2012 Legislative Session: Environmental Issues Update

Dear Friend,

Now that we have had time to digest the results of the 2012 legislative session and the May special session I wish to update you on the state of several vital environmental issues in Maryland:

First, if you agree that the issues below are important, please help me in fighting against those who are resisting change with a donation through my fundraising website here.

Arsenic in Chicken Feed— This bill was one of the biggest reality checks for me upon joining the legislature. Personally, I feel this is a prime example of common sense legislation. I don’t want our children eating arsenic in their chicken. And I also don’t want arsenic from chicken entering agricultural fields and running into the Chesapeake Bay; it is as simple as that. Unfortunately, some felt arsenic in our chicken feed wasn’t a big deal and it took us until this year to pass the bill. But make no mistake: this was a success story and we will continue to look at ways to make the bill we passed even stronger. The bill’s sponsor–Delegate Tom Hucker–did a tremendous job shepherding this through the legislature.

Fracking— While some continue to feel that the best way forward for Maryland on this matter is to enact regulations and taxes so that, if this natural gas extraction process is implemented in our state, we will have a regulatory framework in place to deal with it. I disagree, because I feel strongly that the natural gas industry has failed to prove that this practice can be executed safely. Indeed, we have seen it contaminate water and cause earthquakes in other states. My view is that implementing regulations moves us closer to fracking in Maryland. I look forward to participating in the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission meetings on this issue and voicing my concerns.

Offshore Wind Energy— While this bill passed the House it failed to make it to the Senate floor. As our economy continues to recover, creating jobs that are built to last is key. Renewable energy is the future, and the sooner Maryland realizes this the better our state will be for our children. It is vital that we position Maryland to lead on this issue rather than forcing ourselves to play catch up with other states. This is as much an economic issue as it is an environmental imperative. As long as I am a delegate I will continue to vote for legislation that promotes alternative energy sources.

Chesapeake Bay Pollution–Several bills addressing this matter passed this last session, some stronger than others. Going forward, this will continue to be an issue I will focus on. I continue to hear from critics of Maryland’s actions on this issue that the actions of our neighbors–Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York and Virginia–have been insufficient in this regard, and, as such, we shouldn’t be fighting this fight anymore. I feel this is backwards logic. We have a duty to protect one of our most vital resources, and we can only control our own actions. We can’t sit and wait for others to act; we must lead.

As a member of the Environmental Matters Committee, and a staunch environmentalist, I care deeply about how these issues progress in the next few years, and will do everything in my power to see that Maryland positions itself to lead on investing in renewable energy, protecting the Chesapeake Bay, holding businesses accountable for pollution, and other matters of concern to the environmental community.

If you agree with me that a major element of ensuring that the Maryland we leave for our children is positioned to succeed is by protecting our resources, please help by donating to my campaign here. Also, you can visit my website here.

Thank you,

P.S. — Here is some information from the 2012 Annapolis Report detailing legislation affecting Chesapeake Bay pollution:

Sustainable Growth & Agricultural Preservation – Instead of an outright ban on septic systems, the legislature created four planning tiers for counties to adopt for use in approving major residential subdivisions served by onsite sewage systems and community or shared systems. Development projects in the pipeline are grandfathered in and there are protections for family farmers to ensure they can continue to farm their land.

Bay Restoration Fee/Flush Tax – In line with the federal requirements for the states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, legislation increased the statewide residential wastewater and sewerage fees (flush tax) from $2.50 to $5 per month to complete installation of enhanced nitrogen removal technology at Maryland’s 67 major publically owned wastewater treatment plants, fund cover crop programs, and replace failing septic systems across the State. The fees will revert to current levels in 2030. Exceptions were made for wastewater facilities, onsite sewage disposal systems, and sewage holding tanks that do not discharge into or are not located within the Watershed.

Stormwater Management – To comply with the federal mandate to reduce the impact of stormwater runoff on the waters of the State at the local level, new law requires the State’s largest counties to charge a stormwater fee. Local governments may also install low impact stormwater systems. Governmental properties and organized volunteer fire departments are exempt from the fee.

Annapolis Update 3/5/11

It has been a historic week in Annapolis:

The marriage equality bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee with a 12 to 10 vote, and now moves to the House floor. I look forward to the honor of voting for this measure early next week. The bill stalled briefly due to several of my colleagues prioritizing religious beliefs and personal political matters over the rights of gay and lesbian Marylanders. Thankfully, it appears that those individuals have put aside those issues, and that the measure will be voted on this coming week. All citizens, regardless of sexual orientation, deserve to be treated equally under the law.

Elsewhere, in the Environmental Matters Committee, we heard a bill that would prevent housing discrimination based on source of income. I’m a proud co-sponsor of this bill, and hearing first-hand from victims of this practice further solidified my support. Discrimination–in any form– is wrong, and I pledge to continue to combat and confront it whenever possible.

Also in Environmental Matters, we heard two bills vital to protecting public health. The first would prevent poultry companies from using arsenic in their feed.  The second would ban the use of atrazine–a controversial weed killer that has been linked to many health problems. We need to continue to protect the public from unnecessary exposure to harmful chemicals. As a member of the Environmental Matters Committee, I will continue to look for instances where this is occurring and for ways in which I can stop it from happening.

Finally, on Wednesday I presented House Bill 473, which would ban individuals from knowingly disposing of certain electronic devices, and ink and toner cartridges, into landfills and incinerators. Currently, 97% of Marylanders have access to government-provided recycling programs designed for these items. With very little funding we could extend that coverage even further, and also institute educational outreach programs. In addition, there are numerous retail outlets and mail-in programs for free and proper recycling of these items. For more information check out mdrecycles.org.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me with your insight and feedback. I’m here to work for you, and will do my best to help move Maryland forward.



By Authority: Friends of Shane Robinson; Mary Robinson, Treasurer.