After a whirlwind session, Maryland's 442nd General Assembly adjourned this year with some solid wins for the Bay—and one major disappointment. CBF staff and advocates lobbied on dozens of bills this year to advance clean water legislation and to stop or amend bills that would harm the Chesapeake Bay.
When this year’s session kicked off in January, we had a chance to put Maryland among the world’s leaders in reducing harmful emissions that are causing climate change through the introduction of the Climate Solutions Now Act of 2021. Different versions of the legislation passed both chambers with bipartisan support but, unfortunately, consensus could not be reached and the bill failed to pass.
Some of the legislation’s components were added to other bills that were approved:
- The goal to plant 5 million trees by 2030 was shifted to another bill, HB 991, and approved. This will provide funding and coordination to plant 5 million trees in eight years, including 500,000 in urban areas, starting in 2023.
- Changes to the state’s Environmental Justice Commission passed the General Assembly as a standalone bill, HB 1207.
- Legislators also approved SB 137, a bill to transition the state’s transit bus fleet to zero-emission buses.
Additionally, the Transit Safety and Investment Act passed, which mandates sufficient funding from the Transportation Trust Fund for the next six years to repair and ensure the transit system is operational as identified by the MTA. The bill also supports a Western Maryland MARC Rail extension study. Investment in transit helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and Bay-fouling nitrous oxides, and produces roughly twice the number of jobs per dollar as the same investment in roads.
Environmental Education Funding
The General Assembly was able to restore critical funding to CBF’s outdoor education programs. For 40 years, Maryland has maintained a contract with CBF’s outdoor education program through the State Aided Educational Institutions Program (SAI). For the second year in a row, the Governor’s proposed budget eliminated entirely the funding for CBF’s state education contract.
This funding provides roughly 10,000 Maryland students and teachers in public, private, and charter schools each year with meaningful outdoor education experiences. Thanks to Maryland General Assembly and our advocates, students and teachers will once again be able to take part in hands-on investigations into the Chesapeake and its rivers, the issues plaguing them, and ways to help restore them.
Climate change has brought stronger and more frequent rainstorms to the region, but the country’s and states’ long-term precipitation models have not kept pace with higher rain totals. This has caused rainfall estimates for—and the runoff control practices that rely on them—to underestimate the realities we’re seeing year after year.
To begin to address this issue, the General Assembly passed legislation requiring the Maryland Department of the Environment to incorporate the most recent precipitation data available into their stormwater management plans and regulations. The legislation aims to ensure Maryland officials are aware of and working to control increasing stormwater runoff due to more severe storms.
Polluted stormwater runoff occurs when rainwater picks up pollutants such as oil, fertilizer, and sediment from roads, roofs, and other impervious surfaces and then the water flows into nearby streams, rivers, and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.
Other Environmental Priorities
CBF also supported efforts by our partners to reduce plastic bag usage and ban harmful chemicals known as PFAS during this year’s legislative session.
The Plastic Bag Reduction Act passed out of the House but failed to advance in the Senate. The Stop PFAS Pollution Act failed to advance out of committees in both the House and the Senate. We expect both bills to be introduced again next year and look forward to supporting our partners in their work to get them passed.