FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Annapolis, MD - [January 27, 2020] Members of the Maryland General Assembly introduced a number of bills on Monday aimed at combating the increasing risks of climate change and sea level rise that threaten Maryland communities.
Senator Katie Fry Hester (D - Howard and Carroll), Senator Sarah Elfreth (D - Anne Arundel), Delegate Brooke Lierman (D - Baltimore City), and Delegate Courtney Watson (D - Howard County) introduced a “Resiliency Package” of legislation to increase the State’s preparedness in the wake of record flooding and devastating weather events that threaten communities across Maryland.
Senator Katie Fry Hester said: “Maryland is facing up to $19 billion worth of damage due to sea level rise and flooding by 2050. It’s really easy to look at numbers that big and far off and feel removed from the consequences of these events, but there are communities and families behind those numbers. People whose businesses and homes have been irrevocably changed, not to mention future generations who will have to face these challenges, most likely at a larger scale than we do now. We have a responsibility to address this challenge directly and prepare more aggressively to mitigate these risks now. That’s why my colleagues and I are fighting to provide communities with tools like FEMA’s new Building Resilient Infrastructure & Communities program or a chief resilience officer - to build a more resilient Maryland.”
Senator Hester’s MD Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) ACT of 2020 establishes a new position, accountable for Maryland’s resiliency and response strategy at the highest level. The CRO will oversee:
Coordination across state and local agencies that are currently or will be impacted by climate change.
Establishment of baseline indicators, goals, and metrics to increase resilience.
Efforts to identify and secure funding streams that contribute to resilience.
Engagement of industry leaders impacted by climate change.
Senator Elfreth’s Resilience Authority legislation enables counties and large municipalities to independently, or jointly create Resilience Authorities to bond money and fund large infrastructure projects related to sea level rise, nuisance flooding, and erosion.
Senator Elfreth pointed to the increased flooding in her own district as a need to address this issue in the 2020 session: “Annapolis experienced 63 days of nuisance flooding in 2017 alone which shut down the City Dock, businesses, and threatened our public safety and historic communities. But this isn’t just an Annapolis problem. That’s why our Resilience Authority legislation provides a broad framework for different communities - from Ellicott City to Easton to Baltimore - to establish, fund, partner, and implement the Resilience Authority that best fits the needs of that community.”
Delegate Brooke Lierman, House sponsor of the Environmental Accountability and Transparency Act that seeks to increase citizen participation in environmental law enforcement by adding an ombudsman officer in the Office of the Attorney General, said, “A rising Chesapeake Bay, 100-year floods every few years, and rapidly rising temperatures in Baltimore are all alarms that it’s time for policymakers to heed: we have to take action now to ensure Maryland communities can prevent and mitigate the impact of climate change in our state. These policy proposals are integral to equipping our state moving forward.”
Sponsored by Delegate Courtney Watson, House Bill 78, Bay Restoration Fund - Authorized Uses will help local governments seek funding for climate resiliency projects including flood control from the state’s Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund. The change in law makes flood control an eligible criteria in the third priority of the Waste Water portion of the Fund.
Delegate Watson who represents Ellicott City said, “For every dollar we spend on mitigation, we save $6 in damages from flooding. This underscores that we must move climate resiliency to the front burner. It’s a smart investment on the part of the state, and we have to move faster.”
Senator Hester’s MD PACE-R Financing Act will extend the PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) financing mechanism to owners who wish to increase the resiliency of both residential and commercial property. PACE loans are currently used to finance energy efficiency improvements: local governments and lenders cooperate on loans secured by the property tax obligation – which does not appear on the owner’s balance sheet. This powerful financing tool will encourage individuals, organizations, and government agencies at the state and local levels to include resiliency in their retrofits and new construction.