State Roundup, January 5, 2018

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HOGAN PROTESTS TRUMP DRILLING PLAN: The Trump administration unveiled its plan on Thursday to significantly expand offshore oil and gas drilling, including along the Atlantic Coast, a proposal that drew sharp criticism from Democrats and some Republicans, John Fritze and Scott Dance of the Sun report. The proposal would increase drilling off the coast of California, in the Arctic and along the Eastern Seaboard, from Maine to Florida.

SESSIONS’ POT POLICY VS. RX POT: The Trump administration announced Thursday that it was rescinding an Obama-era policy that had allowed states to legalize marijuana, raising questions about how Maryland’s fledgling medical cannabis industry might be affected, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.

FLORA, FAUNA UP IN BAY: An annual Chesapeake Bay report card indicates ongoing restoration efforts are paying off, as animal and plant populations are up. The Chesapeake Bay Program, an organizing body for federal, state and local environmental advocates, released its annual Bay Barometer, a report measuring progress in cleaning up the bay and restoring native species and habitats, reports Danielle Ohl for the Annapolis Capital. Of a number of sustainability goals set to achieve by 2025, the bay met marks for blue crab abundance and fish passage.

SAVING MD FORESTS: As they return to their chambers this month, state legislators across the Chesapeake watershed face some of the same Bay-centric environmental issues they’ve seen before, Tim Wheeler of the Bay Journal writes in MarylandReporter.com. In Maryland, they’ll debate what more, if anything, should be done to conserve the state’s forestland from development and whether air pollution from chicken houses deserves a closer look. 

COLD SCHOOLS & STATE FUNDS: Baltimore schools have had to return millions in state funding for building repairs after projects to fix failing heating systems and roofs grew too expensive or took too long, reports Luke Broadwater for the Sun. Since 2009, city schools have lost out on roughly $66 million in state funding for much-needed repairs after approved projects ran afoul of state regulations meant to prevent waste, state records show. The money could have funded dozens of new heating systems at schools where the heat is now failing.

  • Talia Richman of the Sun reports that the debate over the city’s aging school infrastructure continued to heat up Thursday while light snow kept Baltimore students home. Public officials sparred on Twitter and released statements decrying the building conditions that left students shivering earlier this week. Politicians urged immediate repairs to burst pipes and broken boilers, and questioned how the millions of dollars poured into city schools by the state are spent.
  • Fern Shen of Baltimore Brew reports that the sight of Baltimore city students huddling in coats in freezing classrooms amid bitter cold temperatures touched a nerve across the country yesterday, with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan dismissing talk of providing aid for repairs, Democratic gubernatorial challengers denouncing him for it and the teachers’ union calling for all schools to be closed until the buildings can be made habitable.

***  WE CAUGHT MARYLAND FARMERS DOING THIS: Then we found out Maryland schools do, too! It’s Integrated Pest Management, or IPM for short. While schools and farms have different pest problems, they have a common solution. And they’re using it today. IPM is a whole-system approach to dealing with pests like insects, plant diseases, weeds. It’s effective in both farm fields and soccer fields. These methods protect human health and the environment while often saving money. Learn how Maryland farmers and our schools use IPM practices to reduce damage and losses from pests and protect the Bay. SPONSORED CONTENT***

SCRAPYARD SETTLEMENT: In case you missed it, in a Dec. 22 follow-up to an earlier investigative story, the Bay Journal’s Tim Wheeler reports in MarylandReporter.com that a Baltimore metal recycling business has agreed to pay a $50,000 penalty and upgrade stormwater pollution controls at its facility near the harbor to settle a string of alleged violations first discovered by Maryland regulators nearly two years ago.

CARROLL DELEGATION ISSUES: With the start of the legislative session less than a week away, Carroll County’s delegation is focused on issues like paid sick leave and the federal tax bill’s effect on the state tax bill, with the understanding that the 2018 election will be an interwoven theme throughout the 90-day period, Emily Chappell of the Carroll County Times reports.

I-270 WIDENING: Maryland is moving forward on its plan to add four toll lanes to both Interstate 270 and the Capital Beltway. On Thursday, the state’s transportation department announced it received 27 responses to its request for initial information from companies interested in financing, building and operating the estimated $7.6 billion project, reports Andrew Metcalf for Bethesda Beat.

RESISTANCE GROUPS RISE: There’s a new political movement in Maryland. Some might call it a resistance. It’s a loose coalition of progressive and left-leaning groups, from all across the state, organizing to roll back the Trump agenda at the national, state and local levels. Some of these groups are better known — Indivisible and Our Revolution. Others like Do The Most Good, Together We Will and J Walkers have largely escaped media attention, writes Bob Gulden for Maryland Matters.

CONOWINGO CORRECTION: The Conowingo Dam story we posted in yesterday’s roundup was an old story that had the same headline as a Sun editorial on the topic that ran on Tuesday, but was somehow MIA on their website. It is now up, and here’s the Sun’s opinion about Exelon’s responsibility for the polluted sediment buildup behind the dam.

O’MALLEY BACKS JOHNNY O Jr.: John Lee of WYPR-FM reports that former Gov. Martin O’Malley is taking sides in a three-way race for the Democratic nomination for Baltimore County executive. O’Malley was the big draw last night for a fundraiser for Johnny Olszewski Jr. in Towson. Supporters paid $250 to $2,500 to get in the door, which also got them the chance to have a little face time with the former governor.

FICKER BARRED FROM SPEAKING: Attorney, activist, and perennial candidate Robin Ficker said he was barred from speaking at last week’s Montgomery County Council public hearing because he is running for county executive as a Republican even though he admits that he was going to attack the council instead of testifying about the bill under debate, Neal Earley of the Montgomery Sentinel reports.