ANNAPOLIS, MD – On Jan. 29, Governor Larry Hogan announced proposed legislation and outlined important federal, state, and local initiatives to continue protecting and restoring the Chesapeake Bay and encouraging environmental stewardship in Maryland.
“The Chesapeake Bay is truly Maryland’s greatest natural asset, and stewardship of this precious resource for future generations is a role I take incredibly seriously,” said Governor Hogan. “We will continue to provide record state support and tireless advocacy at the federal level for Bay restoration, and develop innovative policy solutions that encourage all Marylanders to become guardians of our environment.”
Hogan Administration Initiatives
Governor Hogan recently filed the Septic Stewardship Act of 2018, which will provide targeted fee relief to homeowners with septic systems, and incentivize local Septic Stewardship Plans to ensure systems are operated and maintained, including provisions such as routine pump-outs and inspections.
The legislation allows the state’s Bay Restoration Fund to be used to reimburse homeowners for the cost of on-site sewage systems pumping if their county creates a Septic Stewardship Program. The bill also exempts homeowners who voluntarily upgrade to Best Available Technology (BAT) systems without any state or federal financial assistance from paying the Bay Restoration fee. It also shifts additional funding to support agricultural cover crop practices, which are proven, cost-effective methods to reduce nutrient runoff into the Bay.
“Clean water begins at home and on the farm, and the Septic Stewardship Act of 2018 will help deliver state and local support for both,” said Governor Hogan. “This legislation will build on our administration’s remarkable Chesapeake Bay restoration progress, record funding, and common sense regulatory reforms by incentivizing septic system maintenance and agricultural best practices to reduce runoff and protect the Bay.”
The administration also continues to make significant progress addressing sediment pollution flowing through the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River, a top environmental priority of the Hogan administration. Maryland Environmental Service recently selected a vendor to conduct a pilot program to dredge behind the dam and develop beneficial reuses for the dredged material. A Request for Proposal (RFP) for the project was issued following the governor’s second Conowingo Dam Summit in August 2017.
The Hogan administration’s proposed Fiscal Year 2019 budget for the Chesapeake Bay, at over $1.1 billion, includes record levels of funding for key Chesapeake Bay conservation and regulatory innovation programs, including $52.9 million for the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund, marking the third year in a row that the Hogan administration has fully funded Bay restoration efforts. The FY 2019 budget marks the first time since 2008 that no funding for transfer tax programs, including Program Open Space, is diverted to the General Fund. In total, these programs receive $253 million, an increase of $67 million from FY 2018.
The governor’s FY 2019 budget also provides $6 million for the administration’s Clean Water Commerce Program for innovative nutrient and sediment projects, and $8 million for Maryland Department of the Environment’s Energy and Water Infrastructure Program, which reduces emissions and the cost of cleaning water by deploying energy efficiency and renewable energy projects at water and wastewater treatment plants. The administration also remains committed to implementing the governor’s historic Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT) regulations, with leadership by the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
Federal Advocacy Efforts
At the federal level, Governor Hogan continues to strongly advocate for full federal funding of the Chesapeake Bay Program, which was again delayed by the recent government shutdown. The governor has discussed the critical importance of this funding directly with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, and has written to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan. Earlier this month, he also sent a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee leaders Sens. Thad Cochran and Lisa Murkowski urging them to ensure the full $73 million in funding is included in the forthcoming long-term government funding legislation.
As chair of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Executive Council, Governor Hogan also led an effort among five governors, the mayor of Washington, D.C., and the chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission to support legislation to boost the share of funding for Bay states under the Resource Conservation Partnership Program in the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization.
The governor has also urged Congress to reject any measures that could dilute the effectiveness of Bay cleanup initiatives, such as removing or limiting the EPA’s oversight role in ensuring all states are held accountable for agreed-upon commitments to improving air and water quality. For example, the Hogan administration is pursuing multiple actions with upstream states, the EPA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and other agencies to prevent sediment and nutrient pollution in the Susquehanna River watershed above the Conowingo Dam.
These announcements and actions build on the governor’s strong record of protecting Maryland’s environment and restoring the health of the state’s most important asset: the Chesapeake Bay. Governor Hogan has invested more than $3 billion in state funds towards Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts in his first three budgets, and he is the only governor in state history to fully fund the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund. Under the Hogan administration, the Chesapeake Bay received its highest score for water quality in nearly a quarter century, and in 2017, Governor Hogan was unanimously elected chairman of the Chesapeake Executive Council, which includes six states and Washington, D.C., and was named a Champion of the Chesapeake by the Chesapeake Conservancy.
Under the Hogan administration’s leadership, Maryland has also enacted some of the most aggressive air quality standards in the nation, and in 2017, the administration filed one of the most comprehensive legal actions in Clean Air Act history requiring the EPA to control interstate smog at 19 power plants in five upwind states. In addition, Maryland continues to be a leading and fully committed member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), and is a member of the U.S. Climate Alliance.