Solarize Frederick County news

Frederick News Post
11/20/2013
As a special initiative of the Frederick County Green Homes Challenge, Solarize Frederick County aimed to increase installation of residential solar electric and hot water systems throughout Frederick County with volume purchase discounts and local incentive grants. To take advantage of these incentives, residents had to sign up for a solar assessment during the time — limited enrollment period and wrap up all contracts by Sept. 30. Sixty-nine households took advantage of the program. The households are installing 72 solar energy systems — 66 solar electric systems and 12 solar hot water systems. The households participating in Solarize Frederick County will be installing a capacity of 547 kilowatt (kW) equivalents; that equates to the production of approximately 656,400 kilowatt-hours each year. The Frederick County Office of Sustainability and Environmental Resources began informing residents about the Solarize initiative in late 2012. Nearly 500 households expressed interest in the program; of these, 308 attended Solarize informational workshops, and 347 requested solar assessments of their homes.

Lake Linganore residents band together on water quality

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/19/2013
When Lake Linganore resident Betsy Smith looks out the window after a storm, she watches the land around her acting as a “huge water filter.” Plants and soil slow the flow of rainwater and help remove sediment and pollutants before the runoff reaches Lake Linganore and surrounding tributaries, she said. The filtration step is important not only for preserving water quality, but also because sediment can build up and reduce the lake’s capacity. But Smith and her neighbors are concerned that planned development in the area will replace these vegetated areas with paved surfaces, she said. “We just didn’t see how it could work to do all of the development right there in that really big water drainage area,” she said. Smith has expressed her opinion at public meetings, she said, but she doesn’t feel her voice has been heard by county leaders. So Smith and some of her neighbors decided to band together. In late October, they filed the articles of incorporation for a new group called Cleanwater Linganore Inc. Smith is president of the nonprofit’s five-member board, all of whom live in the Lake Linganore area.

Environmental panel to feature Myersville resident

Frederick News Post
11/17/2013
Myersville resident Ann Nau will be one of several panelists with Chesapeake Climate Action Network’s nine-stop tour across Maryland, including Hood College on Monday. The panelists will address pipeline infrastructure, such as the proposed Myersville compressor station. Nau is vice president of Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community, a grass roots group organized to keep Dominion Transmission Inc. from building a gas compressor station in the small west Frederick County town. Nau has argued that DTI's proposed 16,000-horsepower compressor station is less than one mile from the Myersville Elementary School and would emit 23.5 tons of nitrogen oxide per year, risking lives. The panelists are protesting a new network of infrastructure — pipelines and compressor stations — to transport natural gas from fracking operations to Cove Point that will shipped to overseas markets. Large “energy companies benefit when communities like ours don't connect the dots between their plans and our health,” Nau said in a recent letter to the editor. “In the case of Dominion's $3.8 billion plan to liquefy and export natural gas from its Cove Point facility on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, you can bet they hope Frederick County residents don't (connect the dots), because we could pay a particularly high price,” Nau wrote. A recent MIT study found that Maryland has a higher death rate due to air pollution than any other state, resulting in the premature deaths of 113 out of 100,000 people per year, Nau said. Dominion's plan — to pipe across Maryland, liquefy and export nearly 1 billion cubic feet of gas from Cove Point every day — is a great deal for big gas corporations, but a lousy deal for Marylanders, Nau said.

Year-round education center brings community to Fox Haven Farm

Frederick News Post
Ike Wilson
11/04/2013
More than 65,000 new trees and shrubs have been planted on the 582-acre farm, which has been certified for organic hay and vegetable production under the Maryland organic certification program. The farm’s conservation, forest stewardship and nutrient management plans guide land-use decisions, but Fox Haven has added a year-round ecological retreat and learning center that offers sustainable practice, weekend or daylong bootcamp workshops, stream walks for exploration and discovery, career and art workshops, and map and compass learning sessions.“For over 30 years, Fox Haven’s forest and farmland have been a proving ground for innovative, sustainable farming practices to restore the health of the land to protect the water quality of Catoctin Creek, and to provide habitat for wildlife,” according to the farm’s mission statement atfoxhavenlearningcenter.org. “While we have worked informally to share those practices with others over the years, in 2011 we set a goal to make that information more widely available through an education center that is open year-round,” said Renee Bourassa, the learning center’s deputy director.

County decides to relax stream buffer requirements

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/01/2013
The legally required swath of trees and shrubbery separating Frederick County's homes from its streams is becoming 25 feet slimmer. Commissioners voted Thursday to relax the county's stream buffer ordinance, a "modest change" that they said would have little effect on the county's waterways. Allowing homes closer to county streams opens up a bit more land to developers, giving them more flexibility in site design as they deal with state environmental requirements, county staff said. "Really, we see this as a jibing of county standards to harmonize with the state standards," said Dusty Rood, president of the Frederick County Land Use Council. However, local residents, environmental groups and former County Commissioner Kai Hagen all said they believed decreasing the required stream buffer size would endanger area water quality. Hagen said county's current leaders have shown a pattern of elevating developer interests above other considerations. "They said, 'Jump,' and you jumped," Hagen told the board of commissioners.

City Notes: State says Frederick is a sustainable city

Frederick News Post
Jen Bondeson
10/27/2013
After a couple of years working hard to prove to the state how "green" it really is, Frederick is now certified as a sustainable city. The city was one of eight in the state to receive the Sustainable Maryland Certified award at the Maryland Municipal League conference last week. Joe Adkins, the city's deputy director of planning, has been working with staff and volunteers since 2011 to complete requirements for the certification. The city was ahead of the curve when it started to work on this. It had created a Sustainable Practice Action Plan back in 2009. Most of what the city needed to do was already done: farmers markets, mixed-use paths and bicycling initiatives, stormwater management, forestry preservation, housing elements, stream cleanup and buy-local initiatives. Other than that, Mayor Randy McClement just needed to establish a Green Initiative Team, which he did last year, Adkins said.

Gray: More of the same coming from this BoCC

Frederick News Post
David Gray
10/08/2011
We are coming to the end of the third year of a developer-controlled majority of the Board of County Commissioners. You might think their anti-environment, anti-education and budget-depleting gifts to their friends and contributors would begin to subside. Not so. There’s more coming — and soon. ----- There is one year left for this BoCC majority to undermine good planning and give county funds away for developer interests, and other special friends like Aurora healthcare. As a commissioner now for 19 years I have never seen a group of elected commissioners who so blatantly favor their personal and special interests over the citizens and future well-being of this county. I am disgusted to witness these and prior actions of the last three years that leave a legacy of environmental neglect, growing bills and future tax increases, in the millions, to be shouldered by Frederick County taxpayers.

Potomac Conservancy Urges Citizens To Speak Out Against Stream Buffer Changes

WFMD
Kevin McManus
10/15/2013
A regional organization is urging Frederick County citizens to speak out against proposed changes to stream buffer regulations. In an e-mail sent out last week, the Potomac Conservancy said residents need to tell the Commissioners to vote against changes to the Waterbody Buffer Amendment."It's {the current regulations} a proven, cost-effective methodology that will help reduce flooding on rainy days, and also keep pollutants out of much of the drinking water supply," says Hedrick Belin, President of the Potomac River Conservancy. The revisions would reduce the minimum setbacks for buildings being constructed near bodies of water, cut down the required study area around bodies of water and remove special rules for the Lake Linganore area.

Court: Federal laws supersede local zoning ordinances for proposed gas compressor station in Myersville

Frederick News Post
Ike Wilson
10/09/2013
When the Myersville Town Council denied a request last year to build a 16,000-horsepower gas compressor station in the western Frederick County municipality, arguing that local ordinances preclude the project, Dominion Transmission Inc. disagreed and sued Myersville.The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ruled Monday that local zoning laws are pre-empted by the federal Natural Gas Act. According to the court ruling, those portions of the town code that prevent the siting, construction or operation of the Myersville compressor station are null and void. Dominion also sought an injunction against Myersville, alleging the town was delaying the process to build the station, but the court denied Dominion’s request, saying that the company has not completed other required processes for the Maryland Department of the Environment’s air quality permit. The gas compressor station, which compresses natural gas and pushes it forward, is part of a larger project being built to deal with customer demand for natural gas, according to DTI. The fight to keep the gas compressor station out of Myersville is not over.

County considers reducing stream buffer requirement

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
10/8/2013
Houses might be allowed a little closer to Frederick County streams if officials decide to relax certain water body buffer requirements. On Wednesday, members of the Frederick County Planning Commission will review drafted amendments to the local rules for buffers. The proposed changes would reduce minimum building setbacks, cut down the required study area around bodies of water and remove special rules that apply in the Lake Linganore area. The county is tackling the stream buffer ordinance as it works through a list of suggestions for making the region more friendly to businesses. Dusty Rood, president of the Land Use Council, said the proposed changes are minor and would make the stream buffer rules more compatible with state environmental standards. However, others think the drafted changes would weaken county laws and lead to stream pollution. The current water body buffer ordinance was passed in 2008, under the board led by Commissioners President Jan Gardner, said Tim Goodfellow, principal planner for the county. Before the ordinance was enacted, the minimum setback was only 50 feet, Goodfellow said. Determining proper setbacks now involves looking at the 175-foot slice of land on either side of a stream or surrounding a body of water. The proposed changes would reduce the study area to 150 feet on each side of a stream, Goodfellow said. The studies examine the slope of the land surrounding the water bodies; for areas with predominantly steep slopes, buildings must sit at least 175 feet away from the water. The minimum buffer is 150 feet where slopes are mostly moderate, and for gentle inclines or flat areas, the setback is 100 feet, Goodfellow said.

Foes of Myersville compressor station ask for review, Want state to postpone permit

Frederick News Post
Ike Wilson
09/25/2013
A local grass-roots group wants the Maryland Department of the Environment to consider a recent study that tags the Old Line State with the highest percentage of premature deaths due to long-term exposure to air pollution than any other state before the state agency makes a decision on Dominion Transmission Inc.’s request for an air quality permit for its proposed gas compressor station in Myersville. The recently released study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that emissions from cars, trucks, industrial smokestacks, trains, boats, and commercial heating systems contribute to the deaths of 113 people per 100,000 population per year in Maryland, according to Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community, the grass-roots group formed to keep the project out of the western Frederick County municipality. Baltimore has the highest emissions-related mortality rate of large cities in the country, and Frederick, Reisterstown and Montgomery Village all have rates close to Baltimore’s, according to the study. After a recent MDE informational meeting in Myersville, MCRC members said the agency should consider the MIT study, along with numerous scientific studies and facts that support not granting the air quality permit to operate a 16,000 horsepower gas compressor station in Myersville.

Clean Chesapeake Coalition faces challenges changing minds

Carroll County Times
Timothy Sandoval
09/22/2013
The Clean Chesapeake Coalition, which Carroll County joined last year, includes six other rural counties in Maryland, and attempts to change conventional wisdom on the Chesapeake Bay cleanup and restoration efforts. The coalition advocates for cost-effective policies that will help the bay, pointing out the issues concerning the Conowingo Dam, which they say releases the largest amount of pollution into the bay. They argue the dam should be the priority, downplaying the effectiveness of environmental polices handed down by the state. But some have questioned the effectiveness of such a coalition, including one commissioner in Carroll County. Commissioner Haven Shoemaker, R-District 2, who voted against joining the coalition, said at the time of the vote that he was unsure the state would stop its focus on septic system regulations and other mandates it is looking to impose.

Scientists defend storm-water controls

Baltimore Sun
Tim Wheeler
09/20/2013
Scientists and others engaged in protecting Maryland's rivers and streams are rising to the defense of the state's storm-water management laws in the wake of Harford County Executive David Craig's call for their repeal. Craig, a leading Republican candidate for governor in next year's election, said earlier this week that he would push for repeal of at least three state environmental laws, including one requiring property owners in Baltimore City and the state's nine largest counties to pay a fee for reducing storm-water runoff in their communities. The fee, which Craig and other critics have dubbed a "rain tax," is generally assessed based on the amount of pavement and rooftop that property owners have. Craig contends the fees are inconsistently applied and so steep in places like Baltimore that they'll drive businesses out. But in calling for the fee's repeal, Craig took aim at the scientific basis for focusing on such "impervious surface." "The impervious surface really doesn't matter," Craig said. "The rain is going to get through somewhere, somehow." Craig also called for repeal of a 2007 law tightening requirements for new development to limit storm-water runoff, and of a 1984 law limiting development near the shore of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Scientists take issue with Craig over his statement questioning the science behind the storm-water fees. "Mr. Craig's comment flies in the face of all available science on the issue, and more importantly, in the face of common sense," said Andrew J. Elmore, an associate professor at the University of Maryland's Appalachian Environmental Laboratory in Frostburg. Hye Yeong Kwon, executive director of the Center for Watershed Protection in Ellicott City, said the connection between impervious surface and stream vitality has been established for years now. Rainfall runs off pavement and roofs when in an undeveloped setting it would soak into the ground, explained Kwon. Her nonprofit center works with local governments and others to curb the effects of storm water.

Air of dissatisfaction

Frederick News Post
09/8/2013
A recent Capital News Service story on air pollution raised a number of questions. Those who read deeply enough into the story also found an eye-opening bit of information about Frederick. According to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study released last month, a higher percentage of Marylanders die prematurely due to long-term exposure to air pollution than residents of any other state. What is particularly galling about this situation is that, to some extent, the costly efforts Maryland has made to clean up its air are being sabotaged by some “upwind” states that haven’t made similar sacrifices. The MIT study listed Baltimore as the worst large city in the entire nation when it comes to emissions-related mortality rate. For those of us who are used to hearing all the horror stories about Los Angeles, Denver and other pollution-choked cities, this is somewhat of a shock. A bit further into the story, the news got even worse. Frederick pops up as one of several Maryland cities whose air-pollution-related death rate is nearly as high as Baltimore’s.

Shades of Green

Saving the Planet Touches Almost Every Area of Frederick County Living, and it Comes with a Price Tag
Frederick Magazine
Linda Norris-Waldt
09/16/2013
Save the Bay. Buy recycled. Reduce your carbon footprint. Conserve water. The list goes on and on. And so does the number of programs and projects that aim to improve Frederick County’s environment— and with them, the debate about where lies the responsibility: Who pays, who is inconvenienced by change, and how much habit-breaking is practical when the returns aren’t immediately evident. A myriad of regulations, public education programs and businesses have brought environmental initiatives to our doors. The new programs, like mandating rain barrels and rain gardens for new subdivisions, roll in with great fanfare like ocean waves, supported by public demand. And then they are either delayed or abridged because of cost, impact or feasibility. A constant rebalancing is always taking place. Kirby Delauter, a Frederick County commissioner whose work in construction takes him into the field where he has direct encounters with environmental regulations, has been no fan of the feasibility of government programs regulating the environment. They have “grown exponentially and for no good reason other than to expand the role of government in our lives,” he says. “Stormwater has been ruled by courts to not be a pollutant, yet we still seem to have governing bodies that can’t let go of the power and control of regulating the lives of personal property owners.” Kai Hagen, a community activist and former county commissioner known for championing environmental causes, has a differing view. “If people knew the real environmental and economic costs and benefits associated with the choices we make—as a community—I’m convinced we would be making a lot more responsible choices than we are now,” he says. Here’s how current environmental programs in Frederick County touch water, land and lives.

New partners in county stream improvement

Frederick News Post
08/27/2013
John Smucker recently partnered with the Potomac Conservancy as part of a project to remove a fish barrier, an outmoded dam and control bank erosion in Tuscarora Creek. He planted 55 native hardwood trees along with cocoa matts. Brook Hill United Methodist Church helped complete the field and leg work. Ray Locke, coordinator of the Friends of Frederick County Clean Streams Initiative, is seeking to use similar techniques to improve the health of other streams in Frederick County. Frederick County has 20 different watersheds of which 11 are in poor condition. He is looking for groups to Adopt-A-Grid and install erosion stabilizers to improve water quality. Friends of Frederick County is organizing a Clean Streams Initiative, whereby individuals or groups can Adopt-A-Grid and monitor where a stream crosses a road. This will take two hours and be done twice a year, in October and March. A phone or Internet app will help report apparent pollution sources. For details, or to Adopt-a-Grid, visit the display in the lobby of the C. Burr Artz Public Library, 110 E. Patrick St., Frederick, visit www.friendsoffrederickcounty.org or email ray_locke@hotmail.com.

Maryland’s New Emissions Plan Shows Climate Action Is Cost-Effective

World Resources Institute
Rebecca Gasper and Kevin Kennedy
07/26/2013
As impacts from climate change become more visible and costly, leaders across the nation are responding. In the wake of projections from the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science showing that Maryland could face sea-level rise of more than six feet by the end of the century, Governor Martin O’Malley unveiled a state climate action plan this week. The initiative will reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also supporting job creation and economic growth. Sea-level rise will make Maryland–and other states on the Atlantic coast–increasingly vulnerable to costly and damaging floods, underscoring the urgency to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are warming our planet. The actions described in Governor’s plan aim to achieve a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions below 2006 levels by 2020. According to analysis conducted by Towson University for the state, the plan is expected to produce more than $1 billion in net economic benefits and support more than 37,000 jobs, providing yet more evidence that smart environmental policy is smart economic policy.

Composting at Home

Carroll County Times
07/22/2013
According to a report by the EPA, in 2010 Americans produced around 250 million tons of municipal waste, or everyday items used and thrown out. 250 million tons! And that’s only one country’s everyday garbage; that number doesn’t include the commercial, industrial, or agricultural waste that America produces. Another statistic to chew on is that also in 2010, the average individual waste generation was 4.43 pounds per person per day. Imagine how large would be the entire world’s collective garbage pile! Have you ever thought about what you can do at home to reduce your impact on waste generation? Composting is one solution that is both easy and highly beneficial. It is estimated that more than half of municipal waste is compostable, but the amount of waste that is actually composted falls far below half. Composting enriches your soil, saves you money, reduces landfill waste, recycles kitchen and yard waste, and is good for the environment. You can start at home by creating a pile of “green” and “brown” items.

General Assembly environmental scores slip in 2013

MarylandReporter.com
Meg Tully
07/16/2013
Ratings on environmental policy for Maryland legislators slipped last year, despite passage of a major offshore wind energy bill championed by Gov. Martin O’Malley. The Maryland League of Conservation Voters released its 2013 scorecard Monday, giving lawmakers an average score of 64% in the House of Delegates and 55% in the Senate. Those scores are down slightly from last year’s 69% in the House and 63% in the Senate. In the Senate, Republicans scored an average of 12% compared to Democrats’ 70%, and Republicans scored 26% in the House compared to Democrats’ 81%. But environmental leaders in the General Assembly said the overall lower ratings weren’t due to a bad year for environmentalists — it just wasn’t as great as recent years.

Rain in the garden

Frederick News Post
07/09/2013
Because we frequently editorialize on politics and government, it’s a nice change for us — and our readers, we hope — when we can focus on something that’s truly positive and uplifting. In this case, it’s the rain garden adjacent to St. James Episcopal Church in Mount Airy. Nancy Hernandez’s story about this little gem of a project was in Sunday’s News-Post, on page E-8. We hope you read it, as we did, with interest. If not, we recommend digging out your Sunday edition and doing so. We like this story because it’s about people working together to solve a problem. It also involves improving the environmental, and may even be of help to Frederick County residents as they seek solutions to stormwater runoff and ways to address the (drumroll) “rain tax.