General Assembly Drops the Ball on the Environment

Environment Maryland

When presented with opportunities to develop clean energy, reduce pollution into the Chesapeake Bay, and promote smart growth, the Maryland General Assembly largely failed to make progress this year.
“Short-sightedness prevailed,” said Environment Maryland Policy Advocate Tommy Landers. “In a year when we should be accelerating our bay cleanup efforts and shifting to clean, reliably priced energy, Maryland lawmakers mostly took baby steps or did nothing at all.”
Legislators failed to accept a small, short-term charge for offshore wind power that would create jobs, clean the air, and stabilize our electricity prices, and then at 7:00 pm they were poised to vote to throw away our utility bill dollars with payoffs to existing incinerators.
“If the General Assembly passes the incinerator bill, Maryland will have moved backward on clean energy this year,” said Environment Maryland State Director Brad Heavner. “It is outrageous that legislators would say yes to throwing away ratepayer money by subsidizing existing incinerators while saying no to a small fee that would create jobs and reduce pollution with offshore wind power.”
Environment Maryland pledged to keep working for passage of the offshore wind legislation.
“Gov. O’Malley showed great leadership on offshore wind, and then legislators dropped the ball,” added Heavner.  But I have no doubt this bill will pass and wind turbines will be installed off our coast. The sooner we do it, the sooner we get the jobs. I hope we don’t have to go through this debate too many more times.”
The General Assembly also failed to act on important legislation to reduce pollution from septic systems. They did, however, pass one significant Chesapeake Bay cleanup bill. The General Assembly limited water pollution from urban fertilizers, which are a particularly serious and growing pollution source in Maryland.
“The fertilizer bill is a strong step forward for the Chesapeake Bay, but we need to take more than one step per year for the bay,” said Policy Associate Meg Cronin.
While farmers often feel singled out for their pollution impacts on the Chesapeake Bay, this legislation demonstrates that policy makers are calling on all sectors to reduce pollution.
“We need all sectors to do their part,” added Cronin.
Legislators made some prudent decisions for next year’s budget. They increased funding levels to energy efficiency, clean energy, and the Chesapeake Bay Trust.  Land preservation funding remained uncertain as of 7:00 pm.
“Funding levels remain short of those required by the law. But these are the kind of investments that will help clean up our air and water and bolster our economy at the same time,” added Heavner.

Click here to see a full summary of legislation from the 2011 session.