2022 Legislative Action, News & Updates
The CCC has been working closely with Delmarva Fisheries Association to ensure that the agency assessments of the environmental and economic impacts resulting from the grounding and re-floating of the container ship Ever Forward are properly scoped and thoroughly conducted. As explained in the attached letter to MDE and DNR, the efforts to re-float the ship by way of large scale dredging with environmental cautions thrown to the wind gives an opportunity to showcase the hypocrisy in the opposition reasoning to dredging shell from Man O’War Shoals.
Per a January 24, 2022 letter to state officials (attached below), the U.S. EPA has expressed “no confidence” in the proposed Conowingo Watershed Implementation Plan due to lack of funding, giving Bay states 60 days to respond. Without an EPA approved Conowingo WIP, the additional 6 million pounds of nitrogen and 0.26 million pounds of phosphorus attributable annually to the Conowingo factor will need to be redistributed among all the Bay states via the Bay TMDL – which would be an unjust outcome to downstream jurisdictions.
State Budget and Conowingo Factor
In the Governor’s proposed FY2023 Capital Budget (SB 291), there is funding dedicated to implementation of the Conowingo WIP and pursuit of dredging. Here are the Capital Budget line items:
MDE – Office of the Secretary
Conowingo Dam. Provide funds to design and construct the enhanced dredging program and implement the Conowingo Watershed Implementation Plan (Regional) ……. $25,000,000
Maryland Environmental Service (MES)
Conowingo Dam. Provide funds to continue design of the Conowingo Dam capacity recovery and dredge material innovative and beneficial reuse project (Regional) …..$6,000,000
Cecil County Executive Announces Withdraw from the CCC
Cecil County Executive Danielle Hornberger declared during the County Council’s January 25, 2022 meeting that effective January 1, 2022, Cecil County will be withdrawing from the Coalition and paying half of the FY2022 participating county contribution. The County Executive issued a letter to the County Council explaining the decision.
Article & Media of Note
EPA Declare “No Confidence” in Conowingo Cleanup Plan
Bay Journal (Feb. 1, 2022)
Cecil County leaves Clean Chesapeake Coalition
Cecil Whig (Feb. 2, 2022)
Maryland files suit seeking cleanup of Baltimore’s troubled sewage plants
Bay Journal (Feb. 2, 2022)
2021 Legislative Action, News & Updates
*Sorry for this inconvenience, we are still updating our site; legislative action between April-December 2021 will be posted shortly
On March 18th, without any public discussion, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a new license to Exelon for the continued operation of Conowingo Dam. The scope and detail of FERC’s decision today is unclear at this time.
This is the FERC News Release: FERC Relicenses Conowingo Hydroelectric Project
On February 24, 2021 we provided oral and written testimony to the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee in support of Senate Bill 540 (FEDERAL CLEAN WATER ACT – AUTHORITY OF STATE) as a means of improving the State’s leverage in addressing the Conowingo factor and dealing with Exelon. A copy of the Coalition’s written testimony is attached.
During the February 3 hearing on HB 427 (cross file to SB 540) in the House Environment & Transportation Committee, MDE Secretary Ben Grumbles was permitted to appear as a witness to provide “informational testimony” (MDE took no position on the bill) and he answered some tough questions while holding ground. The House E&T Committee hearing on cross filed HB 427 can be viewed HERE.
During the hearing on SB 540, the Senate EHEA Committee, Chaired by Senator Pinski, rejected MDE Secretary Grumbles’ offer to appear as an informational witness citing a Committee policy that permits only witnesses with a position.
The Senate EHEA Committee hearing on SB 540 can be viewed HERE.
Attached below is our Testimony to House Bill 427
February 3rd, 2021
Attached please find the Coalition’s written testimony regarding House Bill 427 (FEDERAL CLEAN WATER ACT – AUTHORITY OF STATE) which was heard today (Feb. 3) in the House Environment and Transportation Committee. We provided oral testimony as well during the hearing in support, as a means of improving the State’s leverage in addressing the Conowingo factor and dealing with Exelon.
February 1st, 2021
Below is the Bills of Interest Summary pertinent to Coalition interests, including Eastern Shore related (impacted) legislation.
Notable is HB 427 (FEDERAL CLEAN WATER ACT – AUTHORITY OF STATE) which is being heard Wednesday (Feb. 3) in the House Environment and Transportation Committee. We intend to provide written and oral testimony during the hearing in support, as a means of improving the State’s leverage in addressing the Conowingo factor and dealing with Exelon. Companion SB 540. (The same legislation was introduced in the 2020 Session.)
While such legislation may raise an interesting separation of powers issue between the Executive and Legislative branches and no doubt Exelon Corp. will weigh in heavily, it is recommended that that the Coalition support the legislation as further means of bringing attention, and meaningful action, re the Conowingo factor. What is still pending in the hands of FERC is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to meaningfully, measurably and cost-effectively improve the Maryland portion of Chesapeake Bay – with conditions on the relicensing that give the upper Bay ecosystem some breathing room to recover and thrive, precious public resources and investments in downstream water quality improvement are at risk or wasted.
As previously observed, what Governor Hogan and his administration did by proposing the Settlement Agreement indeed moved the needle, as evidenced by the sudden popularity in the General Assembly and among ENGOs and the media re Conowingo Dam relicensing and the significance of the 50-year relicense request now in the hands of FERC. However, it is a far cry from the “bold and historic” water quality certification issued by MDE to Exelon in April 2018.
January 23rd, 2021
Comments were filed concerning the Draft Conowingo Watershed Implementation Plan (CWIP). In short, the Draft CWIP is way off base (dredging off the table), a recycling of tired and unmeasurable BMPs and more unaffordable than all prior WIPs. The Coalition’s comments are attached.
The Draft Conowingo WIP and be viewed here, along with related information.
View Maryland Stakeholder Workshop virtual overview by Conowingo WIP Steering Committee, Chesapeake Bay Program.
January 20th, 2021
Below are the CCC’s comments regarding the Draft Conowingo WIP
2020 Legislative Action, News & Updates
*Sorry for this inconvenience, we are still updating our site; legislative action between March and September/November and December 2020 will be posted shortly
Conowingo Dam Relicensing / Settlement Agreement
Since the filings of intervening parties, including the CCC counties, in January 2020 regarding the proposed Joint Offer of Settlement (the “Settlement Agreement”) between MDE and Exelon, there has been no decision by FERC. Per letter dated August 24, 2020 (copy attached), MDE urged FERC to take “immediate action on the settlement.” Environmental Justice and Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Assoc. fired back with September 1 and October 12 letters to FERC urging FERC to take time and/or reject the Settlement Agreement. Exelon chimed in adding their voice urging FERC to approved the October 29, 2019 joint offer of settlement.
Pilot Dredging and Sediment Characterization Finally Underway
Per Order dated August 12, FERC has approved the MES pilot dredging project – aka Conowingo Sediment Characterization and Innovative Reuse and Beneficial Use Pilot Project.
Draft Conowingo WIP Released
In early October, the Conowingo WIP Steering Committee released a draft Conowingo WIP for public comment. The coalition has much to say about the approach thus far taken by the Steering Committee and consultants using the same tired BMPs and downstream mitigation logic to address the Conowingo factor, all the while dodging and downplaying the potential benefits of sediment management and dredging.
On February 19th, we provided oral and written testimony on behalf of the Coalition counties in support of SB 955 FEDERAL CLEAN WATER ACT – AUTHORITY OF STATE in the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, as a means of improving the State’s leverage in addressing the Conowingo factor and dealing with Exelon.
Also attached is copy of a letter from Cecil County to MDE and DNR relaying constituent concerns about Conowingo Dam and lower Susquehanna River debris.
January 30th – CCC Comments Regarding Settlement Agreement
Attached below are the comments filed on behalf of the Coalition counties regarding the proposed Joint Offer of Settlement (the “Settlement Agreement”) between Exelon and MDE for Conowingo Dam relicensing. Exelon and MDE have until January 31 to respond to the comments filed by various intervening parties (listed below).
As an association of local governments, with rights and obligations unique from other intervening parties, the Coalition’s comments to FERC focus on discrete issues of importance with respect to the Settlement Agreement: it dissects MDE’s original (“bold and historic”) water quality certification for Conowingo relicensing, it was entered into with no input from local governments, the term of license renewal, the omission of dredging or innovative sediment management and the lack of equitable reopener provisions to enable adaptive management of the upper Bay ecosystem.
Among the organizations and agencies that also filed comments with FERC regarding the Settlement Agreement:
- PA Department of Environmental Protection
- PA Fish & Boat Commission
- U.S. Dept. of Interior (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
- The Nature Conservancy
- Susquehanna River Basin Commission
- CBP Science and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC)
- Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association
- Waterkeepers Chesapeake
- Chesapeake Bay Foundation
- Corsica River Conservancy
January 16th – Environmental and Economic Summit
The Clean Chesapeake Coalition hosted the inaugural Chesapeake Environmental & Economic Summit together with the Delmarva Fisheries Association on January 16th in Annapolis. Despite the slew of trainings and meetings competing for legislators’ attention in the opening weeks of the General Assembly Session, turnout was strong. Three panels discussed issues that impact Maryland residents who earn their livelihoods from the bounty of the land and sea. It is important to remind our elected leaders that while ENGOs may have larger lobbying budgets, harvesters have been conservationists far longer. After all, their survival depends on the health of the land and water on which they work! View the WBOC coverage here.
2019 Legislative Action, News & Updates
EPA Releases Evaluation of Final Phase III WIPs of Bay Watershed States
On December 14th, the U.S. EPA released its evaluations of final Phase III Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) from Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution to the Chesapeake Bay. As part of the implementation of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, jurisdictions committed to develop WIPs that document how jurisdictions will achieve and maintain water quality standards. The third and final phase of implementation called for the development of Phase III WIPs which provide information on actions the jurisdictions intend to implement between 2019 and 2025 to meet the goals of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL. The seven jurisdictions released their final Phase III WIPs on August 23, 2019.
EPA is taking no enforcement action against Pennsylvania, whose Phase III WIP has been heavily criticized by downstream states and NGOs for being feckless on nitrogen reductions, underfunded and out of sync with PA county plans. So EPA gives another pass to the state (PA) with the largest pollution loads to account for within the Chesapeake Bay….which does not bode well for protecting Maryland’s ongoing effrots and investements downstream.
With EPA signing off on the Phase III WIPs, attention must now be focused on the Conowingo WIP to ensure that plan includes action to meaningfully address the Conowingo factor by way of sediment management and dredging what is already accumulated in the reservoir in order to regain trapping capacity.
CCC Meeting – Conowingo Dam WQC Settlement Agreement to be Discussed
The Coalition met November 14 with featured guest will be MDE Secretary Ben Grumbles, and the primary agenda item was discussion about the proposed Settlement Agreement between MDE and Exelon regarding water quality certification for Conowingo Dam licensing. Meeting agenda notes attached below:
FERC Consideration of Proposed Exelon-MDE Settlement Agreement
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) initially (on 10/30) notified parties and stakeholders in the pending licensing of Conowingo Dam (Docket P-405) that the deadling for comments to FERC regarding the proposed Settlement Agreement was November 19. Earlier this week, MDE and Exelon filed a joint request to extend the comment period. Other parties (i.e., The Nature Conservancy, Lower Susquehanna RiverKeeper Association, Waterkeepers Chesapeake), including the Coalition, have filed motions in support of more time for comment. A copy of the Coalition’s answer in support of the comment period extention is attached.
Federal Clean Water Act Rule Changes re Water Quality Certification
We recently filed comments (copy attached below) with U.S. EPA regarding proposed rule changes to Clean Water Act, Section 401 water quality certification regulations. The State of Maryland’s (MDE’s) comments on the proposed changes to CWA Section 401 rules are also attached. These proposed changes will diminish the role and authority of states in reviewing certain federally permitted projects in terms of environmental impact, and are in furtherance of President Trump’s Executive Order 13868 (issued in April 2019) “Promoting Energy Infrastructure and Economic Growth” in part by streamlining the CWA water quality certification process for energy infrastructure (i.e., hydroelectric dams).
There is no doubt that the “pro energy” policy and proposed rule changes at the federal level played a role of the State of Maryland’s settlement considerations re the WQC for Conowingo.
Governor Hogan Announces Landmark Agreement with Exelon on Conowingo Dam
Governor Larry Hogan today (Oct 29) announced a comprehensive agreement between the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and Exelon Generation Company, LLC, which requires Exelon to invest more than $200 million in environmental projects and operational enhancements to improve water quality in the Lower Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay (WBOC)
Maryland Submits Phase III WIP to EPA
On August 23, Maryland submitted the State’s Phase III WIP to EPA for review and approval, which review period is expected to be 60 days. The Phase III WIP is available on MDE’s website.
Carroll County Withdraws from Coalition
By letter dated August 1 (copy attached), the County Commissioners of Carroll County formally notified the Coalition that they were withdrawing their participation in order to devote resources to more locally-oriented projects for the betterment of the Bay. Carroll County’s involvement since the Coalition’s inception in 2012 and the kind words of encouragement as we press on with the mission are appreciated.
Letter available below:
For one of our meetings, Chairman Ron Fithian extended an invitation to MDE Secretary Ben Grumbles and DNR Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, or their departmental designees, to attend for discussion and questions regarding MDE’s water quality certification for Conowingo Dam re-licensing, Maryland’s Phase III WIP and the Conowingo-specific WIP (CWIP) being developed, among other water quality improvement topics
Lobbying Expenditures of Note
Among the organizations spending more the $50,000 on lobbying in Annapolis between November 1, 2018 and April 30, 2019:
|BG&E (Exelon owned)||$606,484|
|Pepco Holdings (Exelon owned)||$502,657|
|Chesapeake Bay Foundation||$81,733|
Proposed Phase III WIP for Maryland – Comments Submitted
Early June we filed comments with MDE regarding the proposed Phase III WIP for Maryland available here:
These Coalition comments are intended to augment, not limit or supplant, the direct input and comments of each Coalition county with regards to the State’s Phase III WIP. Maryland’s final Phase III WIP is due to be filed with U.S. EPA on August 9, 2019.
Exelon Appeal of Maryland WQC for Conowingo Relicensing
Exelon’s administrative appeal of MDE’s April 2018 water quality certification (WQC) for Conowingo Dam relicensing remains pending, as does Exelon’s appeal in the U.S. District Court for D.C. – where a scheduled June 19 hearing was vacated and motions are pending.
On the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) front, there has been no decision or communication by FERC regarding Exelon’s Petition for Declaratory Order (filed February 28) urging the Commission to deem that the State of Maryland has waived its right to issue a water quality certification (WQC) under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act because it (the State) has not acted timely on Exelon’s request for WQC for Conowingo Dam relicensing.
The Executive Committee of the Clean Chesapeake Coalition (CCC) met on May 9th in Elkton. Spirited discussions were had about ongoing CCC efforts to steer the local and regional focus toward best management practices (BMPs) that offer the most environmental effective use taxpayers money. We are continuing to monitor on the litigation between the State of Maryland and Exelon as well as the troubling trend toward smaller, sterile aquaculture oysters over a sustainably managed wild fishery. FY2019 & 2020 financials and projections were also reviewed
In mid-April the District of Columbia and the six states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed released drafts of their Phase III Watershed Implementation Plans(WIPs). They are available for public comment until Friday, June 7th. We are preparing feedback on behalf of CCC for Maryland’s WIP and have reviewed the other drafts with interest. One disappointing item of note so far has been Pennsylvania’s resignation to the fact that they will not meet the EPA’s targets for nitrogen reduction by the deadline of 2025.
CCC and Multiple Parties Intervene at FERC and File Opposition Responses to Exelon Petition for Maryland WQC Waiver
As previously reported, Exelon Corporation filed a Petition for Declaratory Order urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to issue a declaration that the State of Maryland has waived its right to issue a water quality certification (WQC) under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act because it (the State) has not acted timely on Exelon’s request for WQC for Conowingo Dam relicensing.
The CCC and multiple intervening parties filed with FERC their protests and opposition to Exelon’s Petition. A copy of the Coalition’s Motion to Intervene and Opposition is attached here:
The other parties filing motions to intervene in this FERC matter and to protest Exelon’s brazen attempt to evade conditions on Conowingo Dam relicensing include: MDE, Susquehanna River Basin Commission, Lower Susquehanna River Association, Waterkeepers Chesapeake (association of 18 riverkeepers), Chesapeake Bay Foundation, The Nature Conservancy and Calpine Corporation.
Exelon Petition at FERC to Negate MDE’s Water Quality Certification for Conowingo Relicensing
Attached is a copy of the press release about the Coalition’s Motion to Intervene and opposition to Exelon’s petition.
State Phase III WIPs Released
On April 12th the State of Maryland released its Draft Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP). MDE’s press release is attached or can be viewed by clicking here. Comments on Maryland’s draft Phase III WIP are due by June 7, 2019. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has also released its draft Phase III WIP, which can viewed here. The Commonwealth of Virginia released their draft plan yesterday. As our member counties well know, some of the measures called for in previous WIPs caused local governments budgetary hardships that have often, in turn, led to contentious discussions with constituents with regards to compromising of services/project and/or raising fees and taxes in order to meet WIP, and ultimately Bay Total Maximum Daily Limit (TMDL), goals. We’ve compiled a smattering of articles from the region that address some of these challenges.
Stormwater Budget Set in Greencastle
The Record Herald, April 5
Residents Bring in Legal Counsel to Fight Stormwater Fee
The Citizen’s Voice, April 5
Localities Challenged to Meet Stormwater Reductions
Bay Journal, April 1
Chesapeake Bay’s LGAC Hosts Quarterly Meeting in Laurel
Morning Star Publications, March 28
This General Assembly Session we have been coordinating our legislative advocacy efforts closely with the Delmarva Fisheries Association (DFA) as our members’ interests are naturally aligned when it comes to issues related to Chesapeake Bay water quality, the Conowingo factor, the ecological and economic value of the public oyster fishery and the role of local governments in the establishment of environmental policies and practices.
Notably in Annapolis:
With the passage of House Bill 298 (cf SB 448) – which codifies the 5 restoration sanctuaries (Harris Creek, Tred Avon River, Little Choptank River, Manokin River and St. Mary’s River) in spite of conflicting evidence that the sanctuaries are performing as advertised after more than $50 million spent – a veto request letter was sent to Governor Hogan and is available here:
Governor Hogan vetoed House Bill 298 (Oysters – Tributary-Scale Sanctuaries – Protections and Restoration) for policy reasons. The CCC and Rural Counties Coalition had both advocated for the veto. The House of Delegates voted 96-43 to override the veto.
HB 921 / SB 1036
Delegate Jacobs, et al
ENVIRONMENT – CONOWINGO DAM – WATER QUALITY CERTIFICATION
UNFAVORABLE REPORT by Committee – Withdrawn by Sponsor
Coalition Files Motion to Intervene and Protest in FERC/Exelon Petition to Rebuff Maryland WQC
On March 28, the CCC, filed its Motion to Intervene in the Petition for Declaratory Order by Exelon Generation Company now pending before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The CCC has been at the forefront of this issue for years, long before the current surge of interest in the threat the Conowingo Factor poses to Bay health, back when certain special interest groups were still calling the impacts of the Conowingo Dam a “red herring” in the context of saving the Bay.
We remain disappointed at the lengths Exelon is willing to take to shirk environmental responsibility associated with the operation of this lucrative power station. This private, for-profit corporation which, according to its own website recorded $35.9 billion in revenues in 2018, claims that the Maryland Department of the Environment’s qualifications for a Water Quality Certification are “impracticable.” Meanwhile, Maryland counties with annual budgets that are a tiny fraction of Exelon’s revenues, are spending enormous amounts of taxpayer dollars to develop and implement their Watershed Implementation Plans (WIP) and help Maryland meet its Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) goals; and the local economies of Bayside counties are hurt by the Conowingo Factor impacts on the seafood industry.
APG Joint Land Use Study Draft Report – CCC Comments Filed
The CCC filed additional comments on the Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) Draft Report, in support of the assessments and proposed strategies related to APG receiving dredge spoils and mitigating the adverse impacts of Conowingo Dam operations (lack of dredging) on APG. We forwarded a copy of the CCC’s comments to Lt. Governor Rutherford given the Administration’s interest in this issue (see attached). For ease of reference, the APG JLUS Draft Report can be found here – with the elements most pertinent to the focus of the CCC found on pages 41, 43, 76, 77, 78 and 91 of the Draft Report.
The final APG JLUS can be found here: http://www.apgjlus.com/
February 28, Exelon Corporation filed a Petition for Declaratory Order (577 pages) urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to issue a declaration that the State of Maryland has waived its right to issue a water quality certification (WQC) under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act because it (the State) has not acted timely on Exelon’s request for WQC for Conowingo Dam relicensing.
This was always a concern of the Clean Chesapeake Coalition; that is, while the State of Maryland fiddled under the O’Malley Administration downplaying the Conowingo Dam factor and subsequently the Hogan Administration worked to put the State in a position to place legally defensible and scientifically defensible conditions on the federal relicensing of the Dam, Exelon Corporation would accuse the State (under a provision in the Clean Water Act) of enough foot-dragging and delay to waive the State’s right/authority to issue a water quality certification per Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. If Exelon is successful with this filing at FERC, there may be no more conditions imposed on the operation and maintenance of the Dam than are and have been in place for the past 90 years. Maryland’s WQC is the remaining obstacle to FERC’s issuance of a 50-year relicense. The State’s response should muster all hands on deck to preserve the only mechanism by which serious and enforceable conditions may be imposed to address the Conowingo factor.
The Petition and exhibits filed by Exelon are under review, with recommendation for the Coalition’s response to follow.
Not so coincidentally, the day before (February 27th), there was the hearing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on MDE’s Motion to Dismiss Exelon’s appeal of MDE’s water quality certification for Conowingo Dam relicensing.
2018 Legislative Action, News & Updates
April 19, 2018
Coalition Member Alan McCarthy of Cecil County wrote to Senator Ben Cardin requesting CCC inclusion in the next Chesapeake Bay Restoration Roundtable discussion.
March 7, 2018
The Clean Chesapeake Coalition submitted written testimony urging an unfavorable report on HB1455. General Counsel, Chip MacLeod, also traveled to Annapolis to give oral testimony on behalf of CCC. View the footage of the committee hearing here. HB1455 proposes to indefinitely prohibit the dredging of natural oyster shell from Man O’War Shoal.
February 27, 2018
The Clean Chesapeake Coalition submitted written testimony in support of SB926. General Counsel, Chip MacLeod, also traveled to Annapolis to give oral testimony on behalf of CCC. View the footage of the committee hearing here. SB926 gives priority to natural indigenous oyster shell as the preferred substrate in oyster restoration projects through the Chesapeake Bay.
Sampling of CCC Advocacy in the FERC Process
Letter to MDE re: Section 401 WQC Application
August 16, 2017
Letter to FERC re: Exelon’s WQC Withdrawal
March 4, 2016
Letter to FERC re: the USGS Sediment Transport Report
February 24, 2015
Notice of CCC Staff Attendance at MDNR Meeting
November 6, 2013
Letter to FERC re: Exelon’s Extension Request
August 23, 2013
Response to FERC’s June 13, 2013 Letter
June 18, 2013
Response to FERC’s Reply re: Meeting
April 14, 2013