View of the Ocean City Maryland skyline. The buildings line the skyline in the distance across an open body of water. Green marshes cut by meandering channels of water are in the foreground.
Front Lines of Climate Change View of Ocean City across the salt marshes in Isle of Wight, Maryland. © Matt Kane / TNC

Stories in Maryland/DC

Legislative Priorities: Leading Maryland Forward

Advocating for a cleaner future for Maryland's environment and communities.

Change is here in Maryland. We are feeling the impacts of increased flooding, more frequent and severe rain events and rising temperatures. These growing challenges are stressing infrastructure, threatening human and natural communities and overburdening our local governments. We must work together to build more capacity, strengthen coordination and increase available resources to fund programs and projects that build resilience.

This year in the Maryland General Assembly, our state legislators are taking action to protect Maryland’s future.

Fingers of open water cut through low green marshes. A line of trees stand out against the horizon. The setting sun is partially obscured by passing clouds.
Wetlands Sunset Isle of Wight, Maryland. © Matt Kane / TNC

Maryland’s ninety-day legislative session, running from January 12 to April 13, 2021, is now well under way. From climate change to police reform, equity to Covid-19, the General Assembly is faced with immense challenges in a year that looks unlike any other.

In order to protect the health and safety of legislators, state employees, agency members, lobbyists, advocates, and others, as much work as possible is being completed virtually with very limited and highly restricted in-person legislator meetings.

Despite these important precautions, the Maryland/DC chapter's Government Relations program is hard at work promoting our priority legislation. These bills target issues that are key to TNC's mission: climate mitigation, climate adaptation and clean water.

Please help us by encouraging your legislators to support these bills and by thanking the sponsors who are leading Maryland forward.

Time is limited and Maryland legislators need to hear from their constituents before the end of session—the sooner the better!

CLIMATE MITIGATION—A CLEAN AND RENEWABLE MARYLAND

Climate Solutions Now Act (Senate Bill 414/ House Bill 583)

A newly planted tree sapling is in the foreground. A circular planting of evergreens is in the background. A wide green lawn separates the two stands of trees.
Urban Trees One of more than 100 trees planted at a memorial green space. © Matt Kane / TNC

This bill increases Maryland’s emissions reduction goals to 60% by 2030 and sets the target of a carbon-neutral economy by 2045. It also creates a goal of planting 5 million native sustainable trees by 2030; 500,000 of those trees are to be planted in urban areas that are on the frontlines of climate change and are impacted by systemic injustices. Co-benefits of trees, forests and tree canopy include economically valuable services like carbon dioxide sequestration, water filtration, flood mitigation, recreational spaces, heat reduction, air quality improvement and wildlife habitat.

Please contact your representatives and ask that they support SB414/HB583.

If you are represented by any of the following sponsor(s), please contact their offices and thank them for their leadership and support!

Primary Sponsor(s):

Co-Sponsors:

Transit Safety and Investment Act (Senate Bill 199/ House Bill 114)

Close view of a MARC commuter train. A long silver train car with a blue and red stripe running hozirontally along the side of the car. The train is sitting at a platform.
"Gaithersburg, MD/USA-12/31/19: MARC trains coming into the Metropolitan Grove train station." © Copyright (c) 2019 Shutterstock. No use without permission.

The transportation sector is the largest contributor to climate change, not just in Maryland but in our region and across the country. This legislation directs a set amount of revenues from the Transportation Trust Fund to address the current backlog of public transit maintenance, repairs, replacements and upgrade projects as identified by the Maryland Transit Authority’s Capital Needs Inventory.

When compared to its peer agencies in other states across the nation, the Maryland Transit Authority transit systems—including subway, light rail, buses and MARC commuter trains—each rank among the worst for breakdown rates. In addition to posing a safety risk to transit workers and riders, these maintenance and repair issues cause low reliability and restrict access for those riders who depend on our public transit system and especially for disabled riders.

This legislation will improve public transits’ safety and reliability, thereby decreasing use of personal vehicles and single-passenger vehicle trips, which contribute to increased transportation emissions.

Please contact your representatives and ask that they support SB199/HB114.

If you are represented by any of the following sponsor(s), please contact their offices and thank them for their leadership and support!

Primary Sponsor(s):

Co-Sponsors:

Zero-Emission Bus Transition Act (Senate Bill 137/ House Bill 134)

Public bus on a city street. White bus with red and yellow stripes on its side. The electronic sign above the windshield reads, "GR Downtown". Four people walk on the sidewalk behind the bus.
Baltimore, United States of America- March, 5, 2019: Bus of the Maryland Department of Transportation on a city street. © Copyright (c) 2019 Shutterstock. No use without permission.

This bill transitions the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) bus fleet to zero-emissions buses over time starting in 2023. This bill also lays out some additional key measures to ensure a smooth transition, including a requirement for the MTA to develop a plan for transitioning any state workers that are adversely impacted by the bus fleet conversion to similar or other positions of employment within the MTA or Maryland Department of Transportation that have commensurate seniority, pay and benefits.

Please contact your representatives and ask that they support SB137/HB134.

If you are represented by any of the following sponsor(s), please contact their offices and thank them for their leadership and support!

Primary Sponsor(s):

Water rushes through a narrow stream. The banks are covered with yellow leaves. A gnarled tree trunk is in the foreground.
Enhancing Water Quality Fall color on Maryland's Bear Creek. © Alan Eckert Photography

This bill enables local governments and other qualifying entities to exercise increased flexibility in using the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) guarantee facility when issuing bonds that will be backed by the State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF) credit enhancement.  

Currently, the SRF guarantee facility is narrowly implemented in our state to provide backing solely for wastewater treatment plant upgrades. Enabling a wider range of projects in Maryland to qualify for loans backed by the SRF guarantee facility will enhance water quality and provide additional co-benefits such as carbon dioxide sequestration, improved air quality, and increased wildlife habitat.

Please contact your representatives and ask that they support HB94.

If you are represented by any of the following sponsor(s), please contact their offices and thank them for their leadership and support!

Primary Sponsor(s):

CLIMATE ADAPTATION - BUILDING RESILIENCE

Chief Resilience Officer (Senate Bill 62/ House Bill 542):

View of the Baltimore city skyline. Tall buildings dominate the background along the harbor. A neighborhood of rowhouses is in the foreground.
Building Resilience The sun sets over the Baltimore city skyline and Inner Harbor. © Patrick Gillespie/Flickr CC BY 2.0

Creates a Chief Resilience Officer in the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to coordinate activities across critical state agencies working to improve resilience and to make the connections between the work of those agencies and the needs of local governments. The new position would streamline our state and local governments’ response to climate threats and to develop and identify new sources of funding.

Please contact your representatives and ask that they support SB62/HB542.

If you are represented by any of the following sponsor(s), please contact their offices and thank them for their leadership and support!

Primary Sponsor(s):

PACE-R (Senate Bill 319/ House Bill 517):

Tightly cropped view of the exterior of a street of rowhouses in Baltimore. Each house has a curving bay front. They are painted in different colors, red, white and blue.
Colorful row houses in Hampden, Baltimore, Maryland © Copyright (c) 2018 Shutterstock. No use without permission.

The bill expands on the existing Property Assessed Clean Energy program (PACE) by allowing property owners to finance or refinance projects that remediate environmental issues, improve their properties’ resiliency, increase water efficiency, enhance electric grid resiliency, and/or improve energy efficiency.

Please contact your representatives and ask that they support SB319/HB517.

If you are represented by any of the following sponsor(s), please contact their offices and thank them for their leadership and support!

Primary Sponsor(s):

Clean Water—Protecting the Chesapeake Bay

Clean Water Commerce Act of 2021 (Senate Bill 119/ House Bill 507):

A man holds green soybean pods in his hands. He is surrounded by tall green plants.
Regenerative Agriculture A farmer inspects a soybean crop. © Isaac Shaw

This bill provides $20 million annually from the Bay Restoration Fund, to be managed in a new ‘Clean Water Commerce Account,’ which is to be used to purchase environmental outcomes that reduce nutrient and sediment loads and support achieving Maryland’s clean water goals.

Specifically, the bill allocates at least 35% of these funds to agricultural lands, 20% to frontline environmental justice communities and 10% to nonagricultural landscape restoration projects. All nutrient and sediment reductions that qualify for funding must be verifiable and have a life expectancy of at least ten years. It will allow us to engage with private finance enhance private finance’s participation to help meet our water quality goals, which will both accelerate nutrient reductions and reduce the costs of those reductions.

Please contact your representatives and ask that they support SB119/HB507.

If you are represented by any of the following sponsor(s), please contact their offices and thank them for their leadership and support!

Primary Sponsor(s):

Support Full Funding of Program Open Space in the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) Budget

Two people in yellow kayaks paddle along a wide creek. The bank is lined by trees beginning to show fall color. The trees are reflected in the still water.
Open Spaces Kayakers enjoy a fall day on Nanjemoy Creek. © Alan Eckert Photography

Please contact your representative and ask that they support fully funding Program Open Space, the Rural Legacy Program, the Maryland Heritage Areas Program and the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation in the FY22 budget.

Investments in these programs benefit residents of and visitors to every county. These critical programs fund the acquisition, protection and maintenance of forests, parks, farms, and cultural resources. If you enjoy spending time outdoors you have most likely benefited from Program Open Space!

Please contact your representatives and ask that they support the full funding for Program Open Space in the FY22 Budget.