Maryland Considers Bills to Protect Public, Environmental Health

Katlyn Schmitt

Jan. 22, 2021

The Maryland General Assembly is back in session — and we at the Center for Progressive Reform are tracking a number of bills that, if passed, will have a lasting impact on the people of Maryland and their environment. Several could also spur other states to improve their own environmental and public health protections.

We’re watching bills that would:

  • Ensure clean drinking water

    Everyone needs and deserves safe drinking water. Yet well owners in Maryland are largely left on their own to ensure their water is safe. Some 2 million Marylanders rely on well water as their primary water source, yet many well owners incorrectly believe their well water is safe to drink. Many don’t test their water annually or understand the importance of doing so.

    The Maryland Private Well Safety Program would address these problems. This would help well owners cover the costs of testing and remediation when unsafe contamination levels are found. The bill would also require the state to create an online database of well water test results and better monitor and report on its groundwater resources, and it would require property owners to disclose test results to tenants and homebuyers.

  • Provide greater accountability to ensure adequate enforcement of environmental protections

    Our environmental laws are meaningless without adequate enforcement, transparency, and accountability measures to back them up. Yet, environmental enforcement and compliance levels in Maryland plunge to record lows year after year. Meanwhile, Maryland residents lack access to the courts in Clean Water Act enforcement cases and often face obstacles when requesting environmental records from the state.

    A suite of bills (House Bills 183, 204, 295, and 82) aim to address these problems. They would provide equitable access to records, create an online database of state enforcement actions, allow Marylanders to participate in Clean Water Act enforcement cases, and establish a constitutional right to a healthy and healthful environment. If enacted, these bills will ensure that Maryland residents and advocates have access to the information they need to watchdog the state’s environmental efforts and the legal power to act on it while also recognizing our inalienable right to live in a safe and healthy environment.

  • Protect against the threats of climate change

    As a coastal state, Maryland is especially vulnerable to climate change. Yet, Maryland’s stormwater pollution and technical design standards are outdated and don’t reflect the projected increase in precipitation intensity due to climate change. House Bill 295 would ensure that state and local governments adapt building permits and Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts to protect our waterways and communities from flooding. Likewise, House Bill 512 would require “climate and coast smart” development for the private sector. Both bills would increase community safety and resilience, all while mitigating urban and coastal flooding impacts on natural resources and public infrastructure.

CPR is following these critical bills as they move through the state legislature this session, which concludes on April 12. For updates, check back here, subscribe to our newsletter, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

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