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The Assateague Coastkeeper reflects on the 2023 Legislative Session

This past Monday, April 11th, also know as Sine Die Day—marked the official end of session for Maryland’s General Assembly. This year, your Assateague Coastkeeper met with various state legislators, regulatory agencies, as well as multiple organizations and groups to focus on this years’ priority bills.

Our legislative work, which is led by your Coastkeeper, is fundamental to creating state-wide change to protect our local waterways against the major issues that impact water quality here on the Eastern Shore. This work cannot be done without your support, as well as our partners, coalition groups and legislators that are focused on Waterkeeper priorities, such as clean water that is swimmable, fishable, and drinkable for ALL.

There were a lot of high expectations for this session, with new legislators, as well as a new Governor that hit the ground running in January. Unfortunately, this year, many great environmental bills did not pass due to the overwhelming amount of bills, as well as changing focuses of many legislators. We also have a new budget for the state, which has seen a good number of positive changes for new priorities in the state. One of those is the commitment of funding for more Maryland Department of the Environment employees. This state agency has seen drastic budget cuts over the years, as well as a severe lack of staff that focuses on regulation and enforcement. We are hoping that this funding commitment will ensure environmental laws are being taken seriously in the state and hold polluters accountable.

Over the past 90 days, your Coastkeeper focused on a number of bills, focusing on green energy, well water regulations, forestry education, PFAS monitoring and more. Here is a list of some of those bills:

Coastkeeper Priority Bills:

  • HB11/SB483 Private Well Safety Act of 2023

  • HB718/SB590 The Reclaim Renewable Energy Act of 2023 (Did not pass)

  • HB319/SB158 PFAS in Pesticides Study

  • SB471 Water Pollution Control - Discharge Permits - Stormwater Associated with Construction Activity

  • HB840/SB743 Climate & Environmental Equity Act of 2023 (Did not pass)

Other Legislation Supported by the Assateague Coastkeeper:

  • HB723/SB526 Forest Preservation and Retention

  • SB470 Land Conservation - Establishment of Goals and Programs (Maryland the Beautiful Act)

  • HB30/SB7 On-Site Wastewater Services - Board, Fees, and Penalties

  • HB874/SB611 Office of the Attorney General Environment and Natural Resources Monitoring Unit - Establishment

  • HB289/SB282 Maryland Forestry Education Fund - Establishment

  • HB62/SB62 Public Service Companies - Pollinator-Friendly Vegetation Management

  • HB63 Certified Local Farm and Chesapeake Invasive Species Provider Program -Establishment

  • SB434 Restorative Aquaculture Pilot Program

  • HB253/SB262 On-Farm Composting Facilities - Permit Exemption

  • HB950/SB836 Maryland Native Plants Program

This year was a win for better overall policies that help promote healthier waterways, such as more native plants and invasive species control, as well as conservation of Maryland’s forests, and identifying PFAS in pesticides that are used around the state.

Unfortunately, many priority bills for ACT that would have increased regulations and monitoring practices by MDE did not pass this session. With a new administration, there are growing pains but also increased optimism for better department practices, better policies, and better regulations.

Even though the session is over, we will continue to work on educating our legislators, county officials and communities on the issues we are facing here on the ground throughout the rest of the year. We are looking forward to next year’s session, where we hope to reintroduce some of the bills that did not pass this year.

Yours in clean water,

Gabby Ross

Assateague Coastkeeper

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