Maryland to establish new Office of Resilience to better prepare the state for climate change and natural disaster impacts
Legislation championed by Senator Katie Fry Hester, Speaker Pro Tem Sheree Sample-Hughes, and Delegate Courtney Watson
The Maryland and DC chapter of The Nature Conservancy applauded the signing today of new legislation establishing an Office of Resilience within Maryland’s Department of Emergency Management (MDEM). The new office will be led by a Chief Resilience Officer to be appointed by the Director of MDEM and will coordinate state efforts to prepare for climate change and natural disasters. The legislation has been championed by Senator Katie Fry Hester (Carroll and Howard County), Speaker Pro Sheree Sample-Hughes (Dorchester and Wicomico County) and Delegate Courtney Watson (Howard County).
"For the last three years, I have sponsored legislation to create an Office of Resilience within the Department of Emergency Management, and this year we were able to get it across the finish line," said Sen. Hester. "This office will be critical for coordinating state-level hazard prevention, protection and recovery programs, and will prioritize our most vulnerable communities as they manage the impact of flooding, cyberattacks and other environmental or manmade hazards."
The Office of Resilience will be responsible for coordinating resilience-building initiatives across Maryland by working with state agencies and local governments to identify and secure funding streams for these efforts. Situating this office within MDEM will build on existing emergency response and disaster preparedness processes across state agencies and provide improved access to pre-disaster mitigation funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This office will also identify other programs and resources that can be combined to support Maryland communities most threatened by climate change and natural disasters.
The Nature Conservancy has worked with Senator Hester’s office since 2019 to develop and champion the legislation. “We are already seeing the impacts of climate change in Maryland and know these challenges will only continue to accelerate in the coming years,” said Tim Purinton, Director of the Maryland/DC Chapter of TNC. “It is more important than ever that Maryland has the funding, local capacity, and coordination needed to prepare and adapt to climate change. The creation of the Office of Resilience is a critical step in the right direction.”
This legislation has been a multi-year effort, which began as a component of a larger package of resiliency bills championed by all-female legislators. Also from this package, legislation that created Resilience Authorities for local governments as well as enabling legislation that allowed local governments to request access to funding from the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund for resiliency projects were signed into law in 2020. In 2021, another piece was signed into law which extended Maryland’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loan program to include projects such as water efficiency enhancements, environmental remediation projects, and other resiliency improvements.
The Office of Resilience legislation will go into effect on October 1, 2022.
The bill was cosponsored by Senators Sarah K. Elfreth (Anne Arundel), Ron Watson (Prince George’s), Michael A. Jackson (Prince George’s, Charles and Calvert), Guy Guzzone (Howard), Ronald N. Young (Frederick), Pamela Beidle (Anne Arundel), Mary Washington (Baltimore City), Delores G. Kelley (Baltimore), Katherine Klausmeier (Baltimore), Chris West (Baltimore), Nancy J. King (Montgomery), Arthur Ellis (Charles), Shelly Hettleman (Baltimore), William C. Smith, Jr. (Montgomery), Cheryl C. Kagan (Montgomery), Obie Patterson (Prince George’s), Benjamin F. Kramer (Montgomery), Jeff Waldstreicher (Montgomery), Jim Rosapepe (Prince George’s and Anne Arundel), Antonio Hayes (Baltimore City), Malcolm Augustine (Prince George’s), Brian J. Feldman (Montgomery), and Jill P. Carter (Baltimore City), and Clarence K. Lam (Baltimore and Howard).
TNC led a community letter supporting passage of the Office of Resilience legislation, which was signed by the following organizations - Sierra Club Maryland Chapter, Audubon Mid-Atlantic, Safe Skies Maryland, Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Maryland, Indivisible Howard County, Maryland Legislative Coalition, Climate Law & Policy Project, Chesapeake Climate Action Network Action Fund, Blue Water Baltimore, Maryland Campaign for Environmental Human Rights, NAACP Maryland State Conference, Alliance for National & Community Resilience, Maryland League of Conservation Voters, Women Indivisible Strong Effective (WISE), and the National Aquarium.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.