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February 18, 2020

Use Your Voice To Protect Our Rivers

In the 2020 legislative session, Arundel Rivers is working on 6 bills (so far!). Please help us pass these bills by contacting your local representative. To send a letter or email, use this link and click the “look up” tab to find your local legislators.

If you only have time to send one email, the Plastics and Packaging Reduction Act is where public support will be most useful.

Plastics: The Plastics and Packaging Reduction Act (HB209/SB313) will ban the dispensing of plastic bags at retail establishments in the State and require the charging of $0.10 for any other bag distributed at the point of sale, including paper bags. Plastic bags not only are eaten by sea turtles, but can tangle up other wildlife as well. More importantly, they easily break down into micro-plastics, that are eaten by oysters and fish, which our residents then eat. Recent surveys for microplastics in the Severn, South, West, and Rhode Rivers have all contained significant amounts of floating micro-plastics. A second plastics bill (HB13/SB28) will ban the intentional release of balloons into the air and carry a $250 fine for violations of the ban.

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Fisheries:  Bill (SB257), if passed, will require biodegradable panels on crab traps, so lost or abandoned traps do not continue to cause aquatic mortality after being lost. One fisheries bill has already successfully overturned the governor’s veto of a bill from last year, which remakes the State’s oyster advisory commission (OAC) to give Arundel Rivers, along with other environmental groups, a seat at the table of the OAC to help craft oyster policy in the State going forward. This will help protect our local oyster sanctuary reefs, while still balancing the needs of commercial watermen, who are such an important part of Maryland’s heritage and economy.

Enforcement: Another bill (HB614/SB460) we are working on this year will establish an enforcement ombudsman position within the Attorney General’s office to track and report on environmental enforcement matters from the Departments of Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture. Another bill (HB143/SB219)will improve the ability of MD’s Dept. of Natural Resources to remove abandoned vessels from the State’s rivers. In 2019, the number of abandoned boats nearly doubled State-wide from prior year averages. This bill will allow DNR to remove boats before they sink, preventing pollution, reducing risks to navigation, and saving tax payer dollars.

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If you have any questions about any of these bills, other environmental legislation, or to learn how you can get more involved, contact your Riverkeeper at [email protected] or 410-224-3802.