Frederick County levies 1-cent storm-water fee

Local officials protest state-mandated pollution control law
Baltimore Sun
Tim Wheeler
05/31/2013
Unhappy over a state law requiring property owners to pay a new fee to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay, Frederick County officials have decided to set the charge at just a penny a year. The county's board of commissioners approved the 1-cent storm-water pollution control fee on Thursday, declaring they were doing even that only to avoid possible state restrictions on new development in the county if they didn't act.

Bill limiting appeals of Frederick County developer pacts passes

Opponents must now take cases directly to court instead of appeals board
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
04/18/2013
A bill making it more difficult to undo binding agreements between developers and the Frederick County Board of Commissioners that will allow construction of hundreds of new homes and businesses passed the Maryland General Assembly minutes before the legislative session ended April 8.

Bill limiting appeals of Frederick County developer pacts passes

Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
04/18/2013
A bill making it more difficult to undo binding agreements between developers and the Frederick County Board of Commissioners that will allow construction of hundreds of new homes and businesses passed the Maryland General Assembly minutes before the legislative session ended April 8. The bill, proposed by Del. Galen R. Clagett (Dist. 3A) of Frederick, will prevent opponents from asking the five-member Frederick Board of Appeals to overturn what are known as Development Rights and Responsibilities Agreements, or DRRAs, signed between the commissioners and a builder. Currently, the law allows opponents of an agreement to take their case to the appeals board for an administrative review and decision. If the appeals board votes to stand by the agreement, opponents can take their case to Frederick County Circuit Court. The new bill, which is expected to go into effect Oct. 1, now forces opponents to go directly to a circuit court judge.

Environmentalists urge Frederick delegate to switch ‘black liquor’ vote

County delegate says he won’t back bill to halt paper mill energy credits
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
04/04/2013
Despite pressure from a local global-warming group, Del. Galen Clagett of Frederick said he has no intention of changing his vote on a bill to stop financial rewards for paper mills that burn a tar-like substance called “black liquor” to generate power. The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is working feverishly to convince Clagett (D-Dist. 3A) to change his vote before the Maryland General Assembly adjourns its legislative session Monday night. “There is still time for him to change his mind,” said James McGarry, the network’s policy analyst, at a news conference Wednesday afternoon in Frederick. “I hope he will change his mind.”

Black liquor' deal goes sour

MD paper mill backtracks on compromise, fights to retain lucrative renewable energy credits
Baltimore Sun
Tim Wheeler
03/14/2013
A deal environmentalists thought had been worked out to stop mostly out-of-state paper mills from cashing in on Maryland's renewable energy law by burning so-called "black liquor" has come unglued. The state's only paper plant in Allegany County has backtracked on a pledge not to oppose the move in return for being allowed to keep collecting from the state's utility customers for another five years. The New Page mill in Luke and several others out of state have reaped millions of dollarsfrom Maryland ratepayers over the past eight years by taking advantage of an obscure provision in the "renewable portfolio standard" law, passed in 2004 to reduce the state's reliance on climate-warming fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. Under the law, Maryland's electricity suppliers must increase the amount of power generated from renewable sources to 20 percent by 2022. They can either produce it themselves, or buy "renewable energy credits" from facilities generating power from a variety of specified sources, including wind, solar, geothermal and poultry manure. The state's electricity buyers pay for those credits through slightly higher rates. But the law also recognizes as renewable fuel wood scraps and a tarry substance known as "black liquor," a carbon-rich byproduct of the paper pulping process. As a result, the New Page mill and others in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio get subsidies for what is a traditional industry practice of generating power for their plants by burning their waste products.

Black liquor’ deal goes sour

MD paper mill backtracks on compromise, fights to retain lucrative renewable energy credits
Baltimore Sun
Tim Wheeler
03/14/2013
A deal environmentalists thought had been worked out to stop mostly out-of-state paper mills from cashing in on Maryland's renewable energy law by burning so-called "black liquor" has come unglued. The state's only paper plant in Allegany County has backtracked on a pledge not to oppose the move in return for being allowed to keep collecting from the state's utility customers for another five years. The New Page mill in Luke and several others out of state have reaped millions of dollarsfrom Maryland ratepayers over the past eight years by taking advantage of an obscure provision in the "renewable portfolio standard" law, passed in 2004 to reduce the state's reliance on climate-warming fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. Under the law, Maryland's electricity suppliers must increase the amount of power generated from renewable sources to 20 percent by 2022. They can either produce it themselves, or buy "renewable energy credits" from facilities generating power from a variety of specified sources, including wind, solar, geothermal and poultry manure. The state's electricity buyers pay for those credits through slightly higher rates. But the law also recognizes as renewable fuel wood scraps and a tarry substance known as "black liquor," a carbon-rich byproduct of the paper pulping process. As a result, the New Page mill and others in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio get subsidies for what is a traditional industry practice of generating power for their plants by burning their waste products.

Frederick lawmaker pushes bill to limit appeals of developer pacts

Anti-growth group calls proposal ‘outrageous’ attempt to negate safeguard
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
02/19/2013
A state legislative committee could make a decision as early as this week on a bill that would make it more difficult to undo binding agreements between developers and the Frederick Board of County Commissioners to build hundreds of new homes and businesses. The bill, proposed by Del. Galen R. Clagett (D-Dist. 3A) of Frederick, had its first hearing on Feb. 14 before the 24-member House Environmental Matters Committee in Annapolis. Clagett presented the bill to the panel, explaining that, if passed, the measure would prevent opponents from asking the five-member Frederick County Board of Appeals to overturn what are known as Development Rights and Responsibilities Agreements signed between the commissioners and a builder.

Frederick lawmaker’s bill would limit challenges to developer pacts

Opponents couldn’t take cases to appeals board under Clagett’s proposal
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
02/05/2013
A state delegate wants to make it more difficult to undo binding agreements between developers and the Frederick Board of County Commissioners to build hundreds of new homes and businesses. Del. Galen R. Clagett (D-Dist. 3A) of Frederick has introduced a bill in the Maryland General Assembly that would prevent opponents from asking the five-member Frederick County Board of Appeals to overturn what are known as a Developers Rights and Responsibilities Agreements, signed between the commissioners and a builder.

Md. reports on county growth law compliance

The Daily Record
Associated Press
02/04/2013
Land development maps adopted by Frederick and Cecil counties have “largely ignored” a state law designed to limit septic system growth to fight pollution, according to a state report. But the law does not allow the state to mandate changes to the plans. The Maryland Department of Planning said in the report, released Friday, that the two counties have failed to designate much land that wouldn’t allow major residential subdivisions that rely on septic systems. “This approach essentially neutralizes the impact of the law,” the report concluded. “This will allow many more major subdivisions on septic and result in significant land consumption and water pollution impacts.” The law passed last year by the General Assembly creates a four-tiered system limiting where residential subdivisions on septic systems can be built. Officials in Frederick and Cecil counties have decried the law as overreaching.

Maryland delays growth pollution rules

Regulators need more time to set "offsets" for new development
Baltimore Sun
Tim Wheeler
11/29/2012
State rules requiring "offsets" for water pollution from new development have been delayed until next year, Maryland's top environmental regulator told lawmakers Wednesday. Although the regulations originally had been set for issuance by next month, Environment Secretary Robert M. Summers told members of House and Senate environment committees that there are "more details to be sorted out," mainly over a plan to let developers buy pollution "credits" elsewhere or pay a fee to the state for the costs of offsetting their projects' water-quality impacts. The growth-offset regulations are required under the Chesapeake Bay "pollution diet" that the Environmental Protection Agency has imposed on Maryland and the five other states in the bay watershed. A new state lawaimed at limiting development on septic systems also mandates pollution offsets for any large housing subdivision that would not be connected to a sewer system. Summers explained that offsets are needed to ensure that population growth and development don't undermine the states' efforts to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution fouling the bay.

Been down this road before

Gazette
11/29/2012
With the 2013 General Assembly session lurking on the horizon, it is imperative that state lawmakers give more than the usual lip service to Maryland’s transportation needs. Budget analysts have warned that the state transportation funding situation looks bleak — once again. Voicing the concerns of their beleaguered members, the Maryland Municipal League and the Maryland Association of Counties have made restoring highway user revenues, which have been slashed to the tune of almost $1 billion in recent years, a top legislative priority. Yet, it seems highly unlikely that the city of Frederick will see a marked increase in the highway user fees it needs to repair deteriorating local roadways or Frederick County will get the $169 million it wants next year to help relieve congestion and improve safety on the area’s busy highways — at least according to pessimistic state transportation officials.

New pollution rules would restrict rural development in Washington Co.

Hagerstown Herald Mail
Andrew Schotz
08/28/2012
The Washington County Board of Commissioners is trying to figure out how and if the county should participate in a new state law on septic systems. The Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012 was passed to try to keep pollution from the Chesapeake Bay through tighter land controls. The centerpiece is a four-tier system with different restrictions on sewer and septic use depending on the land.

Maryland governor signs land-use order

Washington Post
Aaron C. Davis
12/19/2011
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) on Monday signed an executive order that is intended to curb sprawl and that could affect every facet of growth, from where schools are placed to which roads are built to whether rural landowners are permitted to develop their property. Over vehement objections from Republicans, farmers and some city and county governments, O’Malley invoked a 37-year-old law allowing his administration to draft a master plan for Maryland development

Maryland governor signs land-use order

Washington Post
Aaron C. Davis
12/19/2011
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) on Monday signed an executive order that is intended to curb sprawl and that could affect every facet of growth, from where schools are placed to which roads are built to whether rural landowners are permitted to develop their property. Over vehement objections from Republicans, farmers and some city and county governments, O’Malley invoked a 37-year-old law allowing his administration to draft a master plan for Maryland development. To enforce the guidelines, O’Malley said his administration in coming years would leverage billions of dollars in annual state aid. Local governments that encourage dense development in existing towns and cities will be rewarded with continued funding while jurisdictions that do not limit development of farmland and open space may see their state aid reduced.

Ethics laws are not ‘crazy’

Gazette
08/18/2011
Little is as important as electing to office people who maintain a high ethical standard, but knowing ahead of time who falls into that category can be challenging. Such is a key reason why governments should have strong ethics laws that err on the side of caution and disclosure for those who hold office. It is also the reason to fully support the Maryland General Assembly’s effort to tighten the disclosure requirements of, and the ethics laws that affect, those who hold office. The law passed last year requires local governments to tighten their rules by adopting one of two models by Oct. 1: Model A for larger counties and municipalities, and Model B for smaller ones. Frederick commissioners have proposed adopting Model A. Most of the changes are the same in both models, but there are some key differences in the areas of financial disclosure and lobbying. Under county law, elected officials and certain high-level employees have to disclose their real estate holdings and any co-owners of the properties only in Frederick County. Financial disclosure under Model A would apply to elected officials, candidates for office and certain high-level employees.

O’Malley to sign energy incentive legislation

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
05/18/2011
Gov. Martin O'Malley will sign a bill recognizing waste-to-energy trash incineration as renewable energy generation, disregarding pleas from environmental groups to veto it. O'Malley, who has been considering the matter for weeks, sent out a lengthy statement Tuesday evening saying he intended to sign the bill. It is scheduled to be signed at a ceremony Thursday -- the last of such ceremonies held after the conclusion of the Maryland General Assembly session last month. The bill will provide financial incentives for those operating waste-to-energy plants that convert trash into electricity through incineration. Such a plant is planned in Frederick County, where the commissioners have committed to building a waste-to-energy plant and are in the planning stages. Frederick County residents opposed to that plant had written emails to O'Malley asking him to veto the bill, joining efforts from environmental and health organizations from around the state.

O'Malley ponders veto of trash bill

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
04/30/2011
Gov. Martin O'Malley is considering requests to veto legislation that would provide financial incentives for electricity generation through waste-to-energy trash incinerators. More than 30 organizations signed a joint letter to the governor asking for the veto. The bill, which passed 24-20 in the Senate and 74-60 in the House of Delegates, would elevate waste-to-energy to the same level as solar and wind power when it comes to renewable energy credits. Nonprofit organizations in the areas of public health, the environment, and for promoting a sustainable economy said the bill would undermine Maryland's efforts to reduce overall energy consumption and fight global climate change. Frederick County, which is planning to build a waste-to-energy plant, stands to benefit from the legislation. If the legislation is enacted, the county would boost electricity revenue by selling credits. Frederick County Commissioners President Blaine Young wrote to O'Malley on Friday asking him to sign the bill into law.

O’Malley ponders veto of trash bill

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
04/30/2011
Gov. Martin O'Malley is considering requests to veto legislation that would provide financial incentives for electricity generation through waste-to-energy trash incinerators. More than 30 organizations signed a joint letter to the governor asking for the veto. The bill, which passed 24-20 in the Senate and 74-60 in the House of Delegates, would elevate waste-to-energy to the same level as solar and wind power when it comes to renewable energy credits. Nonprofit organizations in the areas of public health, the environment, and for promoting a sustainable economy said the bill would undermine Maryland's efforts to reduce overall energy consumption and fight global climate change. Frederick County, which is planning to build a waste-to-energy plant, stands to benefit from the legislation. If the legislation is enacted, the county would boost electricity revenue by selling credits. Frederick County Commissioners President Blaine Young wrote to O'Malley on Friday asking him to sign the bill into law.

State WTE legislation is moving too fast

Frederick News Post
04/11/2011
The state is supporting the concept of waste-to-energy incinerators with high-power support from Gov. Martin O'Malley, leading lawmakers and the Maryland Energy Administration for incentives to build the plants. The deal is this: Last week, in the closing days of the Annapolis session, which will end at midnight Monday for another year, lawmakers floated the idea of creating incentives for waste-to-energy plants. We're not sure where the idea came from, nor the motivation behind it. However, the energy administration has said the trash-burning facilities will help Maryland reach its 20 percent goal for renewable energy sources. The legislation will add waste to energy into the same "tier 1" category as wind, geothermal or solar plants, allowing the facilities to sell renewable energy credits at a more preferential price. That's the incentive. The state already has three waste-to-energy plants, the closest to us at Dickerson in Montgomery County. The fourth, controversially, is Frederick County's, which will burn waste from Frederick and Carroll counties. How this will play out for incinerator opponents and Frederick County's project will be interesting to watch.

Mooney moves to stop incinerator near battlefield

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
02/28/2009
Citing the historic nature of the Monocacy National Battlefield, Sen. Alex Mooney introduced legislation Friday that would prohibit building or operating an incinerator within one mile of a national park. His bill comes in reaction to the Frederick County Commissioners' consideration of a site near the battlefield for an incinerator, also known as a waste-to-energy plant, which would burn trash to generate electricity. It could have a smokestack as tall as 350 feet. The commissioners chose the McKinney Industrial Park as a site to take to public hearing this month. The county-owned site is off Buckeystown Pike. "The battlefield is important, it's an important battle," Mooney said. "I'd hate to see a smokestack put up right next to it, detracting from the attractiveness of the location." Known as the "battle that saved Washington," the one-day conflict at Monocacy delayed Confederate troops as they marched unsuccessfully toward the capital in 1864. Battlefield Superintendent Susan Trail has objected to the site, saying the smokestack would be visually intrusive. The Civil War Preservation Trust named the battlefield one of the most endangered Civil War sites last year because of the incinerator threat. The commissioners have proposed waste-to-energy as a way to combat the county's growing waste disposal needs. They hope to stop the costly practice of hauling trash to a Virginia landfill. Commissioner Kai Hagen, the only opponent of the incinerator on the board, supports Mooney's bill.