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For the past 20 years, the Environmental Finance Center (EFC) has provided communities across the Mid-Atlantic region with the resources needed to address a myriad of environmental financing challenges. Every year the inevitable changes to the political landscape provide EFC with new opportunities to build the leadership and capacity necessary for supporting environmental protection, and 2014 was no exception.
This year brought new and unexpected challenges our way and, I believe we have navigated these hurdles and are stronger because of them. For example, local elections in our region brought political changes that allowed us to reach a new group of elected leaders as well as communities dedicated to becoming more sustainable through our Sustainable Maryland program. The elections also brought new leaders, who eager to become environmental champions, joined our Leadership Training programs as well as attended several of our stormwater and agriculture workshops held this year. These new environmental leaders were not afraid to acknowledge that a well-designed plan, along with an innovative financing strategy, are the keys to successful implementation, as was the case in Warrington, Pa. or the Environmental Financing Boot Camp conducted in Memphis, Tenn.
The challenges brought on by some severe weather events this year had some of our Mid-Atlantic communities like Scranton, Pa. and Federalsburg, Pa. finally thinking about more efficient and effective ways to better manage their assets. Although both used different approaches, the results were inspiring for other like-minded communities facing similar problems. State and local government budget constraints were ever-present in 2014, but with that, we saw a growing interest in renewable energy that led fifty of our Maryland communities to earn a Smart Energy designation.
Throughout it all, we expanded our center, increased the scope of our services offered to local governments and gained some very talented new staff and students. Our center continues to face new challenges as we start to see some emerging trends take place at the local level. These trends, such as growing interest in integrated public private partnerships, collaboration and partnerships that cross municipal boundaries, and widespread actions to become a more resilient community, are in our future. We embrace it with continued optimism as we work with a large group of wonderful partners and supporters like you.
We hope you enjoy our 2014 annual report as we offer you a glimpse into the evolving and exciting world of environmental finance.
Our Mission Statement: The Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland works to equip communities with the knowledge, resources and leadership needed to empower decision-making that advances resource management priorities in an innovative and efficient way. Through direct technical assistance, capacity building, and program and policy analysis, we strive to move communities towards a more sustainable and resilient future.
The Mid-Atlantic Dry Truck Replacement Plan
Asset Management in Scranton, Pa.
"Initially, this project was to further the weatherization program already undertaken. As a clearer understanding of the MSEC grant objectives became known, age of current equipment, needs to replace outdated equipment, energy efficiency and cost concerns began to play a role. HVAC and lighting were the two largest users of energy for the town and since the biggest cost savings came here, that was the direction we started. The ability to use the EFC to assist in the energy reduction calculations was key to the success.“
James Flynn, Bladensburg, Maryland
The successful development and implementation of environmental initiatives, and the financing strategies that support them, are heavily predicated on the community having a voice in the development of the system and collectively taking ownership of the program.
The EFC worked with the communities in Virginia’s northern Shenandoah Valley to develop visual material to facilitate the communication and messaging of new stormwater regulations. By utilizing a process of engaging local stakeholders through community meetings and online questionnaires, we gained an understanding of local values and resources. The EFC developed visual designs, logos, postcards and web material, which each community could then individually tailor for their use. The tagline “The River Matters” and imagery of the Shenandoah River as a resource echoed the connection between the environment and the local economy that stakeholders had identified as a priority.
Whether driven by community priorities or regulatory mandate, local governments are at the core of resource protection efforts. Many need help further developing their capacity and better realizing their role in the broader context of resource management implementation and financing.
Our Agricultural Financing Forums help the farming community develop a greater understanding of public and private financial opportunities. The workshops include statewide lending roundtables to identify under-utilized funding and maximize leverage across funding sources to promote agricultural practices that improve farm finances and promote water quality.
Stormwater Financing & Outreach Unit
The EFC created the Stormwater Financing and Outreach Unit in 2011 to better connect communities with the resources necessary for creating sustainable stormwater programs. The EFC uses an adaptive management approach to ensure that recommended financing solutions fit within the local context and meet a community where they are on the stormwater program development trajectory. Some communities we have worked in, like Federalsburg, Md. or Scranton, Pa. needed help understanding their existing assets and how to better manage them. Other communities further along, like Berlin and Salisbury, Md., were ready to move forward on instituting dedicated revenue streams. In any case, the EFC consults with local stakeholders to identify the most critical needs, collect relevant data, and engage appropriate audiences. Our Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR)-supported success in Maryland has drawn attention from other funders, such as the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program Office, state and local agencies and the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), which has led to expanding these services to communities in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. In the first three years, we have helped over two dozen communities engage citizens and elected officials in developing community-supported, comprehensive stormwater programs designed to serve as models throughout the Mid-Atlantic.
Anticipated outputs of the Stormwater Unit include workshops on topics addressing a broad audience, as well as community-specific stormwater program implementation and financing strategies. To date, the following has been achieved:
- Assessment of local programs, including rate setting, capacity analysis, asset management and program audits in Ocean City, Berlin, Salisbury and Oxford, Md.; Scranton, Wrightsville Borough and 6 MS4s in Lancaster County, Pa.; and Berkeley County, W.Va.;
- More than 30 stormwater financing workshops throughout the region;
- Two decision support systems for Virginia’s Northern Shenandoah Valley;
- Enhanced stormwater outreach in Lancaster County, Pa.; Ocean City, Bowie, Berlin, Oxford and College Park, Md.; and Berkeley County, W.Va.;
- Manuals, guidebooks and webinars in use throughout the region;
- A Stormwater Master Plan in Federalsburg, Md.; and
- An increased number of dedicated funding mechanisms in the region.
Helping jurisdictions develop community-based, comprehensive stormwater implementation and financing programs was anticipated to improve the ability to address water quality and quantity goals and requirements at the local level. To date outcomes include the following:
- Improved compliance for participating communities;
- A better understanding on the part of citizens, local government staff and elected officials on the value of managing stormwater and the need to invest in this locally;
- Stakeholders enabled to move from recommendations to implementation;
- Greater collaboration between communities resulting in more cost effective programs; and
- Leveraging community priorities resulting in more efficient programming.
Collaborating with communities and stakeholders makes sense from a resource management standpoint, as natural systems do not follow jurisdictional boundaries. This works well from a financing perspective.
With partners at the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and American Rivers, EFC is working to accelerate the implementation of green infrastructure in Pennsylvania's Juniata Watershed.
Our efforts to foster regional collaboration, interdisciplinary partnerships and the development of state-wide action plans as part of an overall regional management strategy will advance our Green and Healthy Schools initiative and more effectively achieve Chesapeake Bay Agreement outcomes.
“I wanted to attend the Sustainable Maryland Leadership Training workshop to learn from experts and other motivated leaders and public servants about how to make sustainability a reality in our community and to learn how to change policies and practices to reflect our goals and values related to sustainability. I gained powerful tools, like the ‘two-minute story’ and ‘conversation mapping,’ for engaging in these conversations with diverse stakeholders in order to help move my community toward our sustainability goals.”
David Gysberts, Mayor of Hagerstown, Maryland
One of the clear benefits of being located at an academic institution is access to students from a variety of backgrounds and interests. Our student staff provides important project support while obtaining firsthand, real world, resume-building experience on resource financing issues. This also presents an important opportunity to enhance the knowledge base and leadership skill set of tomorrow’s decision-makers, regardless of the career field they pursue.
Being able to tap into engineering students to map a stormwater system in Federalsburg, Md., or students in Plant Science and Landscape Architecture to develop green infrastructure concept designs for Warrington, Pa., expands the breadth of services the EFC is able to offer communities. In addition, students from graduate programs in policy, business, engineering, urban planning, conservation biology, and geography are directly on staff, providing research, logistical support and day-to-day project management on all of our work.
"As a graduate student completing a Master's of Public Policy specializing in environmental policy, I came to the EFC with the hope of gaining a deeper understanding of environmental issues in Maryland while contributing to projects benefiting actual communities. My time at EFC gave me the opportunity to dive into research in particular areas that interest me, including working waterfront communities, forest management and capital projects for stormwater management. I have had the privilege of managing the day-to-day activities of a team of graduate students working on EFC's water quality finance projects. Through this position, I have had the opportunity to develop my leadership, organizational and communication skills. My time at EFC has been extremely rewarding because of the people I have had the chance to work alongside, because of the depth and variety of projects I have worked on and because of the efforts of EFC staff to put me in positions to succeed." — Mace Phillips, Master of Public Policy '15
"As a Master of Public Policy Candidate, specializing in Energy and Environmental Policy, I came to EFC because of their Energy and Climate Change Program. I am specifically interested in projects related to energy efficiency so the Maryland Smart Energy Communities technical assistance program attracted me to the center. I have learned a lot from EFC, expanded my experience with energy efficiency and greenhouse gas inventories, and I have gained insight into environmental and sustainability issues. Thanks to EFC staff and other students who I have had the privilege to work with, I have grown as an environmental professional." - Ao Xu, Master of Public Policy '15
Part of Sustainable Maryland's mission is to identify and support existing and emerging sustainability leaders in communities across the state. With more than 50 communities registered and 22 certified in the program since 2012, Sustainable Maryland has fostered a competitive spirit amongst towns and cities working to green their communities. The leadership training and networking programs offered help connect these leaders to one another and facilitate an exchange of ideas and experiences that strengthens their collective efforts to effect meaningful, on-the-ground change.
Environmental Financing Boot Camp
In Fall 2014, the Environmental Finance Center launched the Environmental Financing Boot Camp Program. Communities are often asked to do more with less, making efficient and effective financing strategies even more critical. To address this need, these one- and two-day intensive roll-up-your-sleeve workshops provide guidance to local governments on how to become better financial stewards while meeting important environmental goals. The Boot Camps help communities jump start environmental initiatives in a financially sound manner; overcome common financing barriers and challenges; identify potential funding sources; and learn the tools to finance projects and programs long-term. At its inaugural launch in September, the City of Memphis, Tenn. was the first community to receive assistance from the program. Using the Mid-South Regional Greenprint Vision Plan – a guide for community growth that balances the needs for natural resource conservation with economic development and physical expansion – the EFC team laid the foundation and provided tools for determining green infrastructure and low impact development costs to help shape a sustainable long-term financing strategy. Funding for the Memphis Boot Camp was provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Sustainable Communities Initiative.
In partnership with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), EFC developed a framework for a sustainable working waterfronts program for the City of Cambridge, Md., and a guidebook that can be applied to waterfront communities across the state to be completed in summer 2015. Nationally, waterfronts and the waterways that connect them are an important component of the U.S. economy. Working waterfronts provide critical access for water-dependent activities such as commercial and recreational fishing, recreational boating and various marine trades. The waterfronts that make up our coastal communities have transformed over time. The vision for Cambridge couples the need to balance the economic benefits of waterfront development with the traditional uses of the city’s historic waterfront areas. Additionally, this project will demonstrate how a working waterfront program within DNR’s Chesapeake and Coastal Service can effectively inform, incentivize and advance local working waterfront planning, protection and economic development initiatives across the state. More information can be found at EFC’s 2014 Working Waterfronts Report and DNR’s working waterfronts information page.
In the management of watersheds and communities, local decision-makers are frequently confronted with challenges that impact budgets, financing and local social, economic or environmental benefits. In its stormwater work, EFC develops “decision support dashboards” which are tools for evaluating and managing the impact of complex environmental scenarios. A digital dashboard uses Excel and other technology to provide a graphic representation of input choices and scenario outcomes.
The incorporation of local community perspective into the technical design of dashboards helped to facilitate stakeholder discussions and improved information dissemination and uptake.
Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund Task Force
The Environmental Finance Center recently completed a student-led initiative designed to identify innovative approaches for financing Chesapeake Bay restoration and protection. Four MBA students from the Smith School of Business teamed up with four environmental policy students from the School of Public Policy to form a task force charged with designing the most efficient and effective restoration financing system. The task force was guided in their efforts by a committee of financing and watershed restoration experts from across the region. The final report, which will be delivered in September 2015, will potentially impact hundreds of millions of dollars in restoration investments.
The financing strategy project was implemented within EFC’s new Public-Private Financing Initiative, which is designed to expand the scale of water quality and environmental restoration activities in iconic watersheds across the country, including the Chesapeake Bay, Narragansett Bay and Delaware River Basin. Working in collaboration with a team of public and private financing experts, the EFC is working to advance the implementation of innovative financing structures and mechanisms.
The EFC and a team of public and private sector partners are examining farm-scale, manure to energy technologies, evaluating performance and costs and determining the feasibility of generating revenue streams while reducing local land application of excess nutrients.
EFC is continuing to support a Bay-state Farm Manure to Energy Initiative program to evaluate alternatives to land application of manure. We are performing a financial feasibility analysis of four pilot farms hosting technologies to burn poultry manure for energy. This project has the team interviewing farmers in Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia to evaluate energy savings and other costs. The assessment will include construction, operations and maintenance, and life cycle costs to run the projects at poultry farms evaluating energy (propane and electricity offsets), nutrient balance and environmental compliance (permits, regulations, etc.).
The EFC team, collaborating with project partners under the direction of Sustainable Chesapeake, plans to complete the cost balance sheets during this cold season when the greatest energy savings are anticipated. EFC will share assessment results with a Bay-wide steering committee to help quantify project performance. The results will be input to a model that will be developed for farmers to determine if it makes economic sense to implement an alternative manure burning project on their farm.
- 1000 Friends of Maryland
- Ag Choice Farm Credit
- Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay - Pennsylvania Office
- American Farmland Trust
- American Forest Foundation
- American Rivers
- Center for Watershed Protection
- Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission
- Chesapeake Bay Foundation
- Chesapeake Bay Trust
- City of Scranton
- Cornell Cooperative Extension - Tompkins County
- C.S. Davidson, Inc.
- Delaware Conservation Districts
- Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC)
- Eastern Panhandle Regional Planning and Development Council
- Environmental Finance Center Network
- Environmental Finance Center Region 1 University of Southern Maine
- Farm Credit of Virginias
- Joyce Hatala Associates
- Lackawanna River Corridor Association (LRCA)
- Lancaster Civil Engineering Company
- Lancaster Conservation District
- Lancaster County Clean Water Consortium
- Low Impact Development Center
- Maryland Association of Counties
- Maryland Association of Environmental and Outdoor Education
- Maryland Clean Energy Center
- Maryland Department of Natural Resources
- Maryland Department of the Environment
- Maryland Energy Administration
- Maryland Motor Truck Association
- Maryland Municipal League
- Maryland Port Administration
- Maryland Watershed Assistance Collaborative
- MidAtlantic Farm Credit
- Mid-Atlantic Regional Air Management Association
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
- National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF)
- Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS)
- Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission
- Northern Tier Regional Planning & Development Commission
- Pennsylvania Bradford County Conservation District (BCCD)
- Pennsylvania Green and Healthy Schools Partnership
- Pure Water Forum
- Rauch Engineering
- Rural Energy for America Program (REAP)
- Shenandoah County Farm Bureau
- Smart Growth America
- Syracuse University Environmental Finance Center
- Thomas J. McLane & Associates Inc.
- Town Creek Foundation
- Tuscarora Watershed Project Team (WV)
- Universities at Shady Grove
- University of Delaware Cooperative Extension
- University of Maryland A. James Clark School of Engineering
- University of Maryland, Office of Sustainability
- University of Maryland, University College
- University of Scranton Small Business Development Center
- University of Virginia
- University of Virginia Institute for Environmental Negotiation
- University of Washington
- University System of Maryland
- US Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency
- US Department of Agriculture Rural Development
- US Department of Housing and Urban Development
- US Environmental Protection Agency
- US Forest Service
- Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech
- Virginia Department of Agriculture
- Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation
- Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
- Virginia Port Authority
- Virginia Shenandoah Valley Soil & Water Conservation District
- Local farmers in central Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania areas of Bradford and Lancaster
Our funding for 2014 totaled more than $2.1 million from a variety of state, federal and non-profit sources.
Environmental Finance Center, University of Maryland, 054 Preinkert Field House, Room 1218, College Park, MD 20742
For more information, contact:
Jenny Beard, Communications Manager
Cover Photo: Eric Reed