Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has rescineded the zero-waste landfill rules that his predecessor, Democrat Martin O’Malley, put in place during his final days in office.
The governor announced his plan to cancel the policy during the Maryland Municipal League’s annual summer conference, saying the requirements had become a burden for local governments.
“We listened to the calls for action from municipalities and counties all across the state regarding the zero-waste directive, which usurped local government authority and was causing so many problems for towns, cities and counties,” Hogan said.
The O’Malley-era regulations limited new or expanded landfill capacity in hopes of encouraging counties to find alternatives to dumping waste at such sites. The goal was to virtually eliminate placement of trash at landfills by 2040 and achieve a mandatory recycling rate of 65 percent by 2020.
Maryland’s recycling rate stood at 43 percent in 2015, according to the administration.
Hogan on Wednesday signed an executive order to change the waste rules, in part by canceling limits on landfill permits and relaxing the goals for recycling.
The order says the governor will require the state to work toward a waste-management model that is environmentally and economically sustainable and involves more collaboration with local stakeholders than O’Malley’s order.
The document also suggests that the administration will try to expand the use of new technologies to generate energy from waste, such as by burning it.
Zero-waste advocates expressed concern about the governor’s plans.
“Most counties in Maryland were making great progress toward the goals, so this move seems mysterious,” said Julie Lawson, executive director of Trash Free Maryland.
She added that state officials had been negotiating with local officials all along to ensure that counties could comply with the rules and achieve their goals in practical ways.
“It seems a bit strange to make this a political issue,” Lawson said. “We hadn’t been hearing any complaints from local governments.”
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz (D), who is weighing whether to run for governor in 2018, described Hogan’s decision as “backtracking on landfill improvements.”