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 Natural Resources, Agriculture and Open Space subcommittee, I oversee legislation affecting Chesapeake Bay fisheries, farming, hunting regulations, and land preservation. I’m very proud to serve the State of Maryland in both of these roles.
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.
Other 2017 Environmental Legislation
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 House Bill 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 (Senate Bill 184).
Three other noteworthy measures that came through my subcommittee were the following:
House Bill 924 Natural Resources – Oyster Management – Prohibited Actions: Protects oyster sanctuaries from harvesting until a management study is completed in 2018.
House Bill 602 Keep Antibiotics Effective: Limits use of antibiotics in livestock operations, which has been shown to reduce antibiotic resistance in humans.
House Bill 830 Pollinator Habitat Plans – Requirements and Prohibitions: 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.