(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) today declared the 2013 Session of the Maryland General Assembly a success. New programs and policies were developed to reduce pollution in every county of the state. Progress also was made to reduce pollution from farms. Also, attempts by some legislators to roll back important pollution reduction programs were soundly defeated.
"This session was about rolling up our collective sleeves, getting to the nitty-gritty of turning policies into practices," said CBF Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost. We succeeded. In neighborhoods around the state we should see construction projects and new jobs as we upgrade stormwater systems. We'll see more trees planted along farm streams, more oyster shells collected to enlarge reefs, and more winter crops planted on fields."
The legislature approved more than $625 million total in spending in the next fiscal year to hasten pollution reduction, including:
- $395 million to enable the State Highway Administration to reduce pollution flowing from state highways to local creeks, rivers and the Chesapeake;
- a record $31.5 million for the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund which helps farmers and localities curtail runoff; and
- $36 million to help towns and counties upgrade aging storm water systems.
In addition to backing these measures, CBF and its partners successfully defeated attempts to roll back strong environmental legislation and regulations. Those defeated bills included:
- HB106/SB391 to repeal an innovative law to reduce the number of large subdivisions constructed in rural areas with septic systems;
- amendments to HB508 to delay by two years stormwater system upgrades in 10 counties;
- several bills to exempt certain counties from various water pollution laws and regulations;
- SB979 to excuse localities from reducing pollution to their local creeks and rivers through implementation of their Watershed Implementation Plans until an environmental assessment of the Conowingo Dam is complete.
In its 2012 State of the Bay Report, CBF reported the health index of the Bay improved 14 percent since 2008. The report found cooperation between government, business and citizens was key to that success.
"Governor O'Malley and the legislature deserve our thanks for sustaining our momentum. We also congratulate the governor and the whole environmental community for passage of legislation to encourage off-shore wind power. Now local governments need to keep the ball rolling," Prost added.
Other major bills upon which CBF worked this session, included:
- SB1029 "Maryland Agricultural Certainty Program" offers farmers who voluntarily meet 2025 water quality goals now (12 years ahead of schedule) flexibility when they meet any potential new laws and regulations. The program offers certainty that farmers are actually reducing pollution on their farms, and also gives farmers business certainty once they meet all water quality standards.
- HB184/SB484 allows an individual or corporation a $1 credit against the state income tax for each bushel of oyster shells recycled during the taxable year. CBF supported the bill as a means to encourage recycling of oyster shells.
- Administrative action to increase funding to farmers who want to raise livestock on pasture, and to install permanent safeguards to prevent pollution.
"While we have made progress, more must be done," Prost said. "Local rivers and the Bay are still polluted, costing jobs and putting human health at risk. Clean water is a legacy we can leave to our children and grandchildren, but only if we continue the efforts and investment to implement the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint that science has developed."