The Maryland Chamber of Commerce submitted written testimony to the Education, Health & Environmental Affairs committee yesterday in opposition to three bills concerning permit applications and permitting processes.
Senate Bill 4 would prohibit the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) from issuing or renewing various environmental permits until the permit applicant conducts an environmental justice review to determine if an environmentally stressed community within a two-mile radius is disproportionately negatively affected by the proposed action. The legislation would also require an environmental justice review before construction or expansion of an LNG facility. The Maryland Chamber believes the two-mile radius is too expansive, that an environmental justice review requirement for all initial permits and permit renewals could put sites currently in operation in jeopardy when permits are to be renewed and would increase permit issuance time tables as well as permitting costs. Senator David Harrington removed the LNG facility component from the bill; however, the Maryland Chamber still opposes the legislation.
Senate Bill 47 authorizes the Department of the Environment to require a permit applicant to send permit application notification by mail to residential property owners within a two-mile radius of the activity/location for the permit, with the costs borne by the applicant. The Maryland Chamber believes a two-mile radius is too expansive, and in large urban areas thousands of notifications could be required, adding significant financial burden to the applicant. Also, permit issuance delay could occur if someone within the two-mile radius claims to not have been notified.
Senator Harrington reduced the two-mile radius requirements in both SB 4 and SB 47 to a one-mile radius requirement through amendments, but the Maryland Chamber still opposes the legislation. In an urban area, one mile is still too expansive.
Senate Bill 120 establishes an Environmental Leadership Group within the MDE to consider and act on environmental matters in the state, including activities that require permit approval from local, state and federal agencies. It also requires applicants for air quality permits to prepare and submit to MDE an environment impact statement (EIS). The Maryland Chamber believes the bill will allow contested challenges for every MDE issued permit and would significantly prolong the permitting process, increase costs for both MDE and applicants, and create unnecessary burdens without benefit to the public. The legislation also does not outline qualifications or limitations on the authority of the proposed Environmental Leadership Group.