This year's Maryland General Assembly session was as expansive and varied as the Chesapeake watershed itself, covering the land, water, and air of this vast watershed we share.
We couldn't have covered such a sweeping agenda without the unflagging support of our members--thank you to all who advocated for clean water and the Chesapeake Bay right into the last hours of the session!
In the end, filters emerged as a key theme, with some of our most important bills covering the Chesapeake Bay watershed's natural filters for pollution--trees and oysters. These two bills went all the way into the evening hours on sine die (the session's last day):
The Sustainable Oyster Harvest Act (SB937/HB1603) passed in both the Senate and the House in bipartisan votes that reinforced the importance of oysters to clean water and the Chesapeake way of life. It requires the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to provide critical pieces of scientific data still needed to help inform management of Maryland's public oyster fishery. This information is essential to knowing what portion of the Bay's oysters are being harvested each year and whether those rates are sustainable for the population.
We also helped defeat several bills that would set Maryland back in the protection of our oyster population. Learn more about those bills here.
A bill (HB1197) that would have made an exception for specific development projects in Prince George's County to the Maryland Forest Conservation Act's replanting requirements never had a vote in the House Committee, effectively defeating it--proving that sometimes the best legislative action is no action. This bill would have set a bad precedent for others across the state arguing for the same exemption when replanting the trees cut down for development becomes too costly or inconvenient. We will continue to ensure that trees cut down for development will be replanted, renewing their benefits for water quality, air quality, wildlife habitat, and communities across Maryland.
Our biggest pre-session priority was the Poultry Litter Management Act (PLMA). While the PLMA didn't get beyond committee hearings this year, our work to bring clean water solutions to our Eastern Shore waters is far from over. As a result of the hearings, we achieved important goals in the effort to reduce phosphorus pollution in the Bay and Eastern Shore waterways. Learn more about what we accomplished.
Some of the other bright spots of the session that CBF helped achieve include:
- The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act passed, and was signed into law by Governor Hogan while the General Assembly was still in session. This bipartisan bill commits Maryland to some of the strongest reductions in greenhouse gases in the nation.
- The budget was passed by both chambers and includes stable funding for environmental agencies and programs that play key roles in Chesapeake Bay restoration.
We also defeated a raft of bad bills that would have endangered water quality and eroded the integrity of local waterways and the Bay. See here for a more in-depth list of key bills that CBF worked on this session, and how they turned out.
Looking ahead, we expect that our work on natural filters will be a highlight of the year to come, as we continue work to restore and help manage the oyster population to sustainable levels and to protect and replace Maryland's trees. Expect to hear more from us on policies and practices that impact these two important filters in the Chesapeake watershed, both within and outside of the legislative context.
Whew! And now it's done.
Thank you again to all our members who fought to keep clean water and the Bay front and center in the legislature!
--Alison Prost, CBF's Maryland Executive Director