State warns 1 cent storm water fee is "insufficient"

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/03/2013
Frederick County's 1 cent storm water fee could end up costing tens of thousands of dollars in fines, state environmental officials recently warned. A Maryland Department of the Environment review determined the county's fee would be "insufficient" to pay for the water cleanup efforts required by a state-enforced permit. The fee of 1 cent per eligible property is estimated to raise $487 annually for county water programs. "We believe that this level of funding will be insufficient to support the people, programs and projects that will be necessary for the county to meet its obligations under the Watershed Implementation Plan and the new MS4 permit that we expect to issue to your county next month," stated an Oct. 25 letter written by Robert Summers, the state's environmental secretary. The county could get slapped with fines of up to $32,500 per day for each violation of its storm water permit, which is in the process of being renewed, the letter continued.

Who's paying attention?

Frederick News Post
Susan Hanson
10/25/2013
Last month we got the news (The News-Post, Sept. 18) that the MIT test of the air quality in Frederick is dismal. Frederick is almost as bad as Baltimore. Some officials are blaming the coal-fired power plants in the Midwest. Frederick County already pays a fee (called an offset) because of its poor air quality levels. This is before we have started adding the stuff that will come out of the incinerator once we start burning the trash and tires at this proposed facility. Is anyone out there paying attention and saying hmm, we’re going to have to pay a lot more for all of this additional smog? And this toxic stuff cannot be blamed on our neighbors.

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.

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.

Raining on the 'rain tax'

08/01/2013
According to a new report from the Maryland Public Policy Institute, Maryland’s so-called “rain tax” is poorly conceived, has been ineptly handled by some jurisdictions, and may not live up to its billing as an important weapon in the fight to clean up and save the Chesapeake Bay. MPPI’s John W. Walters, who wrote the report, concludes, “Despite its apparent environmental pedigree, the rain tax is basically just an additional property tax.” The report discusses many aspects of the rain tax, including how various jurisdictions have decided to implement the program. Thomas A. Firey, also of MPPI, edited Walters’ report and was quoted in a recent story in The Daily Record. His assessment of how it’s all going so far: “It’s really important to understand, at least in theory, why this could be good, but why a lot of this is getting screwed up.”

Raining on the ‘rain tax’

08/01/2013
According to a new report from the Maryland Public Policy Institute, Maryland’s so-called “rain tax” is poorly conceived, has been ineptly handled by some jurisdictions, and may not live up to its billing as an important weapon in the fight to clean up and save the Chesapeake Bay. MPPI’s John W. Walters, who wrote the report, concludes, “Despite its apparent environmental pedigree, the rain tax is basically just an additional property tax.” The report discusses many aspects of the rain tax, including how various jurisdictions have decided to implement the program. Thomas A. Firey, also of MPPI, edited Walters’ report and was quoted in a recent story in The Daily Record. His assessment of how it’s all going so far: “It’s really important to understand, at least in theory, why this could be good, but why a lot of this is getting screwed up.”

Smith's simplistic commentary

Frederick News Post
Jack Lynch
07/08/2013
Recent commentary by Frederick County Commissioner Paul Smith exposes the simplistic political logic of the current Board of County Commissioners and of the statewide Chesapeake Coalition. At its base, it rejects firm science and portrays the problem as an out-of-state boogeyman to deflect attention from our real-life issues and responsibility for cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay. The citizens of Frederick County, and of Maryland, deserve better from our local elected leaders. As one dedicated over many years towards the careful practice of environmental stewardship and water quality while respecting history and economics and sustainability, I demand better deliberation, thought and action in these responsibilities from us all.

Smith’s simplistic commentary

Frederick News Post
Jack Lynch
07/08/2013
Recent commentary by Frederick County Commissioner Paul Smith exposes the simplistic political logic of the current Board of County Commissioners and of the statewide Chesapeake Coalition. At its base, it rejects firm science and portrays the problem as an out-of-state boogeyman to deflect attention from our real-life issues and responsibility for cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay. The citizens of Frederick County, and of Maryland, deserve better from our local elected leaders. As one dedicated over many years towards the careful practice of environmental stewardship and water quality while respecting history and economics and sustainability, I demand better deliberation, thought and action in these responsibilities from us all.

County needs 'rain tax' Plan B

Frederick News Post
06/07/2013
In any case, this is not the end of the debate. Lawmakers failed at the end of this year’s session to modify the tax and said it’ll be back in 2014. But don’t expect it to be friendlier to taxpayers on the whole — delegates and senators don’t seem as worried about individual constituents as they do about large businesses and nonprofits (e.g., churches). While the state has largely left it up to each jurisdiction to craft the fee structure as they see fit, there’s nothing to prevent state lawmakers from imposing this tax on the county, especially if egged on by the environmental lobby, which has the state’s Democratic majority by the, ahem, ear.The commissioners have set us up for a David vs. Goliath showdown, only it’s less likely we’ll get off that one, lucky shot. Trusting the Maryland General Assembly for a solution is a bad gamble.

County needs ‘rain tax’ Plan B

Frederick News Post
06/07/2013
In any case, this is not the end of the debate. Lawmakers failed at the end of this year’s session to modify the tax and said it’ll be back in 2014. But don’t expect it to be friendlier to taxpayers on the whole — delegates and senators don’t seem as worried about individual constituents as they do about large businesses and nonprofits (e.g., churches). While the state has largely left it up to each jurisdiction to craft the fee structure as they see fit, there’s nothing to prevent state lawmakers from imposing this tax on the county, especially if egged on by the environmental lobby, which has the state’s Democratic majority by the, ahem, ear.The commissioners have set us up for a David vs. Goliath showdown, only it’s less likely we’ll get off that one, lucky shot. Trusting the Maryland General Assembly for a solution is a bad gamble.

‘Rain tax’ falls all over the place: Stormwater fees uneven, from a penny to thousands

MarylandReporter.com
Christopher Goins
06/05/2013
The state’s 10 most populated counties are required by law to implement a stormwater utility fee by July 1. The revenue will be used to fund their respective watershed protection and restoration programs, designed to prevent pollutants from entering the Chesapeake Bay. Seven jurisdictions have set a fee, but three others are still in the process of setting fees or getting local approval. The bill requiring the tax, HB 987, passed in 2012, left it up to counties to set the fees themselves.

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.

State rejects parts of Frederick County water, sewer plan

Young blames politics, not growth plan inconsistencies for decision
Gazette
07/26/2012
Frederick County Board of Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R) is blaming politics instead of state law for Maryland’s recent rejection of portions of the county’s 2011 water and sewer plan because planners found it inconsistent with the area’s own growth plan. The plan includes revisions that extend water and sewer service to properties outside the county’s 2010 Comprehensive Plan, a blueprint for growth updated every 10 years. The county is in the process of changing its growth plan to allow more development. The Maryland Department of Planning, which reviewed the Maryland Department of the Environment’s evaluation of the county’s water and sewer plan, said in a May 31 letter to MDE that while some of the plan’s revisions “strengthen the relationship” between the county’s growth and water and sewer plans, other revisions are inconsistent.