2024 Maryland Legislative Session

Nikki Davis

Maryland is at a critical point in its work to reduce pollution in the Bay and improve water quality. During the 2024 session, CBF will be urging the General Assembly to prioritize restoration efforts that are long-lasting, cost-effective, and targeted to confront climate change, tackle pollution sources, and support the state's growing aquaculture industry.

Creating a Whole Watershed Pilot Program

This legislation will create a pilot program to select five impaired watersheds across the state for coordinated, comprehensive improvement and investment. The bill builds off a successful partnership model in Pennsylvania supported by CBF designed to rapidly delist waterways included on EPA's impaired waters list. Additionally, the bill creates a licensing program for waterway restoration practitioners. CBF is working in partnership with leaders from the Chesapeake Bay Commission, Chesapeake Conservancy, and other environmental champions, state agencies, and restoration practitioners to develop this legislation, which was chosen as a 2024 legislative priority by the Citizens' Campaign for the Environment, the largest environmentally-focused organizing coalition in Maryland.

Closing the Industrial Sludge Loophole

Maryland has, due to incomplete and inconsistent regulation, become a regional dumping ground for what's called “Dissolved Air Flotation” or DAF—the sludge material left over from industrial protein rendering operations. DAF is stored in large open-air tanks and applied to farm fields where it produces odors and insect problems that plague local neighborhoods and communities. Storage tanks and trucks hauling the material can leak and spill, and runoff is delivering polluted industrial waste straight to local streams that feed the Bay. A recent study indicated that Maryland is a net importer of DAF, with more than 50 percent of the material generated regionally being spread on Maryland farms, due to lax tracking and enforcement relative to neighboring jurisdictions.

Maryland's Sludge Influx Over 50% of the region's industrial sludge is applied to Maryland farms.*  1. Industrial sludge is the material that remains after meat and protein products are processed in rendering plants. 2. Rendering plants in Virginia and Delaware ship industrial sludge to Maryland because of the state's lax regulations and oversight. 3. In Maryland, the sludge is then either land applied or held in expansive storage tanks, often without clear knowledge of what's in it. 4. The result is foul smelling odor, swarming insects, and polluted runoff that threatens communities and the Bay.  Farmers in Maryland reported the importation of nearly 30 million gallons of DAF in 2019 and ≥37 million gallons in 2020,  which respectively accounted for 50% and ≥62% of the ~60 million gallons generated regionally.  Source: Final.Report.AWTF_.Assessment.pdf (umd.edu) (page 22) real url: https://extension.umd.edu/extension.umd.edu/sites/extension.umd.edu/files/2023-10/Summary.AWTF_.Assessment.pdf

Community and environmental impacts caused by the land application and storage of DAF industrial sludge are of increasing concern to property owners and residents on the Eastern Shore and throughout the state. This legislation would clarify and strengthen regulations that govern the hauling and application of this material on farmland by developing a permit program for its use. CBF is partnering with Chesapeake Legal Alliance, Dorchester Citizens for Planned Growth, ShoreRivers, and other stakeholders to support this bill.

Strengthening Maryland's Living Shoreline Law

In 2008, CBF led the charge to change Maryland state law to require that shoreline stabilization efforts prioritize living shorelines. Living shorelines—shoreline stabilization techniques that include natural gradients and living elements like marshes, oyster reefs, and underwater grasses—connect land to water, stabilize soil, and provide valuable habitat in ways that costly bulkheads and stone revetments do not. Despite the clear directive established by the living shorelines law, a significant number of waivers to this requirement continued to be granted, resulting in nearly 2,000 miles of armoring, representing more than 25 percent of all of Maryland's shoreline. Important Bay resources, including prey species like Bay anchovies and the iconic blue crab, exhibit negative responses to shoreline armoring at thresholds as low as 10 percent.

This legislation would build on the landmark 2008 law to clarify a portion of the waiver provision related to the replacement of existing hardened shoreline and expand the uses of waterway impact fee revenues to include grants for replacing armored shorelines with living shorelines. CBF is working in partnership with Chesapeake Bay Trust, Maryland Department of the Environment, and Department of Natural Resources on this bill.

Supporting Maryland's Aquaculture Industry

CBF is working in partnership with legislative leaders on the Aquaculture Coordinating Council to rebalance that body to better reflect the diversity and breadth of the people involved in Maryland's aquaculture industry. A body more reflective of this emerging industry will ensure the right stakeholders are at the table to make recommendations that provide economic and environmental benefits to the Bay.

Defending Clean Water Funding

With reports of declining state revenues and increasing mandatory state expenditures, CBF is gearing up for some difficult budget fights at the state level in 2024 and the years ahead, beginning with educating new administration leaders and legislators on the importance and efficacy of Bay funding, and urging lawmakers to protect the important investments Maryland makes in clean water.

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Do you enjoy working with others to help clean the Chesapeake Bay? Do you have a few hours to spare? Whether growing oysters, planting trees, or advocating for a clean Bay, there are plenty of ways you can contribute.

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