2010 Maryland General Assembly Session: A Summary of Green Building Related Legislation

Date: May 12, 2010

On April 12, 2010, the Maryland General Assembly's 2010 session came to a close. Of the 2,700 bills that were introduced during the 427th session, 810 have been approved. Of the 810, a relatively small number of bills are related to green building. Despite the relatively small portion of green legislation, opportunities abound for businesses and individuals to profit from the new laws that were enacted. Some of the green legislative highlights include a new State initiative for Environmentally Preferable Purchasing, a LEED mandate for community college projects, and homeowners' and condominium owners' right to use clotheslines to dry their laundry. Listed below are summaries of these and a few other relevant bills, with links to the text as passed:

HB 475, The Sustainable Communities Act of 2010, passed by the General Assembly shortly before the 2010 session ended earlier this month, replaces and expands the former Maryland Heritage Structure Rehabilitation Tax Credit, offering income tax credits to further the related goals of encouraging the renovation of historic buildings and driving development to areas that are high density. In addition to providing tax credits, the legislation is intended to be a means of channeling state and federal aid to preferred areas. The bill favors construction in "Sustainable Communities."

The first requirement to qualify as a Sustainable Community is that the community be in a Priority Funding Area. Under Maryland's smart growth policy, Priority Funding Areas are those areas that Maryland state and local governments have designated for encouragement and support of economic development and new growth. Such areas include the entire area inside the Washington and Baltimore Beltways and urban and dense suburban locations throughout the state. The second requirement is that the community must be within an area of Transit-Oriented Development, in a BRAC Revitalization and Incentive Zone ("BRAC Zone" for short), or otherwise determined to be eligible for reinvestment by the Smart Growth Subcabinet.

There is $10 million set aside for fiscal 2011 to subsidize tax credits under this bill. Credits are to be awarded by a competitive ranking system among the applicants.

HB 1164 substantially broadens Maryland's use of Environmentally Preferable Purchasing, sometimes referred to as "Green Procurement." It creates the Maryland Green Purchasing Committee, which is charged with drafting a strategy to increase environmentally preferable purchasing as well as a best practices manual for such purchasing. The committee is directed to investigate smart meters, the reduction of operating times for HVAC systems in State buildings, increased energy efficiency from new computer servers and data storage centers, and the purchase of food containers made of preferred materials. The Committee will report on its efforts annually to the General Assembly. Additionally, the bill mandates that recycled paper make up 90% of the paper purchased by the Department of General Services and directs that the State use compost for fertilizer "to the maximum extent practicable." You may have heard about this bill in the context of its proposed elimination of State purchase of polystyrene products, which ran into opposition from Solo Cup Co. That provision was eliminated from the bill as passed.

HB 1044 extends the requirements of the High Performance Building Act of 2008 to projects funded by the State's Community College Grant Program. Under the program, the State pays for a percentage of new community college buildings and the local government is responsible for the rest. The High Performance Building Act provides that most new or renovated State buildings and new public school buildings are to be built to comply with the requirements of the LEED Silver rating or its equivalent. Most new construction on Maryland community college campuses will now also have to meet LEED Silver or equivalent. Interestingly, within the Fiscal and Policy Note for this bill, the Department of Legislative Services surveys the cost premium for LEED compliance for completed State-built LEED-compliant buildings and estimates that new community college projects will see a two percent construction cost increase resulting from the LEED mandate. HB 1044 does not provide for additional state funding for these projects.

HB 224 provides that a county may not adopt or enforce a local plumbing code that prohibits a system that recycles greywater. Prior to the bill's passage, many counties throughout the state had removed the greywater recycling provision from their respective plumbing codes. The new legislation will prohibit such practices moving forward. The bill defines "greywater" as "used untreated water generated by a clothes washing machine, a shower, or a bathtub." The bill further specifies that greywater does not include water from a toilet, a kitchen sink, or a dishwashing machine. The reuse of greywater helps to reduce the amount of potable water that a building uses.

SB 224 bans homeowners' associations and condominium associations from enacting prohibitions on the use of clotheslines for clothes drying. While such associations may place reasonable restrictions on the placement, size and appearance of clotheslines, they can only do so after a public meeting. With this bill, Maryland joins a number of other states in passing so-called "right-to-dry" legislation. Clotheslines have in recent years experienced a resurgence in popularity as an energy-saving method of drying clothes. However, many HOA's and condo associations have enacted bylaws that ban clotheslines, as they are often considered eyesores. Those bylaws will need to be revisited in light of SB 224.

SB 278/HB 474 repeals the Task Force on the Future Growth and Development in Maryland and establishes the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission. The commission is to be comprised of a broad spectrum of representatives from throughout the State who are charged with furthering the State's goals on sustainable growth and offering expertise and guidance on a variety of State and local planning and land development issues.

HB 1062 permits Maryland counties and the City of Baltimore ("counties" for short) to create property tax credits for real property used for urban agriculture. The property subject to such tax credit must be between one-eighth of an acre and two acres in size, be used exclusively for agriculture, and lie in a Priority Funding Area. Under the legislation, counties are permitted to enact stricter requirements for the tax credit. Under Maryland's smart growth policy, Priority Funding Areas are those areas that Maryland state and local governments have designated for encouragement and support of economic development and new growth. These include the entire area inside the Washington and Baltimore Beltways and urban and dense suburban locations throughout the state. For a map of the Priority Funding Areas, click here. It is up to the counties to enact the credit. Given the current economic climate, it is unclear how many counties will choose to create this tax credit in the near future, and how broad those programs will be.

HB 982 charges the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), in consultation with local governments, waste haulers, and other affected parties, with performing a study to evaluate solid waste management processes that reduce the solid waste stream through recycling and source reduction.

HB 685 Requires each county's recycling plan to address the collection and recycling of fluorescent and compact fluorescent lights that contain mercury. Each county shall submit a revised recycling plan by October 1, 2011 that addresses the new requirements.

SB 277 alters the current Maryland Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) to require an increased percentage of the RPS be derived from Tier 1 solar energy sources between the years 2011 and 2016. The bill raises the 2016 mandate of 0.35% to 0.5%. Similar to many states throughout the country, Maryland established its RPS in 2004 as a means to facilitate the growth of renewable energy. Essentially, the RPS requires that energy suppliers meet a portion of their supply needs with eligible forms of renewable energy. This is accomplished by accumulating renewable energy credits (RECs) from eligible renewable energy sources.