Green Legislative Update for the 2009 Maryland General Assembly

Date: August 3, 2009

On April 13, 2009, after ninety days of considering new pieces of legislation, the Maryland General Assembly adjourned the 2009 legislative session. During the session, a number of bills were introduced to target reducing the State's carbon footprint. The following is a brief synopsis of the recently passed, key "green" legislation. These pieces of legislation go into effect on October 1, 2009.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world's temperatures are climbing; and human activities are the leading cause of this increase. Continued global warming is expected to affect sea levels and weather patterns, resulting in impacts on human health, the environment, and the economy. In 2005, Maryland's greenhouse gas footprint totaled approximately 109 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

According to the Maryland Commission on Climate Change, in 2005 the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Maryland were electricity consumption and transportation. Other sources include residential, commercial, and industrial fuel use, industrial processes, waste management, agriculture, and the fossil fuel industry. Due to increases in population and consumption, Maryland's greenhouse gas emissions are expected to continue to increase. Although Maryland has already taken steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, without any new programs, the commission estimates that Maryland can expect to exceed emissions of 130 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent by 2020.

In August 2008, the Maryland Commission on Climate Change issued its Climate Action Plan, which includes a comprehensive assessment of climate change impacts in Maryland and a review and assessment of the costs of inaction.

Senate Bill 278/House Bill 315
These bills require the State to develop plans, adopt regulations, and implement policies to reduce greenhouse gas by 25% from 2006 levels by 2020. Under the legislation, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is required to implement various measures designed to ensure that greenhouse gas reductions produce economic benefits for the State and do not adversely impact specified communities or economic interests. MDE must publish an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions for the year 2006, a "business as usual" projection of greenhouse gas emissions for the year 2020, and a triennial inventory update beginning in 2011. The 25% reduction goal is set to expire under the bills on December 31, 2016.

Alternative Energy and Energy Efficiency
Alternative energy and energy efficiency are two other major policy components of the State's strategy to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions. While the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) is the agency charged with the responsibility for promoting clean energy in the State, the Maryland Energy Service (MES) has been tapped to play a role in fostering the growth of renewable energy. At the present, the only energy projects that MES is authorized to undertake are those with a waste-to-energy or recycling component.

Senate Bill 14
SB 14 expands the current authority of MES in promoting the growth of renewable energy. It allows MES to engage in the production, generation or distribution of energy from renewable or other energy sources; to undertake energy conservation measures; and to conduct research and development studies on renewable energy strategies.

House Bill 1567
HB 1567 promotes small-scale clean energy financing in authorizing counties and municipalities to enact ordinances or resolutions that establish a Clean Energy Loan Program. The purpose of these Clean Energy Loan Programs is to provide loans to residential and commercial property owners for financing energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Under the bill, a county or municipal corporation that establishes a Clean Energy Loan Program may issue bonds to provide financing for loans made through the program. An ordinance or resolution establishing a program must specify eligibility requirements and the terms and conditions of the bond issuance, in accordance with the local government's procedures for authorization to sell bonds. Bonds may be issued through competitive or negotiated sale and may utilize fixed or variable interest rates.

Green Building
On April 24, 2008, Governor O'Malley signed the High Performance Building Act into law, requiring all new public construction and major renovation projects of 7,500 square feet or greater (including universities), and intended for occupation, to earn LEED Silver certification. The High Performance Building Act requires that Maryland public schools using state funds earn LEED Silver certification, effective July 2009.  In an effort to defray some of the added costs associated with LEED, the High Performance Building Act provides that "the State will pay half of any extra costs" incurred in building green public schools.

Senate Bill 212/House Bill 154
SB 212/HB 154 task the Maryland Green Building Council with evaluating high performance building technologies, listing the types of buildings to which the technology should not be applied, and reporting to the Governor on recommendations for the most cost-effective technology and how to expand green building in Maryland.

Senate Bill 625
SB 625 requires the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to adopt the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and to consider revisions to the International Building Code (IBC) to enhance energy conservation and efficiency before adopting a subsequent version of the Maryland Building Performance Standard (MBPS). Under the bill, DHCD may adopt energy conservation requirements that are more stringent, but not less stringent, than in the IECC. The bill also requires that local governments implement and enforce the most current MBPS within six months of adoption by the State. Local jurisdictions are also permitted to adopt local amendments to the MBPS provided the amendments do not weaken any energy conservation and efficiency provisions in the MPBS.

Senate Bill 163
SB 163 authorizes the use of local Program Open Space funds for both indoor and outdoor recreation and open space purposes. The bill requires that indoor facilities funded with local Program Open Space funds meet or exceed the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Silver certification level for all facilities that are 7,500 square feet or more.

House Bill 595
HB 595 requires the State to include in its recycling program by July 1, 2010, a system for recycling aluminum, glass, paper and plastic for disposal by State government. The bill also requires the placement of collection bins in State-owned and State-operated office buildings, where practical and economically feasible. State agencies are required to implement this plan by January 1, 2012.

Senate Bill 473/House Bill 1290
SB 473/HB 1290 adds a requirement to the Maryland Recycling Act for county recycling plans to include a strategy for collecting, processing, marketing and disposing of recyclable materials from county public schools. This new requirement must be addressed in county recycling plans by October 1, 2010.

Student Health and Wellness - Green Cleaning Supplies/House Bill 1363
HB 1363 requires local boards of education to procure for use in schools, to the extent practicable and economically feasible, green product cleaning supplies, which are defined as those that have positive environmental attributes, such as biodegradability, low toxicity, low volatile organic compound content, reduced packaging, and low life cycle energy use. The bill applies prospectively and does not affect cleaning supplies in inventory or under contractual obligation for purchase as of the bill's effective date.

Planning Visions for Local Government
The Maryland Economic Growth, Resource Protection, and Planning Act of 1992 (the Planning Act) sought to organize and direct comprehensive planning, regulating, and funding by State, county, and municipal governments in furtherance of specified economic growth and resource protection policies. The Planning Act is organized around eight statutory vision statements that must be pursued in county and municipal comprehensive plans.

Senate Bill 273/House Bill 294
These bills seek to modernize the statutory visions of the Planning Act to reflect current growth and development patterns and trends. Specifically, the eight statutory visions of the Planning Act are replaced by twelve new visions. The twelve new visions address the following: (1) quality of life and sustainability; (2) public participation; (3) growth areas; (4) community design; (5) infrastructure; (6) transportation; (7) housing; (8) economic development; (9) environmental protection; (10) resource conservation; (11) stewardship; and (12) implementation.

Alternative Energy Incentive Act of 2009/House Bill 1171
HB 1171 exempts residential wind energy property used to generate electricity for a residential structure on the property from State and local real property taxes. The bill clarifies that solar energy property, for property tax exemption purposes, includes equipment that uses solar thermal electric energy. In addition to the property tax relief, the bill also provides a sales and use tax exemption for the purchase of equipment installed on residential property that uses wind energy to generate electricity for a residential structure on the property.

Exemptions for Solar Energy Property/Senate Bill 621
SB 621 extends the existing property tax exemption for specified solar energy property to include solar energy property used to generate electricity supplied to the electric grid. The bill also provides a sales and use tax exemption for solar energy equipment to include solar energy equipment used to generate electricity supplied to the electric grid.