Sustainable Maryland Granted State Funding by Maryland General Assembly

By Maggie Haslam / Apr 22, 2022

First-ever funding of UMD program will help build resilient, greener Maryland communities

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Solar panels Emmitsburg
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A solar array installed in Emmitburg, Md. Photo courtesy of the Town of Emmitsburg.

A bill passed by the Maryland General Assembly this month will establish the first-ever state funding for UMD’s state-wide “greening” program, Sustainable Maryland (SM). SB14, which passed the Maryland’s house and senate April 11, will provide $500,000 annually to UMD’s Environmental Finance Center (EFC), which administers Sustainable Maryland, to expand the no-cost program’s impact and reach across the state.

“For more than a decade, Sustainable Maryland has been harnessing the inspiration, energy and expertise of local governments and citizens to improve quality of life in our communities,” said EFC Director Jennifer Cotting. “We couldn’t be happier to see the state recognize the value of that and make a committed investment in its expansion.”

Leveraging best practices, training, funding opportunities and a tight-knit network of peer communities, Sustainable Maryland helps Maryland municipalities chart individualized roadmaps to create sustainable, vibrant and healthy communities. The program has mobilized environmental, economic and social sustainability efforts in 54% of urban and rural municipalities across the state, including the top 10 most populous cities in Maryland, through incremental greening efforts like stormwater programs, community gardens, Main Street economic development and energy conservation.  

“Avenues to execute sustainability projects, like launching a farmer’s market or promoting a local business district, are essential for economic stability and quality of life in local communities,” said Sustainable Maryland Program Manager Mike Hunninghake. “Racial inequity and climate change bring additional challenges to municipalities that are already under-resourced; many just don’t have the funding or expertise to tackle a flooding issue or create a tree canopy program. What we try and do is bridge that gap, by providing assistance and access to opportunity.”

Modeled after the Sustainable New Jersey program, Sustainable Maryland was developed in collaboration between the EFC, the Maryland Municipal League and UMD’s National Center for Smart Growth in 2011 to share applied technical assistance and cost-effective strategies with Maryland communities looking to launch small- and large-scale sustainability initiatives. Until now, Sustainable Maryland has never garnered state funding, relying on grants and support from partners like the Maryland Municipal League.

The new state funding, says Cotting, will underwrite critical support, education, training and outreach across the state, accelerating the initiation of new communities to the program and strengthening the ongoing efforts of existing SM municipalities.

“The work of achieving Maryland’s climate goals begins in our local communities,” said House Delegate Jared Solomon (D-Montgomery), who sponsored the bill with Senator Sarah Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel). “This bill provides permanent funding to help cities and towns across Maryland scale up sustainability efforts, protect their natural assets and promote environmental equity. I am so pleased we passed the Sustainable Maryland Act to support this critical work.”

Sustainability has long been a top priority for the state of Maryland, spurring several initiatives to restore the Chesapeake Bay, meet renewable energy goals, bolster economic growth and improve quality of life. In 2014, Maryland was one of several states to sign the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, designed to ensure sustainable marine populations, reduce nutrient and toxic pollution, increase resiliency against climate change and promote land conservation.

“As the General Assembly continues to lead on meeting our clean water and sustainability goals, we must also ensure that our communities—our municipalities and homeowners associations—have the tools they need to move towards sustainability as well,” said Elfreth. “Sustainable Maryland provides the critical expertise and technical assistance to do just that, and I am proud that the state is stepping up to support this incredible program.”

Read more about Sustainable Maryland.

 

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