CUMBERLAND — The Allegany County Board of Commissioners has taken a stance on a bill they say would negatively impact Western Maryland.
The commissioners on Thursday signed a letter to the Maryland Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee that states they oppose SB 590, the Reclaim Renewable Energy Act of 2023.
According to the Maryland General Assembly website, the bill alters definitions of “qualifying biomass,” “thermal biomass system,” and “Tier 1 renewable source,” to exclude energy derived from certain forest-related resources, animal manure, waste and refuse and gas produced from the anaerobic decomposition of animal or poultry waste from being eligible for inclusion in the renewable energy portfolio standard.
A Senate hearing on the issue is set for 1 p.m. Tuesday.
In the letter, county commissioners said the bill as written would eliminate the future potential for biomass systems to qualify for renewable energy credits.
That would cause “severe implications for forestry, wood waste and bioenergy operations that will affect the whole of Western Maryland,” they said.
“Woody biomass will play a key role in our region’s energy transition, and will guarantee and stimulate the creation of highly skilled and well-paying jobs in the areas of environmental science, forestry, energy, advanced manufacturing and engineering,” they said.
Additionally, the commissioners say energy derived from woody biomass “will secure the health of our forests and help to mitigate environmental disasters, such as the spread of blight and wild fires” by providing a financial incentive to cull problematic tree growth, commissioners said.
“From speaking with local foresters, it is clear that the closure of the Verso Paper Mill in Luke has spurred a dramatic decrease in the cultivation of low-value, small-diameter wood waste from logging and thinning,” they said.
The commissioners urged the committee to explore more sustainable options “that encourage a diverse renewable energy portfolio” while Maryland divests itself from fossil fuels and becomes energy independent.
“Our forests are our greatest renewable resource,” they said.
Commissioner Creade Brodie said he was pleased to sign the letter.
“I really wish our legislators would (not) target areas of Maryland where things like this are very important,” he said.
“It seems like they like to pick on the Eastern Shore and Western Maryland when they want to come up with a bill that kills something,” Brodie said.
“I wish they would look in their own backyard and decide to put some bills in that would clean their self up and leave us alone,” he said.
In other news, the commissioners approved:
• Advertisements on the county’s website for dirt track racing proposals at the Allegany County Fairgrounds.
• Labor management agreement amendments to update wage scales for the sheriff’s correctional and road patrol divisions, 911 emergency communications bargaining unit, emergency medical services and county transit and roads divisions.
• A personal services contract with Rameen Shafiei to be the Emergency Medical Services Operational Program Medical Director for Allegany County.
• The county finance department to remit $500 from the community promotions account to support the 3rd Allegany County Social Services Board Crab Feast from 1 to 5 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Cumberland Outdoor Club Pavilion. According to county officials, all money raised from the event will be used to help local senior citizens remain in their homes and improve their quality of life.
• Grant terms prescribed by Tri-County Council for Western Maryland to award to the Department of Economic and Community Development from the Rural Maryland Economic Development Fund $100,000 to develop a tech incubator, $1,209,000 to create market ready pad sites at the Barton Business Park, and $671,000 to develop market ready pad sites at the Frostburg Industrial Park.
According to a notice from the county, the commissioners, some staff members and their attorney met in closed session Thursday to discuss and obtain legal advice about matters including the “appointment, employment, assignment, promotion, discipline, demotion, compensation, removal, resignation, or performance evaluation of an appointee, employee, or official over whom it has jurisdiction,” and to “consider a matter that concerns the proposal for a business or industrial organization to locate, expand, or remain in the state.”