Eastern Shore environmental legislative summit brings boatload of new legislation

MARYLAND – As legislators prepare to return to the general assembly, environmental activists are hoping lawmakers will keep their priorities in mind. Many of the bills discussed this weekend have been in the works for over a year. Legislators discussed plastic packaging, stormwater programs, and even an electric school bus pilot program, all of which are aimed at improving community health. Now lawmakers say they’re eager to bring their environmental concerns to Annapolis.

Over the weekend, legislators, environmental advocacy groups, and members of the public sat down virtually to discuss some of their goals for 2022. “The fewer fossil fuels we burn, the better it is for everybody and that’s what we’re trying to get to,” says Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo.

One of those bills is the environmental human rights amendment which some legislators say will help create the most durable legal protection for the environment. “States are really stepping up to the call to make sure our citizens are protected in our constitutions in this way and Maryland should be the next state to do the same,” says Del. Wanika Fisher.

Other pieces of legislation focus on low-income housing, energy performance, and public utilities. Which we’re told set a standard for all housing developments. “It streamlines and creates a one-stop-shop for federal money, state money, not only for efficiency but for safe indoor air quality issues, safety issues, health issues,” says Del. Lorig Charkoudian.

Lawmakers also looked at a framework for farm to food security, farmland sustainability, and increasing funding supporting those efforts. Plus, they say they want to make Universities and colleges more sustainable, and shift plastic fees from consumers to the corporations using the plastic. “And the stick is that, if you don’t do this, you don’t get to sell import, or distribute the product in Maryland, you use to access to our markets,” says Del. Brooke Lierman.

Legislators say, protecting the environment doesn’t just impact those who can vote, but everyone who lives in Maryland. “They, re the ones whose lives are going to be impacted by whether we have an environment that’s worthy of passing down to our children and grandchildren,” says Rosa Hance Chair ship of Maryland Chapter of Sierra Club Executive Committee.

Other bills touched on technology to support environmental efforts like de-carbonization and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Some legislation also tackles carbon neutrality and a sustainability general education requirement.

Legislators are urging constituents to reach out to them with any concerns or bills you want them to take a look at this year.

The next Maryland General Assembly session starts on January 12th.

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