Legislative Priorities Sewage Rainwater Hazard Waste

Blue Water Baltimore advocates at the local, state, and federal level on important initiatives 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 stormwater, trash, trees, and healthy communities. If you support a clean environment and strong, healthy communities, Blue Water Baltimore invites you to join our effort and reach out to your representatives.

Maryland Styrofoam To-Go Packaging Bill

Polystyrene foam (Styrofoam) is a commonly littered plastic in Maryland. The Baltimore water wheels have collected 688,727polystyrene 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 is partnering 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.

Urban Tree Canopy

Forests once grew on more than 95% of the Maryland’s landscape, but now only cover 39%, less than half their former area. These losses are reflected in our continuing struggles with water quality, air quality, stream health, and the many other forest-related benefits. Forests are the most protective land use for water quality, making conversion of forests to other land uses one of the most significant threats to Maryland’s water quality.

Marylanders rely on their trees and forest for recreation, scenic beauty, and livable communities. Unfortunately, there is currently less than one half acre of forest per person in Maryland. Maryland’s forests are also critical to filtering the fresh water used for many communities drinking water, and to combat local impacts from climate change.

The Problem:

  • Maryland’s 2015 Forest Action Plan identified that forest land conversion, primarily to development, is the greatest threat to Maryland’s forests, with forest land being lost at 3% per decade. This is a much higher rate than forests are being conserved.
  • Between 1986 and 2008, Maryland was losing approximately 7,000 acres of forest per year.
  • Thousands of acres of forest are being lost and projected to be lost to utility lines and gas lines, all of which are completely exempt from the Act’s coverage.
  • Maryland has a statutory policy of “no net loss of forests,” but no mechanism to implement that policy.
  • Maryland has consistently fallen behind on Chesapeake Bay TMDL milestones regarding forested buffers and urban stormwater (i.e. development).
  • Currently, the Forest Conservation Act allows extensive amounts of clearing with absolutely no mitigation because of the low replacement ratios under the Act.

The Proposal:

  • Increase the Forest Conservation Act’s replanting ratio from the current ¼ acre replanted for 1 acre removed to a simple 1 acre of replanting for 1 acre of clearance. This proposal would not change anything else in the existing equation, such as the ability to receive credits against mitigation for acreage that is retained above the applicable threshold.
  • Implement sliding scale fee-in-lieu that increases fee amount in accordance with the impact, i.e. increased fees for increased acres of forest clearing.
  • Reduce exemption for electric generating facilities. This proposal would follow the example of other exemptions in the Act whereby the exemption is only granted up to a certain acreage of impact.

How can you help:

  • Reach out to your legislator and tell them you support fully offsetting forest lost to development.