2022 Maryland Legislative Session

Nikki Davis

Heading into the 2022 General Assembly session, Maryland is at a key point in its work to meet the 2025 pollution-reduction commitments spelled out in the state's Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. CBF urges Maryland to move forward to meet its commitments as it takes critical steps to confront climate change and strive for environmental justice.

During the 2022 session, CBF will be urging the General Assembly to focus investments from state and federal sources on restoration efforts that are long-lasting, cost-effective, and targeted to confront climate change, improve water quality, and reverse historic inequities. The critical areas of attention are outlined in the sections below.

Mitigating Climate Change

Climate change is a reality around the world—and it's already having effects right here on our Bay and rivers. CBF, along with a coalition of partners, is advocating for legislation that establishes a deadline of 2045 for the state economy to reach net-zero emissions by addressing the emissions from transportation, electricity usage, and building fuel use. These three sectors make up more than 80 percent of emissions. CBF is urging Maryland to adopt an approach that centers on justice and equity, by implementing reductions on emissions that harm low-income and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities first.

Left unchecked, climate change threatens Bay recovery, our economy, and our very existence. Controlling emissions of climate-warming greenhouse gases is urgent to slow climate change, and other measures—including work already being done through the Chesapeake Bay clean-up effort—can help trap carbon and buffer the Chesapeake against its most harmful effects.

Protecting Environmental Human Rights

CBF is urging legislators to pass the Maryland Constitutional Amendment for Environmental Human Rights. The amendment would ensure that each person, as a matter of human dignity, has a fundamental and inalienable right to a healthful and sustainable environment. It also ensures that the state, as the trustee of Maryland’s natural resources, including its air, water, lands, wildlife, and ecosystems, shall preserve them for the benefit of current and future generations.

By elevating the right to a healthful environment to the same level of importance as our fundamental freedoms of the press, religion, and speech, this amendment will provide constitutionally based protections in addition to those set forth in existing environmental laws and regulations. It also makes explicit the state’s trustee role as a steward of our environment and the constitutional obligation to protect this right. These principles will strengthen the basis for addressing the cumulative effects of legacy pollution that disproportionately impact many of our minority and low-income communities and will steer Maryland toward true sustainability. They will provide a solid foundation for improved laws, regulations, and programs at all levels of government. The additional scrutiny that comes from constitutional provisions will serve as a guardrail against the most egregious forms of harmful action, protecting all Marylanders, now and in future generations.

Similar amendments have been constructive and responsible contributors to the environmental and governmental frameworks of other states (Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Montana, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island) that have adopted them. New York State adopted its version of the amendment in November 2021, with 68.9 percent of voters approving it.

Secure and Expand Environmental Funding

Recent passage of the federal infrastructure bill provides an historic influx of federal funding for EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. CBF will be looking closely at this funding to ensure that investments are spent on projects that will be most impactful. We’ll also be looking for opportunities to support top priorities for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, including expanding green infrastructure and addressing failing septic systems.

CBF will also remain vigilant to prevent raids on dedicated funding for environmental programs. Funding for urban tree plantings and plantings on agricultural and rural lands dedicated by the General Assembly last year will be critical to the State’s 5 Million Tree Program. This program is a key step to mitigate climate change and improve water quality. The Maryland General Assembly must uphold the state’s commitment to conservation practices for agriculture and expand investments in forested buffers and pasture-based livestock farming. (continues after video)

Fisheries

CBF is supporting legislation to increase Maryland’s capacity to carry out oyster restoration by increasing hatchery capacity, reforming oyster shell recycling programs, conducting research on expanding the use of non-shell materials, and surveying existing shell resources in Maryland waters.

Urban Farming

Maryland’s agricultural assistance programs, including cost-share support for conservation practices on farmland, and training programs for new farmers were not originally tailored to support small, urban farms. Minimum animal requirements and minimum acreage requirements can create bars to eligibility for urban farmers to receive state funding assistance. And practices more particular to urban farming, including high-tunnel systems (greenhouses) and security are not always envisioned as part of farming programs.

As more and more farmers enter the growing urban farming sector, training needs have emerged. Mentorship and training on farming practices, food safety, organics certifications, bookkeeping, and navigating local laws and regulations is widely sought. Addressing food aggregation, distribution and marketing needs of urban farms could help reverse inequitable access to healthy produce throughout Maryland. This legislation will seek to provide more equal footing for urban farmers with regard to state funding and training opportunities to support the growing trend of small, urban, regenerative farms.

Environmental Enforcement

Recent monitoring by Blue Water Baltimore uncovered that the state’s two largest wastewater treatment plants have been dumping high sewage levels in local rivers. In addition to environmental justice concerns with pollution in the Baltimore Harbor, the failures at those plants could mean we are off course to achieve the 2025 Blueprint. Compliance problems can be even worse, however, for the many hundreds of facilities around the state that are operating under expired permits. These “zombie permits” mean that environmental and public health suffer not just from a lack of compliance with pollution controls, but also a failure to modernize the pollution controls that are supposed to take place when the permit is renewed. This year, CBF and partners Arundel Rivers, Shore Rivers, Waterkeepers Chesapeake, Chesapeake Legal Alliance, Center for Progressive Reform are seeking to strengthen enforcement of environmental laws and regulations for wastewater, industrial runoff, and construction sediment erosion.

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