On April 21, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed into law the Conservation Finance Act (H.B. 653/S.B. 348), which defines green infrastructure (the use of land-based natural areas to improve the health and resilience of human communities) and blue infrastructure (similar services for water-based natural areas). The law also allows for infrastructure financing for these services. Projects such as wetlands restoration including oyster reefs and seagrass beds, carbon sequestration, erosion control, increasing community flood resilience, and other nature-based initiatives are now eligible for traditional infrastructure financing. The law leverages private financing to improve water quality, deliver climate solutions, enhance environmental justice, and help ensure public funds are used more quickly and cost-effectively.
The law includes other provisions including:
- A “pay-for-success” contracting model with private investors, and adds this to state procurement code for all environment, transportation, and agriculture agencies
- Authorizes the state and counties to buy “environmental outcomes” as a commodity, including soil carbon, carbon sequestration, and water quality outcomes
- Provides a problem-solving commission, and allows it to be the focus of public-private partnerships, and
- Changes to Maryland’s State Revolving Loan funds to better focus them on equity, lead pipe removal, and nature-based infrastructure.
ECOS President Ben Grumbles, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Environment, notes that “Maryland’s bipartisan conservation finance law should double the amount of funding in our state for green and blue infrastructure by allowing private capital to support public environmental projects with ‘pay for performance’ procurement and other market-based strategies.”
The law was discussed by Timothy Male of the Environmental Policy Innovation Center during the Forging Public-Private Infrastructure Solutions session of the ECOS Spring Meeting earlier this month.