Eastern Shore Land Conservancy


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Mission Statement
Conserve, steward, and advocate for the unique rural landscape of the Eastern Shore.

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Seven Legislative Efforts That Could Impact Eastern Shore Land Use and Preservation

We are midway through the 2024 Maryland legislative session, and ESLC has been busy monitoring legislative proposals, meeting with decision makers, and testifying in committees that are considering bills of special consequence to the Eastern Shore.

Here are some of the important actions we’ve taken to support land preservation and natural resource conservation.

Boost Conservation Funding

Our Land Use and Policy Director Owen Bailey, recently offered testimony in support of full cash funding for the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation as appropriated by the Governor.

Watch the hearing.

Prevent Habitat Loss

ESLC and Partners for Open Space provided written testimony opposing legislation that would allow for commercial scale solar development on properties or conservation easements purchased with transfer tax revenues. While there may be state-owned lands that are suitable for solar, lands purchased for wildlife management areas and conservation easements are not among them.

Learn more about the bill and read our testimony.

Advance Solar Priorities

ESLC spent several months working collaboratively with a range of stakeholders from the conservation and renewable energy communities to craft sweeping legislation that would address some of the thorniest issues surrounding solar development, farmland preservation, and equitable distribution of solar throughout the state. Ultimately it proved too complex – and contentious. However, some of these priorities have been advanced in smaller legislative proposals.

Improve Practices and Policies

We’re also supporting the creation of a Utility-Scale Solar Design and Siting Commission to establish best practices and model policies for these large projects that balance solar development and land preservation goals. New legislation would authorize counties to require a mitigation fee to be earmarked for conservation and preservation work and help identify state-owned lands that could be made available for solar development.

Learn more about the bill.

Build a Brighter Tomorrow

Several policies designed to incentivize deployment of solar on rooftops, parking lots, brownfields and other preferred sites emerged from the work of the Solar Task Force established by legislation last year. The Brighter Tomorrow Act incorporates many of these proposals. It increases incentives for residential solar and eliminates state property taxes for solar on commercial buildings, rooftops, and parking lots while authorizing counties to do the same. It also seeks to provide regulatory and financial certainty to developers by requiring counties to at least partially exempt ground-mounted solar systems from real and personal property taxes, if solar projects pay an annual fee per megawatt to the county.

ESLC supports the Brighter Tomorrow Act with the caveat that funding received by the counties from solar developers be designated for preservation and conservation projects.

Learn more about this legislation.

Advise Caution

An emerging land-use issue that ESLC is following closely concerns data center development in the region. Maryland is actively seeking to establish a robust data center industry to create jobs and maintain competitiveness. But we should learn from the experience of our neighbors in Virginia, where the explosive growth of this industry has brought serious challenges to the electric grid and a host of environmental issues.

This is why ESLC is opposing a bill that would exempt certain data center projects from review by the Public Service Commission, which is obligated to take climate impacts, community engagement, and environmental justice into consideration before approving a project. Data centers are well-known for their massive consumption of electricity and often rely on enormous banks of diesel-fuel-powered backup generators.

Meanwhile, an alternative proposal from Delegate Charkoudian addresses some of the shortcomings in the Administration’s bill through revisions to the tax exemptions offered to data centers enacted in 2020. Projects that incorporate battery storage, procure energy from renewable sources, and include strong labor provisions are eligible for tax incentives.

We should demand that these types of projects account for the full weight of their environmental impacts and encourage their development in the most sustainable ways possible.

Read our letter to the Education, Energy, and Environment Committee.


Next Steps

Conservation – both in the literal and philosophical sense – has an enormous role to play in advancing our climate goals, preserving rural landscapes, and ensuring continued agricultural productivity. ESLC will continue to advocate for this path, during this General Assembly session and in the work we do on a daily basis.

Sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know about legislative threats to conservation and what can be done to maintain our quality of life on the Eastern Shore.

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