Policy Update

Maryland Enacts Conservation Finance Act

Region

MidAtlantic

NCEL Point of Contact

Private: Chris Askew-Merwin
Sustainable Agriculture and Water Specialist

Contact

On April 21, the Maryland Governor signed the Conservation Finance Act (H.B.653/S.B.348). This bill, sponsored by Senator Sarah Elfreth and Delegate Sara Love, makes traditional infrastructure financing equally available to green and blue infrastructure projects and promotes private investment in such solutions.

Defining Green and Blue Infrastructure

Green infrastructure refers to the use of land-based natural areas to improve the health and resilience of human communities, such as planting trees to improve air quality instead of depending on more expensive human-made technologies. Blue infrastructure refers to water-based natural areas that can provide similar services via initiatives such as restoration of wetlands or coastal ecosystems.

Why Maryland’s Conservation Finance Act Matters

The Conservation Finance Act makes Maryland the first state to officially define blue infrastructure, and creates a broader definition of green infrastructure than the one in current water programs, making more initiatives eligible for funding. Under the bill, projects that filter air and water pollutants, sequester carbon, reduce erosion, increase community flood resilience, and other nature-based initiatives would be eligible for traditional infrastructure financing. 

The bill allows Maryland to employ a pay-for-success model with private investors, greatly reducing the state’s financial risk for green and blue infrastructure projects. The bill also creates a task force to account for natural capital, creates a policy advisory commission to simplify the permitting process, and other components that will increase the pace and scale of ecological restoration in the state.

The bill’s House sponsor Delegate Sara Love is a recipient of NCEL’s Rising Environmental Leader Award and is currently serving as a Maryland State Lead.