Sierra Club – This Week’s Environmental Saboteur Award

Before you write that next check to the Sierra Club, consider this sad tale from the State of Maryland.

Governor Larry Hogan has been a breath of fresh air in a state that rarely elects a Republican Governor.  The Governor is enjoying a “sky-high approval rating” in a very blue state – a 67% approval rating would be phenomenal even in a red state.   He’s governed as a practical, common-sense leader focused on things that matter most to the state’s residents, tax reform, creating jobs, and protecting the environment.  Smartly, the Governor tapped my good friend and former boss from U.S. EPA, Ben Grumbles, who serves as Maryland’s Secretary of Environment. Even among Democrats, Grumbles is widely regarded as one of the most thoughtful policy makers with a commitment to changing the status quo and making reforms that are in the best interest of the environment and the good citizens of Maryland.  Last week the Governor’s team was able to work with the largely Democratic General Assembly to pass legislation – HB 797 that encourages greater protection of wetlands and mitigation banking – to help achieve “no net loss” of the State’s wetland resources.

Despite this victory for the environment, there was another piece of important legislation that was sabotaged by a small group of environmentalists.   HB 61, proposed by MDE, authorized the Department to issue regulations on anaerobic digestion technologies to encourage increased recovery of valuable “waste” materials.  The bill, if enacted, would also have encouraged recycling to reduce the potential for abuses where organic wastes are commingled and stored at single-stream recycling facilities.  By anyone’s measure, it was a good bill for the environment.

The Sierra Club, however, raised objections to the legislation as it related to agriculture and the NRCS.  On their behalf, Senator Madaleno offered amendments at the 11th hour designed to kill the bill by creating a potential food fight between environment and agriculture without any time to reconcile or resolve differences.  Like a drive by shooting, the duo succeeded in hitting their target.  A good bill that had extremely broad support died in the final hours, all because a small contingent of cynics could block it. Agricultural producers, wastewater utilities, solid waste and recycling facilities, the Maryland Association of Counties, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation supported the bill.

Because of the last-minute legislative maneuvering by a very small number of interests, Maryland missed an opportunity for broadly-supported new safeguards on anaerobic digestion and single stream recycling. The state’s citizens want clean air, healthy watersheds, and sustainable management of recycled materials.  They deserve to know who blocks balanced environmental progress and then hold them accountable.

Why, you ask, would Sierra Club seek to undermine such a widely supported environmental bill?  One can only speculate about Sierra Club’s motivation, but it seems clear that the bill, while protecting the environment, would have simultaneously encouraged more jobs.  Unfortunately, some environmental groups, like Sierra Club, believe the only way to protect the environment is to stop growth and kill jobs.  That type of backward thinking is bad for the people of Maryland and bad for our environment – and it reinforces why Governor Hogan is so popular.  Shame on the Sierra Club and Senator Madaleno.  For this, you earn the Environmental Saboteur of the Week award.