Maryland lawmakers have passed over 800 bills this year. Several of these new laws have addressed local and statewide environmental matters and many have been hotly debated, grabbing headlines in articles circulated throughout the State and nationwide. At Ferrante, Dill & Hisle, our attention has been focused upon such environmental matters and the issues and debate surrounding them. In this week’s blog post we’ll discuss some of these new laws and how their passage may impact us both locally and statewide.
Oyster Restoration Efforts
Perhaps the most contentious environmental bill on the Maryland docket has been the one that the late Maryland Speaker of the House Michael Busch introduced back in January 2019, known as the Oyster Restoration bill. This bill is a legally binding extension of the 2014 Chesapeake Watershed Agreement, designating five tributaries in the Chesapeake Bay as oyster restoration sanctuaries thereby prohibiting oyster harvesting in these areas.
Oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay – North America’s largest estuary – have declined to less than 1% of their early 19th century population. Delicious as they are to some, oysters play a vital role in the health of the Bay. They are what’s called a “filter feeder”. They eat phytoplankton (free-swimming algae) and help to improve water quality as they filter their food from the water (less algae = cleaner water). As well, as generations of oysters settle on top of each other, they form reefs that provide homes to other species like fish and crabs. With the decline in oyster population, the Bay has seen a decline in its health and dynamic ability to house a wide range of plant and animal life.
Many oyster harvesters have expressed concerns that this bill would severely limit their harvesting grounds, causing duress to their already frail industry. Harvesters have offered a compromise to Busch’s bill: suggesting rotational harvesting- meaning tributaries alternate between restoration and harvesting.
After the House and Senate passed the Oyster Restoration bill, Governor Larry Hogan vetoed it. On April 8, 2019, one day after Speaker Busch passed away, the Maryland Senate voted to override Governor Hogan’s veto and the bill became a law.
Clean Energy Jobs Act
On April 8, 2019, the Maryland General Assembly gave final approval to the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) which went on to pass in both the House and Senate.
CEJA is focused on renewable energy, making roof-top solar power a common form of electricity generation across the state, and jumpstarting Maryland’s offshore wind industry. The bill requires that 50% of generated electricity must come from renewable sources by 2030 with a path to achieving 100% clean energy by 2040. The passage of CEJA may make Maryland a national leader in renewable energy, with the goal of creating tens of thousands of Maryland-based renewable energy jobs while helping the state to meet clean energy guidelines. Additionally, CEJA mandates that 50% of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030. CEJA’s critics say it will cost Maryland jobs and lost investment.
Foam No More
A third bill that passed this month makes Maryland the second state in the nation, joining Maine, to institute a state-wide ban on polystyrene foam (Styrofoam) containers.
Styrofoam is one of the most common forms of single-use plastics (like straws). Styrofoam does not break down over time and can remain in our landfills and waterways for hundreds of years. Each year an estimated 25 billion Styrofoam cups are disposed of in America alone. The food service industry has expressed concerns regarding the banning of Styrofoam because of greater costs and poorer insulation.
Red, Blue or Green…
These new laws, no matter your preferences or positions, will indeed impact our environment and economy. We at Ferrante, Dill & Hisle remain dedicated to providing and addressing current, relevant and informative material and issues that impact our community.