How did environmental health fare in Annapolis?
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Environmental Health in the 2016 Legislative Session

The 2016 legislative session was momentous! We made two very important advances for environmental health. 

First, Maryland became the first state to restrict the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, a class of pesticides that contribute to the alarming rate of bee deaths around the world, as well as to declines in other native pollinators. 

The law that passed will remove this class of pesticides from household use. The airwaves have been buzzing about this achievement! The Pollinator Protection Act now goes to Governor Hogan for his signature. 

Second, Maryland has renewed its commitment to achieving a 25% reduction in Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by 2020 and has added a 2030 goal of 40% GHG reductions (SB323 / HB610). 

These goals, if robustly pursued and equitably implemented, have the potential to significantly reduce air pollution in our state. Health and economic benefits could especially accrue to our most vulnerable citizens, and health savings will accrue to all of us.

Below we give you highlights of other bills that will or would have provided environmental health protections. The work goes on! We salute the legislative champions for these bills as well as the health advocates who came to Annapolis this winter to make the case for greater protections.

Thanks for all of your hard work,
Rebecca, Allison, Rebecca


The REDUCE Act called for additional health and environmental information to be shared with low income and non-white communities when new air pollution permits are being considered. Both chambers held hearings, with testimony from health, environment, and community advocates.

Although the REDUCE Act (SB398 / HB820) was voted out of the Environment subcommittee in the House, it wasn't voted on in the full House Environment and Transportation Committee. The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs committee ultimately voted unfavorably.

What We Learned: When people hear the term "environmental justice," they think of a court case, as in bringing polluters to court for crimes against the environment. However, the environmental justice movement was really borne out of the civil rights movement and is about protecting people from harmful pollution. The bill faced significant opposition and more education is needed for opponents and allies.
Next Steps: The bill has raised awareness of the Maryland Department of the Environment’s Cumulative Impacts Working Group. Elected officials have pledged to consider recommendations from MDE's work group to address the complex problem of cumulative impacts of environmental pollution.  
Our Thanks: We salute Delegate Clarence Lam and Senator Victor Ramirez for championing this bill, and thank Dr. Gwen Dubois, one of the most effective health advocates in Annapolis this session, working to raise awareness of these issues.

Clean Energy Jobs Act

The multi-year effort to increase Maryland's mandate to generate electricity using renewable energy succeeded. The Clean Energy Jobs (SB921 / HB1106) Act will ensure Maryland gets 25 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2020, up from the current goal of 20 percent by 2022. The accelerated target would rank Maryland sixth nationally in terms of ramping up clean energy use by 2020. 

What We Learned: Maryland’s solar industry already includes more than 170 companies and over 4,300 jobs and this bill is projected to create over 1,000 new Maryland solar jobs. These efforts will support cleaner air and a healthier economy in Maryland.

The bill was amended to create a government and stakeholder workgroup to examine the best opportunities to invest in job training and to remove barriers to entry for minority- and women-owned clean energy businesses.

Our Thanks: We salute Senator Catherine Pugh & Delegate Bill Frick for championing this bill, and we thank Sara Via, PhD, for her ongoing leadership to raise awareness of the health impacts of climate change. 

Green Cleaning in Child Care Bill

Delegate Angela Angel introduced HB 1391 to mandate green cleaning in large child care centers, which would build upon Maryland's leadership in mandating green cleaning in public schools. Many traditional cleaners contain chemicals that are known asthmagens, carcinogens, and endocrine disrupters. Green cleaning protections should be extended to younger children because they are the most vulnerable to both acute and long term exposures to chemicals. 

What We Learned: This bill was supported by child care providers, third-party agencies that certify green cleaning products, health practitioners, technical experts on implementation, and children’s health advocates. The 2016 session was the bill's first introduction and it did not receive a vote in the House Health and Government Operations Committee. 

Next Steps: Advocates plan to increase education and action to extend green cleaning to child care facilities.

Our Thanks: We salute Delegate Angel for her leadership and thank the knowledgeable and articulate health advocates who came to Annapolis to make the case for this bill including: Karin Russ, RN, Veronika Carella, Trisha Sheehan, Brie Welzer, & the very patient Molly Lorden (10 years old). 

Overuse of Antibiotics in Agriculture Bill

This bill (SB607HB829) would have eliminated the routine use of sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics on large farms, and started a data collection program overseen by the Maryland Department of Agriculture. Health advocates are concerned about the loss of antibiotics as a lifesaving class of drugs. While hospital professionals are doing their part to stop the overuse in humans, we need the agricultural sector to do the same. 
What We Learned: In both chambers, we saw support that crossed sectors and heard testimony from doctors, nurses, veterinarians, farmers, restaurant owners, and health and environmental advocates. Ultimately, neither the House nor the Senate bill received a vote in committee. Rather, a data collection-only bill (HB1163) did get out of the House, but was voted "unfavorable" in the Senate. Senators clearly felt the evidence that antibiotics are losing effectiveness is abundant and agricultural use is a contributor. Given the threat to public health, many health professionals spoke out for the first time.  
Our Thanks: We salute Senators Shirley Nathan-Pulliam and Paul Pinsky and Delegate Shane Robinson as longtime champions on this issue, sharing personal stories of antibiotic resistance. The Maryland Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working included the Maryland Nurses Association, Maryland Public Health Association (MdPHA), the NRDC, and Maryland PIRG among others.

We salute new advocates from MdPHA, Jill Nolan and Matt Ferreira whose presence in Annapolis helped raise awareness of this public health threat. 

P.S.  With 3,300 bills this session, we wish we could cover the many other note-worthy health protections.

2016 Legislator Environmental Health Champions

Democrat, District 12, Baltimore County & Howard County - Appointed to Commission on Environmental Justice & Sustainable Communities,
House Sponsor for REDUCE Act

Democrat, District 40, Baltimore City
Senate Sponsor of the Clean Energy Jobs Act

Democrat, District 22, Prince George's County
Senate Sponsor for  Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act & Overuse of Antibiotics in Agriculture Bill

Democrat, District 25, Prince George's County
Appointed to Children's Environmental Health & Advisory Protection Council,
Lead Sponsor for Green Cleaning in Child Care Bill

Democrat, District 44, Baltimore City & Baltimore County - Senate Sponsor for the Overuse of Antibiotics in Agriculture Bill & Pollinator Protection Act

Democrat, District 39, Montgomery County
House Sponsor of Overuse of Antibiotics in Agriculture Bill

Copyright © 2016 Maryland Environmental Health Network, All rights reserved.

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