Blue Water Baltimore advocates before the Maryland General Assembly for important bills that are critical to protecting our streams and rivers, ensuring public health and safety, and improving quality of life for all Maryland residents.
Our legislative actions are focused on four major advocacy areas:
If you support a clean environment and strong, healthy communities, Blue Water Baltimore needs you to be an advocate for clean water issues at the federal, state and local level. Advocacy is the effort to influence an outcome, the allocation of resources, or the passage of legislation.
Protecting the Stormwater Utility Fee and Ensuring Effective Implementation
The Watershed Protection and Restoration Programs (HB 987) are landmark legislation passed in 2012 by the Maryland General Assembly. The programs are a critical part of Maryland’s plans to curb urban and suburban polluted runoff and its harmful effects on water quality. If we are serious about cleaning up our neighborhood streams, and protecting the Chesapeake Bay, then we need to protect the important programs created by HB 987.
In Baltimore City, homeowners pay an average of $5 per month (or 16 and-a-half cents a day) for major storm drain system upgrades, improved water quality, and additional green space throughout the city. Blue Water Baltimore is intent on making sure that an open, transparent program for fee collection and expenditures is in place. In doing so, residents can be sure that their stormwater fees are being used solely for projects that result in direct water quality improvements. In addition, almost everyone can earn Credits toward reducing their fee – just a few options include taking part in a stream cleanups, tree planting, and installing a rain garden on your property.
Maryland Polystyrene Foam Packaging Bill
Polystyrene foam (Styrofoam) is a commonly littered plastic in Maryland. The Jones Falls Water Wheel has collected 390,269 polystyrene containers since May 9, 2014 and 40% of the trash volume found in the Anacostia River is foam. Foam is problematic to our waterways because it is often washed or blown into our storm drains and rivers where it breaks up into tiny pieces and absorbs 10 times more pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals than other kinds of plastic. People and wildlife that come in contact with this litter will be exposed to increased public health risks and occupational exposure to Styrene increases risk of lymphoma, leukemia, tumors, and various forms of cancer. As we work to ensure our communities are healthy and clean, banning foam puts us one step closer to more fishable and swimmable water in Maryland.
Blue Water Baltimore has partnered with Trash Free Maryland on a bill that will ban usage of polystyrene to-go containers and loose fill packaging peanuts. The ban will include cups, plates, bowls, trays, and clamshells from retailers and food service organizations. Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties have already enacted policies to ban polystyrene and it is our intention to even the playing field statewide with this bill.
Environmental Justice and Cumulative Impacts
While spirited debate exists about what is environmental justice, there is no debate that lower-income and minority communities suffer from an inequitable distribution of the economic and public health risks associated with environmental degradation. In Baltimore, many lower-income and minority neighborhoods bear the burden of a legacy of pollution, including air pollution and soil and water contamination. These communities also can face health risks from new development such as highway construction, incinerators, landfills, and other hazardous projects. Blue Water Baltimore is working closely with a number of coalition partners, including the University of Maryland School of Public Health, to study these disparities and develop policy solutions to decrease these economic and health risks.
One such policy solution is the development of cumulative impacts legislation. This would require the Maryland Department of the Environment and project developers to assess how new polluting projects would affect the overall health of communities identified as “at risk.” This type of assessment encourages sustainable development, rather than allowing additional polluting sources to be constructed. This reduces health risks for residents and also results in a cleaner environment. This bill will reduce the economic costs to communities by decreasing health costs associated with increased air pollution, and increasing productivity by cutting down on the number of days of school and work missed because of health problems.
Urban Tree Canopy
Tree cover is one of the most cost-effective and efficient means of preventing polluted runoff from reaching streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay. Trees also remove pollutants from the air we breathe, contribute to climate change resiliency, and reduce the urban heat island effect by providing shade. This results in energy savings for Baltimore residents, whose homes are cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Finally, trees are aesthetically pleasing and are a key feature of healthy, vibrant, livable communities.
The U.S Forest Service recommends a 40 percent tree canopy for healthy cities, but according to Tree Baltimore, Baltimore City only has a tree cover of 27 percent. Additionally, the city has an immense backlog of tree maintenance to perform, and its budget has declined, from $4.4 million in 2010 to just $3.7 million in 2016. Many organizations, Blue Water Baltimore included, are working hard to increase Baltimore’s tree canopy by planting in parks and on school grounds, installing tree pits along city streets, and encouraging residents to plant on their property. But trees need constant care and maintenance, and the city does not always have the resources to take care of them. Blue Water Baltimore will continue to be an advocate to the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks in securing adequate funding to maintain Baltimore’s existing tree stock, expand tree cover in the city, and perform education and outreach activities. Blue Water Baltimore also is committed to helping the city deal with the destructive emerald ash borer and reduce its effects on Baltimore’s trees.
Join us and become an advocate for clean water today! Anyone can engage in advocacy as long as they have the right tools.