.
This bill prohibits a person from sponsoring, conducting, or participating in organized contests that have the objective of killing a coyote, fox, or raccoon for prizes or monetary awards. It also establishes a $50 fine for each coyote, fox, or raccoon killed in violation of the Act.
This bill extends and updates the Clean Water Commerce Act (CWCA), established in 2017, under which the Bay Restoration Fund’s (BRF) Wastewater Account could be used to purchase cost-effective pollution reductions in support of the state’s efforts to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay. The provisions were due to sunset at the end of FY 2021. Rather than let the CWCA funds sunset, this bill increases CWCA funding to $20 million annually and removes the exclusion of any sector, practice, or geography from CWCA project ranking, and makes stormwater and green infrastructure projects eligible for funding, among other provisions. The passage of this bill increases the ability of the state to meet its 2025 water-quality goals.
Chlorpyrifos is an insidious pesticide that attacks the human nervous system, causing significant developmental damage to fetuses and young children. In 2016, the EPA, acting on dozens of years of scientific information about the damage, proposed to ban its use in the United States.. However, before the ban could go into effect, the Trump Administration’s EPA overruled its scientists and withdrew the ban.
I first proposed a statewide ban on chlorpyrifos in 2017 as I believed the science was clear regarding how damaging this pesticide was to agricultural workers and anyone accessing water from the ground and streams on which this pesticide was sprayed. In 2020, the Senate version of my bill made it through the House and Senate during our pandemic-shortened session. However, it was then vetoed by the Governor.
UPDATE: EPA BANNED CHLORPYRIFOS NATIONWIDE – AUGUST 2021
Cownose Rays play very important roles in the coastal food web of the Chesapeake Bay but there were no state or federal regulations protecting Cownose rays nor was there a state management plan for the species. In 2017 we placed a two-year moratorium on Cownose Rays fishing tournaments and required the Department of Natural Resources to prepare a fishery management plan by the end of 2018.
Prior to the passage of HB 211 in 2017, these rays had been subject to fishing contests that were done, not for the purpose of eating them, but solely to see how many could be killed.
Since DNR had not yet created a fishery plan for these rays, the legislature, through HB 213, placed an indefinite moratorium on the killing contests.
U.S. Climate Alliance – Maryland Membership (HB 3) (Signed into Law by the Governor)
Addressing the impacts of climate change should be a high policy priority. The effect on Maryland will be drastic, impacting our economy, agriculture, housing, and health. When President Trump announced he would withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, a group of states and cities formed the U.S. Climate Alliance, under which they affirmed their commitment to fight climate change.
I introduced HB 3 prior to Governor Hogan’s announcement that Maryland would join the Alliance. My bill contained some key reporting requirements, however, that will ensure that Maryland remain part of the Alliance, no matter who serves as Governor.
Sea Level Rise Inundation and Coastal Flooding (HB 1350) (Signed into Law by the Governor)
One of the biggest impacts of climate change is rising sea levels, particularly as the Arctic Circle and the Antarctic are melting faster than scientists had predicted. Maryland is extremely vulnerable to rising sea levels because of our extensive coastline.
Three news items in 2018 confirmed just how vulnerable Maryland is to sea level rise. The first was a Bay Journal documentary called “High Tide in Dorchester,” which talks about the thousands of acres of land that already have been lost in Dorchester County due to rising sea levels and erosion and predicts how much more will be lost over the next 30 years. The second was the publication by the Department of Natural Resources of its inundation maps, showing the parts of Maryland that will be underwater with two feet of sea level rise, which it estimates will be by the year 2050.
Finally, an analysis by Zillow, a real estate data firm, predicting that by the year 2100, $19 billion in real estate, or 61,548 homes in Maryland, will be, quite literally, under water.
HB1350 requires that Maryland government agencies plan for the impacts of sea level rise by carefully considering its investments; determining the potential impact of saltwater intrusion on our agriculture and fresh water sources; and planning for increased nuisance flooding.
Chlorpyrifos Pesticide Ban (HB 116) (Voted Unfavorable in Committee)
Chlorpyrifos is an insidious pesticide that attacks the human nervous system, causing significant developmental damage to fetuses and young children. In 2016, the EPA, acting on scientific information about the damage, published a proposal to ban its use. However, before the ban could go into effect, the Trump Administration’s EPA overruled its scientists and withdrew the ban.
I believe Maryland should protect its citizens by banning this pesticide. Although my bill did not pass in 2018, I plan to propose it again in 2019.
Healthy Soils Program (HB 1063)
One of the issues I care the most about is climate change. Last year, the Governor signed legislation that sets a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. While traditional greenhouse gas reduction strategies focus on reducing the emission of carbon that goes into the atmosphere, healthy soil practices, or “soil-smart” practices, can remove carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it in the soil. The added carbon improves the yield and profitability of the soil, a benefit to Maryland farmers.
Healthy soil techniques include planting mixed cover crops, adopting no-till or low-till farming practices, rotational grazing, and using charcoal-based composts.
This bill establishes a Healthy Soils Program within the Maryland Department of Agriculture. The program’s goal is to educate and assist Maryland’s agricultural community about these practices, support efforts already undertaken by many of Maryland’s farmers, and, ultimately reduce carbon emissions and help protect Maryland from the drastic effects of climate change.
Sediment Control (HB 557)
The redevelopment of the old Sparrows Point site by TradePoint Atlantic has the potential to add thousands of jobs in Baltimore County. Unfortunately, the current process for governmental approval of sediment control plans at sites such as Sparrows Point can be lengthy and cumbersome. This bill will streamline the process of approving sediment control at large redevelopment sites by transferring responsibility to the Maryland Department of Environment, which is best equipped to handle such reviews.
In addition to passing a fracking ban (HB 1325), the legislature approved several other important legislative initiatives. We overrode the Governor’s veto of a bill that will increase the State’s commitment to renewable energy to 25% of electricity sales by 2020 (2016 HB 1106). The General Assembly also codified a Public Service Commission order that requires utilities to continue their programs to improve the energy efficiency of homes and businesses (SB 184).
Three other noteworthy measures that came through my subcommittee were the following:
Natural Resources – Oyster Management – Prohibited Actions (HB 924): Protects oyster sanctuaries from harvesting until a management study is completed in 2018.
Keep Antibiotics Effective (HB 602): Limits use of antibiotics in livestock operations, which has been shown to reduce antibiotic resistance in humans.
Pollinator Habitat Plans – Requirements and Prohibitions (HB 830): Specifies policies that state agencies need to implement to protect bees when creating their Pollinator Habitat Plans.
The Reauthorization of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act (HB 610), on which I was the first co-sponsor, became one of the nation’s strongest state environmental bills curbing carbon pollution. It set a new target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by the year 2030. As a state with over 3,000 miles of shoreline and a precarious coastal ecosystem, Maryland is especially susceptible to even the smallest environmental changes. This bill should significantly contribute to protecting Maryland’s environment, economy, public health, and Marylanders’ overall well-being. In addition to battling climate change, this bill is also expected to contribute to the creation of as many as 30,000 jobs in the renewable energy sector.
I proposed the “Healthy Air For All” Act (HB 1042), which would have required the Maryland Department of the Environment to reinstate regulations to reduce nitrogen oxide, a pollutant that causes ozone—and makes breathing difficult–on hot summer days. Governor Larry Hogan withdrew these regulations on his first day in office. Although the bill failed to pass the legislature, I will continue to advocate for laws that will enhance the quality of the air we breathe.
In 2015, I was appointed to the Maryland Climate Change Commission, which is researching the many issues Maryland will face in the coming years as the oceans rise and our weather worsens. In 2015, the General Assembly passed legislation that I proposed (HB 514) to create a permanent commission, made up of advocates, businesses, and educational institutions committed to addressing this issue. Information on the Climate Change Commission can be found on the Maryland Department of the Environment’s website by clicking here.