Senator Zirkin has always placed high priority on preserving and protecting Maryland's natural resources. During his first year as State Senator, he served on the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs committee. He has helped to pass significant environmental legislation.
Senator Zirkin recognizes that one of Maryland's greatest environmental challenges involves ensuring the well-being of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. During the 2009 session, Bobby helped adopt the Chesapeake Bay Nitrogen Reduction Act, a bill that requires all new homes built within 1,000 feet of the Chesapeake Bay or its tributaries to have nitrogen-removing septic systems to help prevent algae buildup, among other things. It also requires that residents with failing septic systems replace them with nitrogen-removing systems.
The Legislature also strengthened Maryland's dedication to Smart Growth initiatives when it passed the Smart Growth Goals, Measures, and Indicators and Implementation of Planning Visions bill during the 2009 Legislative Session. Smart Growth is a planning and development strategy where local governments concentrate new construction and redevelopment to areas that have or will have infrastructure to avoid sprawl. Such smart growth strategies as Transit Oriented Development, the practice of creating developments around designated transit areas results in the more efficient use of already developed land, which in turn decreases the need to use further natural resources for development purposes. It also decreases the proliferation of harmful vehicle toxins, as transit oriented developments utilize wide sidewalks, bike trails, and decreased parking facilities to encourage residents to greater utilize mass transit systems.
Smart Growth requires local planning commissions or boards to submit annual reports to local legislative bodies beginning July 1, 2011 that include specified smart growth measures and indicators and information on a local land use goal as part of the report. This measure will help facilitate the accomplishment of the State's goal of increasing growth within designated priority funding areas and decreasing growth outside these designated areas.
In 2009, the Legislature fully funded Program Open Space, Maryland's program for acquiring outdoor recreation and open space areas for public use. Program Open Space also provides grant funds for use with these open public areas. Senator Zirkin was proud to co-sponsor a bill that increased the funding allocation to local governments for use with the Program Open Space initiative.
Since 2007, the Legislature has passed several other environmentally-friendly bills. Maryland Clean Cars Act, which requires the Department of the Environment and MVA to adopt regulations that establish a low-emissions vehicle program. The Chesapeake Bay Phosphoric Reduction Act prohibits lawn fertilizers above a certain level from being labeled for use on established lawns or grasses. Finally, the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009 requires the State to develop plans, adopt regulations and implement programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25% from 2006 levels by 2020.