How Students Can Fight Climate Change at Their Schools

By 2021 Spring Intern, Shivani Sidh

This spring, I had the opportunity to do an internship at Maryland League of Conservation Voters. I chose to work with the organization because I’m interested in climate justice: resolving the environmental, ethical, and equity issues created by climate change.

Shivani Sidh is a student at Garrison Forest School who is volunteered with the Chispa Maryland program. Post-graduation she will progress to the University of Maryland as a Public Policy major. Shivani is grateful for the opportunity to work in a professional setting and excited to work with Maryland LCV on environmental justice and social equity policies.

Addressing the complex issue of environmental justice can seem challenging, especially for high school students who want to get involved in the fight for climate change. However, one opportunity for involvement is closer and simpler than expected. High schoolers can use their position as students to create change by working for school bus electrification, a campaign that aims to transition fleets from diesel to electric school buses.

While school buses are an efficient method of transport, most are powered by diesel, which has adverse effects on children and the atmosphere. Each day, countless children travel on diesel buses to attend school. In comparison to someone riding in a car, a child in a diesel school bus may be exposed to as much as four times the level of toxins. Diesel emits carcinogens and particulate matter, which can exacerbate common breathing conditions such as asthma. It’s significant to note that minority children have higher asthma rates in comparison to their white counterparts. Diesel emissions also cause an increased risk for a multitude of illnesses ranging from cancer to heart disease.

Diesel holds an additional risk to the environment, as in addition to the toxins, it releases a variety of pollutants (such as CO2 and nitrogen oxides). The health and well being of children and the environment should not be compromised by something as common as a school bus.

Students can encourage the transition to cleaner transportation by educating themselves on the severity of climate change, signing petitions, and reaching out to elected officials. Students can also work with teams, possibly joining organizations like Maryland LCV and participating in their efforts, creating environmental clubs, and reaching out to the transportation department for their respective schools.

There are currently a number of avenues for school districts to start transitioning their fleets from diesel to electric that range from from federal grant programs and loans to utility investment, financing strategies and vehicle-to-grid technology. Maryland LCV’s Chispa program supported a state bill that intended to launch a pilot project to electrify school bus fleets in Maryland districts. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass through the Senate, but Maryland LCV and its partners intend to re-address the issue in the next legislative session.

Some Maryland school districts are creating their own solutions to begin the deployment of electric school buses and practice sustainability. Montgomery County recently approved a contract to lease 326 electric buses, a model that can be used to eventually electrify the entire bus fleet. Additionally, in March of 2021, Prince George’s County Public Schools became the first to commit to a Net Zero Emissions  plan. They vowed that by 2040 their transportation would be “fully clean”.

Hopefully, with student help, the efforts of environmental groups, and the work of legislators, all Maryland diesel school buses will be replaced by 2030.

If you are a high school student interested in advocating for electric buses at your school, please let us know. We would love to help you in your efforts! Email us at

By |2021-07-27T10:30:54-04:00July 27th, 2021|Categories: CHISPA, Education Fund|0 Comments

Farewell to Ben Alexandro

Headshot of Ben Alexandro

Ben Alexandro, former Water Policy Director

Thank you to everyone who has supported Maryland LCV, for an amazing six years. It is with mixed emotions that I am leaving Maryland LCV today. I have accepted a new job at the League of Conservation Voters as the Senior Government Affairs Advocate for their conservation program in Washington DC.

Thank you to these amazing and talented people I am honored to call coworkers and colleagues. They fight tirelessly to make Maryland, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the communities we live in better every single day.  Everyone here at Maryland LCV is not only a powerhouse in their field and rock stars at making sure we are the premier organization at getting bills passed and making change happen in Maryland, but every single person here is honest, kind hearted, and I consider each a true friend.

Together we have helped protect and regrow forests across the state, fund countless projects to save the Chesapeake Bay and improve our local waterways and be a watchdog for clean water. I have never had a job where I felt like I was making such a huge positive impact for our state. None of this would have been possible without the generous and steadfast support from you and every member of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters.

This opportunity with LCV in Washington DC is an exciting new chapter.  I will be helping America preserve 30% of its land and water by 2030. I may even have the opportunity to work with the Biden administration and Congress to create new national monuments and national parks. I’m confident I can do great things on the national scale thanks to all the skills I learned from the partners here over the last six years. It is bittersweet because I will truly miss it here in Annapolis.

Thank you, Maryland LCV, for making this an amazing place to work and one of if not the best job I have ever had. Thank you for your continued support of this amazing organization. It has been an honor.

By |2021-07-27T10:27:51-04:00July 27th, 2021|Categories: Education Fund|0 Comments

Maryland Voters Support Action on Climate and Transportation

A recent poll — conducted for the Maryland League of Conservation Voters (LCV) by Nexus Polling and the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication — finds strong support for policies to improve transportation and address climate change in the state. The representative survey of 553 registered Maryland voters was conducted January 27-February 4, 2021, and has a margin of error of +/- 4.5%

Voters want the MTA to ensure Marylanders can get to work safely, reduce traffic congestion, reduce pollution, and increase transportation.
Nearly all (96%) Maryland voters say ensuring Marylanders, including essential workers, can get to work safely and on time is an important objective, including more than seven in 10 (72%) who say it is a very important objective. About six in 10 Maryland voters say reducing traffic congestion (61%), reducing the harmful pollution that lowers air quality and contributes to asthma and lung disease (60%), and ensuring low-income communities and communities of color have increased access to public transportation (59%) are very important objectives for MTA. Roughly half say lowering costs for Marylanders (49%) or adding new bus routes and train lines to reach rural communities (48%) are very important objectives as well.

Maryland voters support transit infrastructure spending now.
Nearly two-thirds (66%) of Maryland voters say Maryland should increase spending on transit infrastructure now to ensure Maryland residents, including essential workers, can get around the state safely, while also providing emergency relief to families, businesses, and public services. Majorities of Maryland voters also support a variety of transportation investments, including:

  • Investing in repairing and maintaining current transportation infrastructure (86%)
  • Adding new bus routes and train lines to reach communities that don’t currently have access to public transportation (83%)
  • Providing tax credits or rebates to individuals/households that purchase an electric vehicle (70%)
  • Adding bike lanes to existing roads and bridges (70%)
  • Investing state tax dollars in installing electric vehicle charging stations in rural, urban, suburban areas (68%)
  • Establishing zero-emission zones in cities (52%)

Maryland voters also support a wide array of climate policies, including:

  • Planting 4.5 million new trees over the next nine years to help remove carbon pollution from the air (86%)
  • Requiring oil and gas companies in the state to pay some of the costs related to adapting to climate change, including investments in transportation infrastructure and sea level rise (76%)
  • Requiring fossil fuel companies to pay a fee on their carbon pollution (74%)
  • Requiring new constructed buildings with at least 20,000 square feet to install rooftop solar panels (74%)
  • Requiring utility companies in Maryland to generate 100% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030 (72%)
  • Replacing state-owned gas- and diesel-powered vehicles with electric or hybrid vehicles (67%)
  • Requiring newly constructed homes and buildings to be emissions-free (66%)

Coronavirus response, infrastructure funding and climate action are seen as top priorities for Maryland this year.
More than eight in 10 Maryland voters say passing economic stimulus legislation (83%) and public health legislation (81%) in response to the coronavirus pandemic are important priorities for the Maryland state government this year, including more than six in 10 (61% and 61%, respectively) who say they should be top priorities. Transportation infrastructure is also seen as a high priority by voters in the state: About eight in 10 also say investing more in transportation infrastructure such as roads and bridges (83%) and passing an infrastructure spending bill to update and modernize Maryland’s infrastructure (78%) should be priorities. Roughly seven in 10 see addressing racism (73%) and passing a comprehensive bill to address climate change (69%) as important priorities for the state this year. And 72% of respondents said they support requiring utility companies in Maryland to generate 100% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

Not only do Maryland voters support climate policies, but they want their elected representatives to support them as well.
At least seven in 10 say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate for Maryland political office who backs investing state dollars to upgrade the electric grid and expand the production of renewable energy (73%), requiring fossil fuel companies to pay a tax on their carbon pollution (71%), and reducing greenhouse gas emissions 60% from 2006 levels by 2030 (70%).


By |2021-02-22T09:36:09-05:00February 22nd, 2021|Categories: Education Fund, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

Voting by Mail in the Old Line State

By Kristen Harbeson, Political Director of Maryland LCV

The June Primary has come and gone but the 2020 Election has barely hit its stride. Even as we are facing the rise and fall and rise again of COVID-19 infections, Marylanders are preparing to go to the polls in November.

To pass strong environmental legislation, we must have the right elected officials in office. Nothing is more important to that goal than a robust election where voters’—all voters’— voices are heard and champions are elected that reflect their  conservation values over the interests of those who would pave over forests and eliminate environmental protections. 

To advocate for a fair, free, and safe election, Maryland League of Conservation Voters is part of a large and diverse coalition called “Everyone Votes Maryland.” We hope you will engage in our campaign — including spreading the word — to ensure its success. 

Looking forward through this public health crisis to a critical national election, it is essential that every registered voter make a plan on how they will have their vote heard.

Check your registration

All registered Maryland voters will be sent mail-in ballot applications in advance of the November 3rd election.  Since ballot and ballot applications will not be forwarded,  it’s important that everyone make sure that their registration is up to date. 

  1. Are you registered to vote in Maryland?
  2. Have you moved since the last election?

Check your status here:

Apply for an absentee ballot:

You don’t have to wait for your absentee ballot application to arrive in the mail.

Voting by mail is the best and safest way to make your voice heard. Not only is it secure, but it provides a guaranteed paper record of every vote in the case of a recount. In addition, it allows voters time to sit with their ballots and do research, which is especially important for voters with lower literacy levels, or whose first language is not English.


  •         To receive a ballot in the mail, you must request a ballot by no later than Tuesday, October 27.
  •         Ballots can also be e-mailed if they are requested on or before Thursday, October 30.
  •         You will need to know:
  1. Your voter type (citizenship, military affiliation, etc.)
  2. Your name
  3. Your date of birth
  4. Your State ID number and issue date. This could be a drivers license or MVA-issued ID.
  5. Note that if you don’t already have one, the website will send you to a Maryland Voter Registration Application, which will require an original signature and can not be e-mailed or faxed.
  6. Your address
  7. Your political party (if any)
  8. A contact phone number and e-mail address

You will be asked how you would like to receive your ballot, and be required to swear or affirm that your information is correct: That you are a US Citizen, a Maryland resident, at least 16 years old, and you do not have a current conviction that prevents you from being eligible to vote.

  •   Note: previously convicted felons who have been released on parole or who have completed their time served are eligible to vote by Maryland state law.

Voting by Mail

Once you receive your ballot, you will be able to review the candidates for office and cast your vote safely and securely.

  •         Your ballot must be postmarked on or before November 3, 2020
  •         For ballots sent by mail, postage will be pre-paid. No additional postage will be required.
  •         For ballots received by e-mail, voters will be required to print and mail their ballots with the appropriate postage (2 stamps)
  •         Ballots should be signed and filled out with a black pen
  •         Ballots MUST be signed to be considered valid.

Voting in Person

Some people prefer to vote in person, or have disabilities which make it essential to have in-person voting options. Not to worry!  There will be opportunities for you to visit a voting center.

  •         Each jurisdiction will have voting centers open for early voting from October 22 – October 29th
  •         In-person voting options will also be available on November 3rd.
  •         Voting centers will require voters to wear a mask in order to enter the facility, and social-distancing will be maintained.
  •         Ballot marking devices will be available for voters with disabilities
  •         Same-day registration will be available during early voting and on election day
  •         Voters registering on-site may be required to fill out provisional ballots.

Important Dates:

  • Absentee ballots will begin being mailed out on September 19th
  • Last day to pre-register to vote is October 13th– you will still be able to register in person on election day at your polling location
  • Early Voting for the General Election – Thursday, October 22, 2020 through Thursday, October 29, 2020 from 8 am until 8 pm.
  • Last day to request an absentee ballot is October 29th
  • November 3 General Election – Your absentee ballot must be postmarked by this day

A great how-to video on absentee ballot request from Speaker Adrienne Jones can be found here.

We need to stay vigilant and focused on ensuring every Marylander has the necessary tools and resources to vote. Stay tuned to see updates from us and our partners in Everyone Votes Maryland about the November elections. With so much at stake, we need all Marylanders to exercise their right to vote.  It is one of the best actions you can take to protect and restore Maryland’s land, air, water and communities.

By |2020-07-30T14:19:15-04:00July 30th, 2020|Categories: Education Fund|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Racial Justice Response Statement

June 4, 2020

The Maryland League of Conservation Voters and Maryland LCV Education Fund share your outrage, grief, and pain over the killings of George Floyd and other members of the Black community. We steadfastly stand in solidarity with those calling for justice, accountability, and an end to the systemic racism and insidious cycle of violence that is inflicted upon the community. For too long, too many Black communities have been disenfranchised, marginalized, polluted, and prevented from voting, speaking up, or even living without fear of arrest, injury, or worse. Black people have a right to safety, to enjoy the outdoors, to live without being harmed by environmental pollutants, and to vote. And we all have the responsibility to fight for these rights.

Maryland LCV commits to holding ourselves accountable to ensure racial equity is embedded in our programs and operations. We also commit to redoubling our efforts to elect and hold accountable leaders who will ensure the security and rights of all people equally and to continue our work to guarantee that all Marylanders – especially our Black and Brown brothers and sisters  – have an effective political voice and access to clean air and water and safe and healthy communities. We commit to being an organization that works tirelessly on behalf of all Marylanders, but especially members of Maryland’s Black and Brown communities, to protect the right to vote, to protest, to breathe.

For all in the Conservation Voter Movement and beyond who want to act now to be part of the solution, we urge you to seek out organizations and individuals that have been working on the front lines of this essential work to protect protestors and our basic human rights and dignity during this time.  We also strongly urge you to be part of the solution this November by exercising your right to vote.

National LCV’s statement

Below are a few articles that we will be taking to heart:

By |2020-06-04T17:20:01-04:00June 4th, 2020|Categories: CHISPA, Education Fund|Tags: , |0 Comments

Salisbury Mayor Jake Day announces deployment

The Maryland League of Conservation Voters Education Fund applauds Mayor Jake Day’s leadership and commitment to service. On behalf of our board, staff, and members, we wish him a productive and safe deployment. Mayor Day was our 2018 Teddy Roosevelt Award winner in recognition of his body of work that promises to leave a positive conservation legacy that mirrors the ethos of President Theodore R Roosevelt. We are proud of Mayor Day.

Check out our Theodore Roosevelt Award here.

The news article announcing his deployment.

Update: Terrific News for Langley Park Latino Community

July 22,2020

Thank you again for your generosity in donating to our GoFundMe campaign during May 2020 for the “COVID-19 Crisis Fund” for the Latino community of Langley Park. I’m delighted to now report that another $20,000 has been awarded – in addition to the more than $10,000 that you helped raise – to directly assist this community!

I’m so proud of this effort fostered by our CHISPA Maryland program in partnership with the Langley Park Civic Association. “This grant from the League of Conservation Voters will provide a great relief to these families so that they are not left behind, and it will also help our community to move forward together,” said Cándida Garcia, a board member of the Langley Park Civic Association. “The Civic Association will use these funds to provide direct financial relief to immigrant families that are experiencing hardships related to COVID-19 and increase the capacity of the Langley Park Civic Association to better assist residents of this community during the pandemic and beyond.”

The Langley Park community is a longtime partner of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters Education Fund. Through our Chispa Maryland program, and in partnership with community members, faith leaders, and the Langley park Civic Association — we have delivered environmental education workshops, advocacy opportunities, and leadership training that has produced over 30 Environmental Justice and Action “Promotores” (advocacy leaders) from this community over the past five years.

“These Promotores and leaders have become the heart and soul of the Chispa Maryland program, and this community has been a key ally in advancing environmental legislation and policies that incorporate environmental justice in Maryland,” said Chispa Maryland Program Director Ramon Palencia-Calvo. “With many community members experiencing income loss due to lay-offs or significant reduction of work hours, and many unable to access federal assistance programs, we consider continued support for the community to be an urgent priority.”

In May, Maryland LCV Education Fund and Chispa Maryland partnered with the Langley Park Civic Association to also assist its immigrant residents during the coronavirus pandemic. Jointly, the two raised over $10,000 through a 10-day GoFundMe campaign to help families with emergency assistance for rent, food, medicine, and other essential items.

“During that same May period, we applied for the $20,000 grant for the community from the national League of Conservation Voters’ COVID-19 Fund,” said Palencia-Calvo. “We are thrilled that the funds have now been awarded, because the community of Langley Park continues to experience hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Those who are interested in supporting Chispa’s COVID-19 community relief efforts should contact Maryland LCV Education Fund at

Kim Coble

Executive Director

May 20, 2020- Original Post

By Ramon Palencia-Calvo, Deputy Director and Chispa Maryland Director                                                                                        En español 

Together we give

Through our Chispa Maryland program, we have developed transformational relationships with a variety of environmental and community groups. The Prince George’s County community of Langley Park,where upwards of 80% of the residents are Latino, has become one of our most effective and valued partners. 

Our Chispa Maryland program and community leaders and residents of Langley Park have collaborated on environmental education workshops, advocacy opportunities, community clean ups, environmental forums, and air quality monitoring. I know I can always count on the Langley Park community to go the extra mile in support of the environmental issues that are so important to all of us.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic is severely threatening the Langley Park community, one of the most affected areas in all of Maryland. Latino community members are experiencing income loss due to layoffs or significant reduction of work hours, and many have been unable to access federal assistance or other relief programs. 

Join our effort today to support our partners in need, our campaign ends on May 31st!  To donate, visit our Charity GoFundMe page by clicking here!

Over 30 Environmental Justice and Action Promotores from this community have graduated from our program. These Promotores and leaders have become the heart and soul of the Chispa Maryland program, and this community has helped us advance environmental legislation and policies, such as the Clean Energy Jobs Act, the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign, and banning styrofoam in Prince George’s County. 

In response to the needs of our community allies, Chispa Maryland is partnering with the Langley Park Civic Association, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that serves individuals residing in Langley Park, to assist its immigrant community directly affected by COVID-19 and the broader pandemic.  This organization and the people they represent have been key partners in helping Chispa Maryland advocate for climate justice.

They have stood with us to advance our joint environmental priorities, and now they need us to stand with them. Join us today in support of the Langley Park community and our 10 day campaign to raise funds directly to those in need. Donate to our COVID-19 Crisis Fund! 

The Langley Park Civic Association will identify families that require critically urgent financial assistance for rent, food, medicine, or other essential items. The funds will be used to provide direct financial relief to those families who might have been rejected from other funding sources, have received only partial relief, or have emergency needs that are simply too urgent to undergo a complex administrative process. 

Check out our press release here.

Thank you and I hope you and your families are well in this time,

Headshot of Ramon Palencia-Calvo

Ramon Palencia-Calvo, Deputy Executive Director and Chispa Maryland Director
Maryland LCV Ed Fund and Chispa Maryland

By |2020-07-22T12:20:16-04:00May 20th, 2020|Categories: CHISPA, Education Fund|Tags: , |0 Comments

Maryland’s ‘Water Quality Trading’ program is a sham. Can it be fixed?

Written by Ben Alexandro, Water Policy Director

The Hogan administration is using a complicated ‘water quality trading’ program to let Maryland counties pollute more than they are permitted to.

For years the Hogan administration has been touting nutrient trading as a new market-based strategy that could help save the Chesapeake Bay. The administration said it would spur innovation like never before and be the new ingredient in the bay restoration plan that finally uses efficient and smart investments. The assertion is that this will lead to great new projects and filtering practices to save the Bay. Unfortunately, that is not at all how it is being used today.

Please let me explain: The most urban areas of Maryland now have expiring Clean Water Act permits which are supposed to require the treatment of pollution coming off of urban areas by the equivalent of restoring 20% of urban land surface to forest.  While some counties like Carroll were able to meet their goal legitimately, other counties like Baltimore (who got rid of their polluted runoff fee that financed their improvement projects and as a result cancelled a bunch of real projects in the works) couldn’t meet their goal. It is true that the requirements under the last permits were very ambitious.  But now, rather than the state issuing violations or legal settlements like they did for Montgomery County, Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is letting other counties quietly turn to ‘nutrient trading’ to magically smooth things over, in many cases, for free without actual reductions in pollution.

A False Fantasy:

As one of the authors of the Environmental Finance Center’s Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Restoration Financing Strategy Final Report I am not usually an opponent of nutrient trading. In theory the idea is to create a ‘cap and trade’ program where you use the cap on how much an entity can pollute.  Then let them buy ‘credits’ created by separate pollution reduction projects offsite. The idea is through a competitive market for credits, Maryland can reduce more pollution for less cost. Currently, the most urban counties in Maryland have a federally mandated Clean Water Act permits that say how much polluted runoff must be reduced before the permit expires. MDE has already allowed Anne Arundel, Baltimore, and Prince George’s Counties to amend their expired permits meant to reduce polluted runoff to allow the county governments to ‘trade credits’ instead of reducing pollution themselves. MDE released that it will allow Harford County, Frederick County, and the State Highway Administrations to amend their permits as well.

If functioning correctly, county governments, and other buyers, will invest money to incentivize creating new and more effective pollution reduction practices. The idea is that if there was a market for pollution reduction, a farmer doing something like planting forests near a stream could reduce twice the pollution for half the cost that a town or city could from ripping up concrete and asphalt to plant trees in the urban area.  So why not let the county pay the farmer to reduce pollution upstream and get more bang for your buck?

Critics might point out that a faulty trading program can lead to real world injustices. For example, a trading program done incorrectly could lead to pollution hotspots often in communities of color and underserved areas, which is simply racial and environmental injustice. Often low-income areas feel the most negative effects of concentrated pollution because polluters in those areas are the ones who buy ‘credits’ from elsewhere instead of cleaning up onsite. Critics also point out sloppy verification and enforcement issues in the trading regulations and that the MDE is chronically understaffed- potentially too understaffed to properly administer and police the program.  The Choose Clean Water Coalition, a coalition of over 230 organizations working towards clean water and a clean Chesapeake Bay do not have an official policy supporting nutrient trading. However, if trading is to occur, the Coalition attests these Twelve Principles are essential to ensure water quality is protected. While pollution hotspots, counterfeit credits, etc. are often issues in a poorly managed trading program, I think if MDE increases staff, follows these twelve principles and becomes truly committed to creating a well-regulated trading market with strong protections, these issues could be avoided and the administration’s dream of free markets incentivizing pollution reductions could be a reality.

The way the administration is running the program this far is poor to say the least. So far it seems to be simply a way to ‘cook the books’ and make it look like counties are reducing more pollution than they actually are. It is a convoluted way to let counties off the hook.

How is MDE letting counties off the hook?

With any new complex market-based initiative, the devil is in the details. Our devil: wastewater treatment plants. On all of Maryland’s water bills, there is a fee for the ‘BRF’- Bay Restoration Fund.  This money goes towards upgrading Maryland’s wastewater treatment plants in order to decrease the amount of pollution that enters our waters. Waste water treatment plants have made the water coming out of them cleaner thanks to these taxpayer funds. Now the state is saying plants upgraded using taxpayer money can be a part of the nutrient trading program by trading credits to Maryland counties. And because of where the state set the baseline to be able to generate credits, many wastewater plants owned by the counties can essentially give a county all the credit for nutrient trading they would ever need without doing anything new at all to actually reduce any more pollution. For example, Anne Arundel county’s wastewater treatment plant is able to suddenly create enough credits equal to the county converting over 4,000 acres of polluting industrial parking lots and other polluting land cover to forests. By using average flow numbers for 2019, I calculated that together the waste water treatment plants in Maryland could trade away over 500,000 pounds worth of credits potentially for free. That is more credits than every single permit in the state would need combined.

Because of this loophole, most county owned sewage treatment plants have not invested a single dollar in pollution reduction projects, but may still get credits to sell in the nutrient trading program for reducing tens of thousands of pounds of nutrient pollution. If you really want to know how successful a program is, follow the money. If no money is invested, it means that there are no real new projects going into effect because of this program. If the counties are just doing a paper exercise, the price of a credit is effectively zero dollars. The price needs to be high enough to encourage farmers and others to put in place real practices above what they would already be doing. The trading program is also not incentivizing waste water treatment plants to create better pollution removal systems. They are generating credits based on money already invested years ago by you, the taxpayer. Right now, zero innovations are being funded through trading, and the market is in danger of crashing.

Confusing? That might be the point-

The whole system is incredibly complex and hard to follow.  I didn’t even go into detail about how the nitrogen parts per million baselines at the wastewater treatment plants further complicates this issue or how permits are actually based on percentage of impervious area treated instead of each pollutant directly, etc. I think that right now, nutrient trading is a purposely complex way to make it look like the counties are doing far better at reducing pollution then they really are.

Why would the Hogan Administration do this? 

We can agree that the trading program is complex and hard for the average Marylander to follow and understand. The Clean Water Act permits built to ensure counties reduce their polluted runoff are complicated too. Sound science-based policy often is complicated because the science behind it is complicated. A much simpler concept is a misleading term like the ‘Rain Tax.’ ‘Rain Tax’ was a rallying cry for this administration in the first election- they claimed that we could easily reduce the pollution we need to without counties using dedicated fees and funding that would pay for pollution-reducing projects. Saying that all the counties are doing great at reducing all the pollution they needed to without having to resort to polluted runoff fees, or as the administration called it in their empty political sloganeering, the ‘rain tax,’ is cheap, easy, and politically appealing.  In some ways it is smart- make the problem so complex that getting folks to understand the problem let alone rallying people to fight it requires advanced degrees years of environmental policy experience. But Maryland deserves better. And we will need to do much better at controlling urban runoff as climate change continues to create more frequent and dangerous flood events. Now is not the time for political gimmicks.

Can the trading program be fixed?

I believe MDE could fix it. MDE has claimed verbally in meetings that trades with waste water treatment plants are temporary and can only be used to buy the counties time.  MDE claims that counties will have to make up the pollution reduction with real projects in the next permit in addition to new levels of pollution reduction. However, we see no indication of this commitment in their written Watershed Implementation Plans they had to submit to the EPA earlier this summer or in the legally binding permits. We see some counties like Anne Arundel planning in their budgets to put in real projects later to make up for it and just ‘trading in time’ as they call it do buy them time, but others like Harford County are not planning on making up the gap with real projects budgeted in the future.

Without a clear indication of what is coming in the next permit, supposedly coming out at the end of the year, it is hard, if not impossible, for counties to properly budget funds for pollution-reducing projects. None of the county budgets indicate that they expect they will need to spend real money in the future to buy real credits. Meanwhile, some counties are seeing this as an opportunity to cut budgets. For example, Frederick County has cut their budget for projects by $2 million and Montgomery County slashed theirs even further.

The Hogan administration needs to make it clear that this type of trading for free with their own wastewater treatment plants will not stand. MDE needs to clearly show it is not weakening clean water permits with loopholes. Trading needs to be for real new projects and include practices that effectively reduce pollution. MDE needs to make a commitment that it will create a real demand-driven, closely regulated market that incentivizes new and innovative projects, or they need to shut the program down.

The frustrating part is that I still believe that if the state closed these loopholes, followed the Choose Clean Water Twelve Principles, and truly committed to the ideas behind the program, it really could be the market-based solution to efficiently reduce tens of thousands of pounds of pollution going into the Bay that we want it to be.  MDE could still fix this program.

It is not my goal to criticize MDE for trying a creative new program, but I have given the program every benefit of the doubt. I have worked closely with MDE for months and testified at MDE hearings multiple times to air my concerns. While trading has improved in some areas, the fundamental flaws remain. If MDE truly wants to let counties off the hook on their commitment to reduce pollution, that is their purgative, (and we will continue to expose them for that) but why must the dream of the trading program be a casualty?  Allowing free trading of already completed upgrades to waste water treatment plants makes the program into what its worst critics have been claiming it was all along – A dangerous sham that will let polluters in Maryland continue to dirty our waters.

Do you agree? Then send a comment into MDE.  Details on how to comment here:

By |2020-01-11T18:10:33-05:00September 25th, 2019|Categories: Education Fund|Comments Off on Maryland’s ‘Water Quality Trading’ program is a sham. Can it be fixed?

Introducing our New Executive Director, Kim Coble

We are thrilled to announce that Kim Coble, one of Maryland’s most respected environmentalists, will be the new executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters Education Fund. She will assume her new duties on October 15th.

Kim was the unanimous choice of our selection committee which has spent the last few weeks vetting and interviewing an amazing selection of outstanding candidates. In the end, we felt that Kim’s breadth of experience, significant management skills and inspiring vision for the organization made her an ideal candidate. We are thrilled to have her lead the organization as we seek to build on recent legislative triumphs and elevate Maryland to being a top-tier state in the effort to combat the climate crisis.

Many of you are very familiar with Kim’s important work in the environment space.

Most recently, Kim served as the Chief Operating Officer at US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment. US SIF is a non-profit whose mission is to rapidly shift investment practices towards sustainability, focusing on long term investment and the generation of positive social and environmental impacts. In her role as COO, she oversaw the organization’s operations and helped develop its three-year strategic plan.

Prior to her role at US SIF, Kim worked at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, including eight years as the Maryland Executive Director and then six years as Vice President of Environmental Protection and Restoration where she oversaw CBF’s policy, outreach and restoration work throughout the watershed. Kim was selected as one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women in 2015, appointed as an Admiral of the Chesapeake Bay, served as the Valedictorian of her Leadership Maryland class and has been a member of the State Ethics Commission since 2015.

Please join us on October 24th to celebrate Maryland LCV Education Fund and to welcome Kim aboard.

By |2020-02-20T07:11:02-05:00September 19th, 2019|Categories: Education Fund|Comments Off on Introducing our New Executive Director, Kim Coble

Calling all local Environmental Heroes!

By Chuck Porcari, Interim Executive Director

Do you know a local Maryland Environmental Hero?

Once again, we will be honoring visionary work as we present our annual President Theodore Roosevelt Award! If a group or individual you know is doing great things to protect Maryland’s communities and natural places, with an eye towards both today and the future, please make sure you nominate them.

Formally, the award criteria states; “In recognition of the individual, group or organization whom through a specific action, event or body of work will leave a positive conservation legacy that mirrors the ethos of President Theodore R. Roosevelt.”

The winner will be recognized at a formal, public event hosted by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters Education Fund.

We encourage you to scour your areas of interest for worthy individuals, groups or formal organizations that you believe reflect this positive conservation ethos.

Deadline for submission is September 30, 2019. Nominate an Environmental Hero here.

Thank you in advance for your efforts,

Chuck Porcari, Interim Executive Director

Previous Winners:

The 2017 Awardee was Emmitsburg Mayor Donald N. Briggs. Check out the blog post here.

2018 Awardee was Salisbury Mayor Jake Day. Check out the blog post here.

By |2019-12-19T04:25:51-05:00August 26th, 2019|Categories: Education Fund|Comments Off on Calling all local Environmental Heroes!