Tag Archives: environment

Notes from the MACo summer conference

I was glad to attend the Maryland Association of Counties conference in Ocean City this past week, a grand opportunity to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. I attended sessions on topics from the 2020 census to affordable housing, and took some running notes in the form of the tweets below.

One of the most talked-of sessions was the town hall featuring Ben Cardin, Maryland’s senior U.S. senator. Cardin has a reputation as one of the more cautiously spoken and temperate members of the Democratic caucus, and some of his comments indeed struck a centrist tone:

On firearms, Cardin forthrightly sides with liberals, and mentioned that he and his wife were soon to attend what he called an “anti-gun rally” in Baltimore:

What really lifted me out of my chair was when a questioner asked about redistricting and Cardin said “don’t blame the Maryland legislature” for gerrymandering. It would be “naive.” Yes, he stood right there before a bipartisan audience and said that.

I had a back-and-forth with Todd Eberly about it:

On First Amendment issues, unfortunately, Cardin stuck to a theme that free speech should not be seen as unlimited. He sounded the alarm about foreign interference in elections and jumped directly to a scheme to outfit social media with legally mandated “guardrails”:

MACo posts big signs saying that it’s a nonpartisan group and campaigning at the event is forbidden, but as Danielle Gaines noted afterward at Maryland Matters, audience members during Q&A ignored this, especially after one questioner referred to the present Senate majority leader as “Moscow Mitch”:

For most of the panels I attended, however, audience questions provided helpful focus. At the session on agritourism, for example, one audience member offered a cautionary tale from Anne Arundel County: well- meaning nonfarmers drew up rules laying out rules for many activities that farmers have been doing since time immemorial, such as hosting community picnics. Regulation got worse.

Apparently the electrified third rail of agritourism politics is “the W word” — farmhouse weddings. Heaven forbid people should get married and be happy if it means more vehicle traffic!

The food safety and packaging regulation panel included a discussion of how the state’s modest new cottage-food law opens up room for home-kitchen providers of a relatively short list of super-safe products, including cookies, jams (but not pickles), and baked goods. There may be some connection here with MACo’s celebrated “Taste of Maryland” reception, in which cookies, along with locally made beer and wine, were the stars. (I liked Cynthia Ann Desserts’s Black-Eyed Susan shortbread cookies at the Charles County booth.) A long line snaked up to the booth of Talbot County, which more ambitiously than its sister counties offered oysters on the half shell.

The Q&A at the food safety panel also led to a back-and-forth on the regulation of kids’ lemonade stands. Jessica Speaker, an assistant commissioner with the Baltimore City Health Department, had some warnings:

The discussion of the state’s Styrofoam ban seemed to take for granted that it would be the jumping-off point for many further restrictions in years to come:

State pre-emption of local legislative power is the sort of topic I really warm to (and talked back on):

While I disagreed with some of the policy perspectives (as I expected to), the conference was an invaluable chance to learn about multiple and varied aspects of Maryland government up close.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Policy

Should the EPA fund the Chesapeake Bay Journal?

I like advocacy journalism as well as the next fellow — at least I consume a lot of it as a reader. That doesn’t mean the federal government should be funding it, thereby giving a boost to one side of environmental debates in the mid-Atlantic region. My new piece for the DC Examiner examines the Environmental Protection Agency’s longstanding subsidies for the influential Chesapeake Bay Journal. (cross-posted from Overlawyered)

Leave a comment

Filed under Media criticism

Baltimore bans new crude oil terminals

In the latest win for activists, Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh signed into law a new measure banning construction and expansion of crude oil terminals in the city. Previously Oakland, Calif. banned a terminal intended for coal exports, and Portland, Ore., and other West Coast cities have also moved to block fossil fuel infrastructure following environmentalist campaigns.

As individual controversies crop up in Maryland and elsewhere over particular natural gas terminals and pipelines, it’s worth remembering that for a well-organized body of activists, the goal is to block oil and gas infrastructure, period, and the individual complaints about one or another project (Baltimore activists claimed concern about safety) are makeweights to be invoked as needed.

1 Comment

Filed under Policy

In miniature, November 19

1 Comment

Filed under Roundups

Judge zaps MoCo lawn pesticide ban

Overturning Montgomery County’s ban on many commonly used lawn pesticides [Washington Post], Montgomery Circuit Court Judge Terrence McGann

said that the law — the first of its kind for a major locality in the region — would conflict with federal and Maryland state regulations that allow the use of the pesticides. The case was just one example of Maryland counties’ “insatiable appetite to tamper with existing state laws,” McGann said.

Counties have also “tried to hijack a portion of the existing field of law” in areas including tobacco, guns and minimum wage, he said.

My Cato Institute piece on the county’s bald double standard — officials had sought to exempt playing fields and other county properties from the ban — is here.

1 Comment

Filed under Policy

“Why Maryland lawmakers should not ban fracking”

“In fact, fracking has massive environmental benefits. The rapid expansion of natural gas production has prompted power plants all over the country to switch from coal to gas, which is both cheaper and burns much cleaner. Last year, largely thanks to this mass migration, American carbon emissions hit a 25-year low. Given its own grand green ambitions, Maryland ought to be embracing fracking.” [Chris Summers, Maryland Public Policy Institute]

Leave a comment

Filed under Policy

My letter in the FNP on illegal EPA lobbying

My local paper, the Frederick News-Post, ran an editorial on Monday that 1) saw nothing especially wrong in the Environmental Protection Agency’s illegally expending tax money to stir up pressure on Congress to support a wider interpretation of EPA power; 2) claimed that the fuss over tax-paid lobbying was for lack of any substantive critique of EPA’s “WOTUS” (Waters of the United States) rule, although a majority of states have challenged that rule, the farm and rural landowner communities have been up in arms against it all year, and a federal appeals court has agreed to stay it.

So I wrote this letter in response, which ran today. There wasn’t space for me to dispute the FNP’s peculiar notion that to oppose the water rule as exceeding the EPA’s statutory authority is to encourage the “anti-science, climate change denial crowd,” which tends to reinforce my sense that “anti-science” and “climate denial” are turning into all-purpose epithets increasingly unhooked from any particular relationship to science or climate. (cross-posted from Overlawyered)

1 Comment

Filed under Policy

For me but not for thee: Montgomery County lawn pesticide ban

I’ve got a new post at Cato at Liberty about a proposed countywide ban on common lawn and turf pesticides in Washington, D.C.’s suburban Montgomery County. The best part is that county officials are frantically maneuvering to get the county’s own playing fields exempted from the ban. The piece concludes:

Libertarians often note that the state freely bans private conduct in which it’s happy to indulge itself — federal investigators can lie to you but it’s a crime if you lie to them, adopting federal accounting practices in your own business is a good way to get sent to prison, and so forth. But the double standard asked for here could wind up being — well, to coin a phrase, as bald as a Rockville lawn.

More: From the Washington Post’s piece, quoting a retired minister who lives in Silver Spring: “My lawn is such a little fragment of American Freedom. Please respect it.” [cross-posted from Overlawyered]

More: Kojo Nnamdi Show, Euvoluntary Exchange (more on provisions of bill, including enumeration of “non-essential” pesticides to be restricted, a list that incorporates by reference lists in use in other jurisdictions like Ontario and the European Commission and grants the county executive authority to name others; links back to this county document); Gazette in October; Brad Matthews, Watchdog. And: George Leventhal gets a less-than-fully-polite reception defending the proposal on WMAL.

1 Comment

Filed under DC area, Policy

Environmental cronyism: not just an Oregon phenomenon

Green-barrel insiderism brought down Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, but as close observers of Maryland policy know, Portlandia’s not the only place with these problems.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scandals

“Green in exchange for green”

Joseph Bottum in the Weekly Standard on the tax-credits-for-green-sermons arrangement in Prince George’s County. Earlier here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Policy