LWVHC – December 10, 2020 Meeting: Program and Directors’ Reports
Program Report – Krista Threefoot
New Business --Next week is our HoCO Law Enforcement Forum Unit Meeting. I’d appreciate suggestions for questions — I plan on asking about 3 from us, 1 will be about SROs, and then leaving time for attendees to ask their own questions. But I’d love any ideas from the rest of the board on questions we can ask.
The Eventbrite link to register for the unit meeting is: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/lwvhc-december-unit-meeting-law-enforcement-in-howard-county-tickets-131962281737
November Unit Meeting -- We had a great conversation at our November unit meeting about Vote by Mail, with lots of insightful questions and comments about the topic. We came to a unanimous consensus in favor of Maryland adopting Vote by Mail.
I’ve sent our consensus report to LWVMD, who will use it along with reports from other local leagues to determine their position on the issue. Should they adopt a position in favor of Vote by Mail, LWVMD and local units will be authorized to advocate for VBM if MD legislature proposes it. AT this point, there is no legislation related to adopting VBM in MD.
Action Report – Linda Wengel: The following bill was passed by the County Council:
AN ACT providing that County employees shall take, or refrain from taking, specified actions with respect to the immigration status of specified individuals; prohibiting certain discrimination based on immigration status; requiring that certain information related to citizenship status be kept confidential; providing a procedure whenever specified provisions may be preempted by other law; requiring specified officials to take actions under certain circumstances; and generally relating to human rights in Howard County.
They again tabled the New Cultural Center funding with guarantees that it will pass in the very near future, as final details about funding are negotiated.
Newly elected Council officers. Chair, Liz Walsh, Vice Chair, Opel Jones, Chair of the Zoning Board, Christiana Rigby, Chair Liquor Board, David Yungmann.
Internal Communications –
External Communications – Laura Mettle: External Communications is exploring ways to make website more accessible and easier to understand. We had a glitch with Domain renewal in November that has been successfully resolved.
Education – Linda Frascarella: no report this month
Environment Report – Sandy Levy
An unusual snack for cows, a powerful fix for climate
Washington Post, November 27, 2020
Scientists have discovered that feeding seaweed to cows significantly reduces the amount of methane they produce and burp into the atmosphere, while also helping them produce more milk and grow bigger on less feed. When grown in the ocean, seaweed helps to filter the water, making the idea of farming seaweed to feed to cows a win-win for the environment and farmers.
The Howard County Legacy Leadership Institute for the Environment is for people who want to turn knowledge about the environment and climate change into action in Howard County and the state of Maryland. Expert scientists at NASA, the University of Maryland, and Howard County Government give interactive lectures on earth systems science, the hydrological and carbon cycles, and international and national environmental policies. The 2021 HoLLIE Virtual Lecture Series Online is an abbreviated version of HoLLIE. It will still be eight weeks of classes, but half-days, and no field trips. In-person classes are usually limited to 15 people, but this year will be opened up to a much wider audience. And, registration is required but there is no tuition fee. We expect to have registration available on this page in mid-December.
The Maryland General Assembly is back in session. Here are the Committees related to the Environment and the persons responsible. I will follow the session as it relates to the Environment.
Environment and Transportation Committee
Delegate Kumar P. Barve Chairman
Land Use and Ethics Subcommittee
Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee
COVID-19 affect on the Environment
Issue Papers 2021 Legislative Session
General Assembly of Maryland Department of Legislative Services 2020
On March 26, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a temporary enforcement discretion policy in response to the pandemic. Under the policy, facilities were expected to comply with regulatory requirements where reasonably practicable and return to compliance as quickly as possible. EPA applied the policy retroactively beginning on March 13; this policy expired on August 31. The policy authorized states or tribes to take a different approach under their own authorities.
Adapting Agency Requirements and Protocols
Beginning in March 2020, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has transitioned to a majority-remote office. Additionally, the agency exercised discretion in administering or adapting various deadlines and requirements. In collaboration with EPA and the Maryland Department of Transportation, MDE repurposed several Vehicle Emission Inspection Program stations as COVID-19 testing sites. MDE also extended the deadline by which schools and food service businesses must discontinue the sale or provision of food or beverages in expanded polystyrene food service products, as required by Chapters 579 and 580 of 2019. However, MDE issued a public notice retaining the deadline for rental registration renewals for certain properties affected by the presence of lead paint, citing persisting public health concerns.
Enforcement Policy during the Pandemic
In response to the state of emergency, MDE released a statement that discretionary enforcement may be necessary but would be conducted on a case-by-case basis. Under this policy, MDE expected regulated entities to make every effort to comply with environmental responsibilities, including monitoring and reporting requirements. Accordingly, the number of Maryland entities seeking delays or waivers has been relatively low. From March to September 2020, MDE received approximately 68 requests for enforcement discretion. The majority of requests are for flexibility on the timing of submitting monitoring reports due to the closure of facilities and a reduction in staffing.
MDE’s processing of significant enforcement actions, those brought to a resolution with a financial penalty of $10,000 or more has decreased. Between 2016 and 2019, for the January through March quarter, MDE resolved an average of 6.5 significant enforcement actions compared with 2 significant enforcement actions being resolved for that same quarter in 2020. Similarly, between 2016 and 2019, for the April through June quarter, MDE resolved an average of 7.5 significant enforcement actions but resolved only 3 significant enforcement actions for the same quarter in 2020.
Licensing and Permitting
Coinciding with the state of emergency, beginning in mid-March, applications received and permits and licenses issued were down to about half of 2019 levels. In the June reporting period, only 40 applications were received and 14 permits and licenses issued, compared with 85 applications received and 107 permits and licenses issued during the same period in 2019. While applications received during the July reporting period were at a level consistent with 2019 numbers, the number of permits and licenses issued during that period remained at about half of 2019 levels. This data is preliminary, but a continued imbalance between the number of applications received and permits and licenses issued could lead to a backlog.
Air and Water Quality Monitoring
MDE has maintained its field presence at facilities that it considers the most critical in terms of public health and the environment by continuing with certain inspections, testing, and enforcement activities. These activities include monitoring for contaminants at water treatment plants, maintaining safe conditions at dams, and managing capacity issues at incinerators and landfills. The agency adheres to Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for personal protective equipment for all in-person inspections and emergency responses.
Since March 2020, MDE and the University of Maryland have been analyzing the impacts of COVID-19 on air quality and climate change in the State, looking at traffic, satellite imagery, air quality, and greenhouse gases. MDE released information in April, which outlined a massive drop in traffic, suggesting greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration also analyzed satellite data, finding a dramatic reduction in pollution related to fossil fuel combustion in March. A second update by MDE, released in May 2020, found that while traffic was still down compared to pre-COVID-19 figures, there has been a slow increase since mid-April. The study also suggested that the low levels of air pollutants and the downward trend in power plant emissions had more to do with preexisting regulations and historical declines than with COVID-19.
Seafood Industry: Market Disruptions and Labor Shortages
Pandemic-related restaurant closures significantly disrupted demand for Maryland’s seafood. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), approximately 70% of the seafood consumed in the United States is typically consumed at restaurants. MDA’s Maryland’s Best Program helped to facilitate a shift to direct-to-consumer sales by developing an interactive map of locations where local produce and seafood could be purchased directly from producers and at special distribution events held by local nonprofits. Labor shortages compounded disruptions to the seafood industry. Many seafood processors in the region rely on foreign guest workers employed through the H-2B Visa Program to fill seasonal positions at their facilities. In 2020, a combination of caps on the number of H-2B visas and COVID-19-related immigration restrictions significantly decreased the number of guest workers employed by local processors.
Bay Restoration and Modeling
Some Chesapeake Bay restoration and monitoring activities were canceled, delayed, or scaled back as a result of the pandemic. For example, activities at the Horn Point oyster hatchery, which supplies oyster spat for State restoration projects, were suspended in the spring but resumed later in the summer. Scientific field research and surveys were also halted in much of the region. While some of these activities have resumed following the easing of pandemic-related restrictions, there are concerns about the pandemic’s long-term effects on both public and private funding for bay restoration and monitoring.
Licensing and Permitting
Following Governor Hogan’s March 12, 2020 executive order extending grace periods and expiration dates for several authorizations, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) encouraged customers to take advantage of the grace period for licenses, permits, and registrations that would typically be processed in-person, and also encouraged people to use its online COMPASS portal to purchase recreational licenses, permits, and stamps.
Parks and Recreation
State and local parks logged record levels of attendance during the spring and summer.
The Washington Post reported that the 53 parks managed by DNR recorded 258,576 visits in March 2020, compared with 64,101 visits in March 2019 and 46,153 visits in March 2018. The trend continued into April with 182,657 visits logged in 2020, up from 113,340 in April 2019 and 95,117 in April 2018. DNR has taken steps to mitigate the risk of disease spread at parks, including implementing enhanced cleaning protocols, canceling events and gatherings of groups larger than 10 people, and restricting access to certain park facilities. DNR also suspended spring trout stocking in an effort to protect the health and safety of its employees and discourage anglers from gathering near stocked waterways.
The CARES Act includes $300 million in fisheries assistance. Of this total, $4,125,118 has been allocated to Maryland to be administered by NOAA in coordination with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Fishery participants that may ultimately be eligible for funding include commercial fishing businesses, charter fishing businesses, qualified aquaculture operations, seafood processors, and other fishery-related businesses. However, businesses farther down the supply chain, such as vessel repair businesses, restaurants, or seafood retailers, are not considered fishery-related businesses for purposes of CARES Act fisheries assistance.
Fundraising – Michelle Rice Trotter and Amber Treat:
Membership – Lucie Geinzer: Letter draft: "Recruit One Person to join the League"
Give me your input/edits.
Recruit One Person to Join the League
I’m Lucie Geinzer, and I am the Director of the Membership Committee for the League of Women Voters of Howard County (LWVHC). Thanks to your support, the League has done its vital work during this past election. We are proud and grateful for your membership.
Do you only have five minutes to do an Action that will support the League? Then recruit a friend to join! Be persistent; don’t give up. You may ask ten people to join before one person does.
The League of Women Voters is a trusted grassroots organization whose members do the hands-on work to safeguard democracy. While we never endorse or oppose a candidate, we are directly involved in shaping the important issues to keep our community strong. As a League member, they would have the opportunity to contribute in a leadership role that has an impact on local, state and even national issues. So, ask a friend to join the League!
The League is open to men and women 18 or older, and is a great way to get involved in your community. Please ask friends to check out its website and to join us at https://hoco.lwvhowardmd.org/
Thank you for your help,
Publications – Amber Treat
Voter Services – Cheryle Wharton (absent) – Nothing to report.