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County Council Examines New Bills to Green Montgomery

Over the past several years, Montgomery County has taken multiple go-green initiatives. From the five-cent bag tax to paper lunch trays to designated parking spaces for hybrid vehicles, the county has made it its goal to promote environmentally sustainable practices and behaviors.

Recently, Montgomery County adopted a series of environmental bills. Councilmember Roger Berliner, a sponsor of these bills, explained that “we need to do more if we are to address climate change. It is obviously not a hoax and we know what we need to do to address it. We need to use less energy and cleaner energy. Period.”

The bills highlight the importance of energy efficiency. Bill 9-14, which passed with a final vote of 9-0 would require that 50% of the County’s electric power usage be supplied with renewable energy by Fiscal Year 2015 and 100% by 2020.

In order to ensure the county’s sustainable energy usage, Bill 8-14 would “require new or extensively remodeled buildings to generate at least 1 kilowatt of renewable energy”. Through Bill 6-14, an Office of Sustainability would be created within the Department of Environmental Protection. This proposal originated from concerns with the existing Sustainability Working Group, which in recent years has not fully fulfilled its mission of guiding the County’s greenhouse gas reduction implementation.

Berliner states his “measures focus on renewable energy, energy efficiency, transportation and government accountability”. The installation of rooftop solar photo-voltaic systems and the requirement of street lights to be energy efficient LEDs are both mandated by the new bills.

Under Bill 5-14, to ensure proper accountability, an analysis of the social cost of carbon with certain projects in the Capital Improvements Program must be submitted by the Office of Management and Budget. Similarly, as detailed in Bill 2-14, building owners must measure their energy efficiency and make the information public.

Hans Riemer, representing one million Montgomery County residents as an At-Large Member, sponsored Bill 41-14 which would prohibit the use and sale of some Styrofoam food service products and loose fill packaging. Riemer stressed that the bill “is important because foam, which is a petroleum based-plastic, is a meaningful share of the litter and pollution found in our watersheds. Over time, discarded foam breaks down into small pieces, but it does not completely dissolve and it is very hard to clean up.” A public hearing for the bill is yet to be scheduled.

Under the leadership of Councilmember George Leventhal, Bill 52-14 would prohibit the use of certain lawn pesticides and require the adoption of sustainable integrated pest management programs. Introduced on October 28, the bill has yet to have a scheduled hearing.  “In my view, cosmetic pesticides present a substantial threat to the health of today’s children. Certain toxic chemicals can cause permanent brain damage in children even at low levels of exposure”, explained Leventhal.

The passage and implementation of these bills are soon to shape the county into a more sustainable and environmentally aware region of Maryland.

Article Written by the MoCo Student staff writer Wafa Jawad of Clarksburg High School 

Artwork by the MoCo Student graphic artist Eva Shen of Blair High School 

About The MoCo Student

In 2012, Student Member of the Board of Education John Mannes created a countywide press network to help build a conduit to share fresh and relevant information written by youth to the wider Montgomery County student body.

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