There was a good showing at the bill hearing in Annapolis on March 18. Many residents concerned about mega substations in Rural Legacy Areas turned out to hear Del. Dana Stein present HB1241 before the Environmental Matters Committee. Kudos to Del. Stein for introducing this bill and to delegates Wade Kach and Dan Morhaim for co-sponsoring. Sponsors acknowledged that these facilities are difficult to site but emphasized that state investments in preservation and state and local plans that designate these areas as agricultural preservation are overriding factors. Delegates Stein and Kach, who both fielded questions from the committee, urged legislators to support the bill and pledged community support to work with utilities to find appropriate sites or alternative solutions.

There is concern throughout the mid-Atlantic area that areas set aside for farming have become targets for major utility infrastructure projects. Local zoning logically allows for utilities and other necessary public services; however, regulations were formed at a time when such super-structures were not anticipated.

There are currently two mega substations proposed in rural legacy areas. These faciities are over 30 acres in size and proposed in Baltimore County and Calvert County. This is equivalent in size to 12-15 WalMarts. Residents across the state have voiced the opinion that state and local governments need to protect the substantial public investments — hundreds of millions of dollars  — that have gone towards protecting large blocks of farm land via the Rural Legacy Program. Individuals who have placed their land under permanent easement also want to be assured that their efforts were not in vain.

Expressions of support for HB1241 are still needed. The bill must be voted out of two committees in order to make it to the House floor, which is the next step in the approval process. Anyone wishing to support this bill and help maintain the integrity of Rural Legacy Areas should contact their local delegate. Contacts to members of the House Environmental Matters Committee and the House Economic Matters Committee are especially helpful. See links below to view members of these committees.