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Community Happenings

Please Join Us!

7th Annual Midwinter
Garden Dreams

Sunday Feb. 18, 1:00-3:00pm

Linden Barn,
20900 Martinsburg Road
Dickerson

All are welcome. Tea and snacks and garden planning!

Click here for more info.



Hold the Date
Sunday Feb. 11, early evening
For SCA’s mid-winter potluck
get-together
Details to come

Let Us Know!!

We look for and welcome
your suggestions, concerns
and questions about
what's going on in the
Ag Reserve.
Please email us here.


See "Growing Legacy,” a terrific portrait of the Ag Reserve,
produced by Montgomery Countryside Alliance.
Here’s the link to the 30 minute film.
MCA has a synopsis here.


[Staff login]

 

Progress and Victories in 2017

Once again, in 2017, the Sugarloaf Citizens Association played a pivotal role in assuring that our elected officials and other county officials remained faithful to the spirit and tenants of the Agricultural Reserve master plan created so many years ago.

In addition, SCA got involved in a number of other initiatives to preserve our rural heritage and foster sound environmental and land stewardship in our area.

The Dickerson trash incinerator

Early in 2017, the SCA board learned that the Montgomery County waste incinerator, sitting in the middle of the Ag Reserve, would come up for contract renewal in 2021.

The incinerator was built 25 years ago. SCA waged an aggressive campaign to prevent its construction, but we were unsuccessful then. As predicted, the incinerator has become one of Montgomery County's largest sources of pollution.

More recently, a number of fires have occurred at the incinerator due to negligent management and inadequate maintenance.

This year, we embarked on a campaign to see the incinerator closed by its contract renewal date in 2021. We have met with numerous other civic organizations and individuals to form a coalition to reach that goal. Our approach is three-pronged.

First, we are working with other environmental groups and our state senators and representatives to pass a bill that will remove waste incineration from Maryland's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).

Maryland is the only state in the country that considers burning trash a priority form of clean energy. As a result, the state has given millions of dollars in credits to this dirty energy producer. That has prevented the credits from going to truly clean power producers such as wind and solar.

Earlier this month, the County Council unanimously passed a resolution we helped formulate to immediately ban all new sources of combustion from the RPS, and exclude combustion sources such as the Dickerson incinerator and the coal-fired power plant in Dickerson by 2020. In addition, the Council passed a resolution to move the county to 100% renewable energy by 2035.

We are working with our state representatives and senators to make sure this happens.
Second, our campaign to shutter the incinerator includes getting the Council to pass a new clean air bill. The aim is to reduce the toxic omissions the incinerator and coal plant are allowed to emit. Council President Roger Berliner and Councilmember Marc Elrich are co-sponsoring the bill. With our coalition partners, we are helping to draft it.

Third, we are taking the lead on crafting a resolution for the Council to not renew the incinerator contract in 2021, and to develop a comprehensive zero waste management plan that will eliminate the need to burn trash.

SCA commissioned a study that shows the health, environmental and economic advantages of reusing, recycling and composting our waste over burning it and landfilling the toxic ash. This study will be used as the basis for the county resolution that Marc Elrich has committed to sponsoring.

On other fronts:

- We continue to work with elected officials and the Council of Governments to assure that an up-county bridge across into the Ag Reserve, accompanied by a major road, never happens. Numerous studies over the past decade have found no evidence that such a bridge would alleviate traffic congestion in the county.

- We continue to work with the Frederick County Executive and our County Council to prevent the construction of a mega-church the size of the Nashville Convention Center just off Old Hundred Road. An analysis that we commissioned found that the impact on local traffic and, even more critically, groundwater in the surrounding areas, would be dangerously compromised.

- We support the Farm Labor Housing Zoning Text Amendment that will help our farmers provide adequate housing for seasonal labor.
- We supported a resolution by council member Hans Reimer that would alleviate traffic problems on Routes 270 and 355, but not extend the mid-county highway.

- In October several members of SCA's board testified at a county hearing to demand enforcement of regulations on water pollution emissions being discharged into the Potomac by the Dickerson coal plant.

- We opposed the initiative to build an ultra-dense housing development in the heart of Poolesville that would strain rural roads and the water supply in surrounding communities. The town of Poolesville rejected the development.

- In partnership with Conservation Montgomery, we are working to fend off efforts to weaken current laws in rural communities bordering the Ag Reserve that would allow the installation of sewers over septic systems. Not only would sewers have detrimental environmental and health effects, the construction of urban sewer systems in rural areas has proven repeatedly to open the door to denser development in those areas.

- As a result of many of you asking for clarification about zoning in the Ag Reserve, we have been working with the Department of Permitting Services and the Department of Park and Planning to clarify regulations and assure that our farms are kept economically viable and remain the principal business of the Ag Reserve.

- We supported a successful campaign to pass legislation that will provide distinctive signage for our rustic roads highlighting their unique character.

- Again, in 2017, we hosted our annual Midwinter Garden Dreams and Spring Plant Exchange at Linden Farm. And, in February, we held a very successful fundraiser, with entertainment by the duo "Pear." Some 200 were in attendance for a very enjoyable musical evening.


Announcing a New Sugarloaf
Citizens' Association Campaign

Many of you know that the 22-year old Covanta trash incinerator in Dickerson is Montgomery County’s second largest polluter. It’s responsible for some 15 percent of air pollution in the county.

The incinerator also generates 170,000 tons of toxic ash per year and other toxic emissions that are five to 25 times higher than what a coal-driven power plant of the same size would generate.

Dangerous uncontrolled fires at the plant have also occurred recently. Covanta acknowledges that the incinerator is in poor shape. Although the company has committed to new safety procedures and additional funding for repairs and maintenance, many questions remain regarding the feasibility of the plant’s safe operation.

For years, the citizens of Dickerson, Barnesville, Poolesville and the immediate environs around the incinerator have put up with the existence of this major polluting source.

An opportunity to shut down the incinerator has finally arrived, however. The contract with Covanta to operate the incinerator expires in April 2021.

Sugarloaf’s board has, therefore, decided to launch an initiative to close the incinerator down by 2021, if not before.

We will be joining forces with other environmental, social justice, and public health groups, both local and national, in this effort. But SCA will take the lead, given that the incinerator is in our backyard.

We have hired a leading environmental policy expert to assist us in navigating the legislative aspects of the campaign, as well as to help build the coalition.

You may well be thinking: “Well, what will happen to the trash?" Major advances in recycling and the reuse of waste have occurred over the past 20 years. As a result, a rapidly growing number of counties and cities across the country have switched to other means of waste removal and disposal. Some are achieving 85 percent or higher rates of recycling or environmentally friendly waste disposal - with a resultant sharp reduction in the burning or landfilling of waste.

A recent Montgomery County study found that of the materials being incinerated at the Covanta plant, 34 percent is food waste, 22 percent is paper and 18 percent is plastic. Even if these were the only things we got out of the waste stream and recycled we would already eliminate the need for the incinerator.

Aspirational "zero waste "programs are proving to be both economically viable and to create jobs in many communities. We believe there is emerging political will in Montgomery County to move aggressively toward this option, advocating a “zero waste” strategy for the county will be part of our campaign.

As we move forward, we’ll provide you with more details. For now, please know that we are excited to gear up for this fight to preserve the Agricultural Reserve and protect the health of our friends and neighbors.¬†We will be turning to you in the future for help in assuring this campaign is a success.

Lauren Greenberger, SCA President, and the SCA Board


Sugarloaf Citizens' Association, Inc.
Linden Farm 
20900 Martinsburg Road
P.O. Box 218 
Dickerson, MD 20842
301-349-4889
info@sugarloafcitizens.org

 
 © Copyright 2017 Sugarloaf Citizens' Association. All rights reserved.