2014 Year in Review: Policy and Compliance

December 9, 2014
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DEP’s smallest division is the Division of Policy and Compliance. Although small in size, it’s mighty in scope and the impact the division has on the community. It is divided into two sections: the Policy section and the Compliance section.

The 6-person Policy section focuses on energy, trees, sustainability, outreach, air quality and growing green businesses in the County. The Compliance section enforces the County’s environmental laws and the 7-person staff can often be seen out in the community testing water quality and ensuring that we all do our part to keep Montgomery County’s environment healthy.  The Division is proud of the work we accomplished in 2014 and look forward to a great 2015!

 

Image of the Office of Sustainability table and the trivia board.

DEPC staff worked at the County Fair.

 

New Environmental Laws

County Council passed several new environmental laws this year. While many of them focus on improving the energy efficiency of the government as a whole, two laws will be implemented directly by DEP, specifically the Division of Policy and Compliance.

  • Montgomery County became the first county in the nation to pass a building energy benchmarking law (Bill 2-14). The law requires certain building owners of non-residential buildings to benchmark their energy use and report it to the county for disclosure. Learn more about the law at the DEP Benchmarking website.
  • The Department of Environmental Protection will develop an Office of Sustainability (Bill 6-14) to promote residential, commercial and multi-family energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, support green business programs, launch tree and forest education and planting programs, build partnerships and civic engagement towards sustainability and provide data analysis and research support to meeting the County’s sustainability goals.

 

Green Business Certification Program

  • December 2014 is the 5 year anniversary of the Green Business Certification program. Currently, the program has 59 Certified Green Businesses representing a wide range of business types, including 10 landscaping companies, a bank, a dentist, accountants, energy efficiency firms and a design center.
  •  In honor of the 5 year anniversary, and as a thank you to all the Certified Green Businesses, this year the Green Business Certification Program launched a Get on the Bus PSA campaign.  Each green business was given their own bus PSA featuring their logo and the tagline “Follow the Leader”.  The buses ran for 4-8 weeks per PSA through the fall and winter of 2014.  The buses were visible across the County and were a common site at bus transfer stations.

 

Get on the Bus campaign

The Green Business Certification Program’s Ride On Bus PSAs can be seen throughout the County!

 

Trees

  • ​In the spring, DEP expanded an 8-acre forest planting at the old Oaks Landfill to more than 45 acres by installing deer fencing and planting more than 32,000 native trees. This newly planted forest will help the County meet its Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit requirements and provide numerous benefits to residents and future generations. Ongoing efforts to manage invasive species will continue for several years to ensure a healthy forest develops.
  • ​The Tree Canopy Law went into effect on March 1st. DEP was instrumental in the development of this law and its regulations. Funds collected from the new Tree Canopy Law will be used to plant trees throughout the County.
  • ​​DEP is currently developing new tree planting programs for the County. We’ve laid the groundwork to plant FREE trees in yards, parking lots, and multi-family communities and plan to debut these programs in the spring of 2015. Look for more information coming soon!

 

Energy

  • Although DEP was without an energy planner for 6 months of the year, a lot was done to advance our County’s energy goals. DEP partnered with other jurisdictions, property managers and utility companies to host educational trainings on commercial benchmarking and launch the energy benchmarking workgroups.  DEP also started an Energy Newsletter where subscribers can get the latest on the benchmarking law, property-assessed clean energy (PACE) financing legislation, stories of community members saving energy and generating clean energy, and other energy news.  Subscribe to this newsletter today!
  • The Council pursued the development of PACE financing, which offers 100% long term financing for energy improvements to commercial buildings. Loans are paid through the tax assessment process, making it easier for commercial buildings to make energy efficiency and renewable energy investments. Stay tuned for more news about PACE!

 

Speakers at the inaugural benchmarking meeting.

Speakers at the inaugural benchmarking meeting.

My Green Montgomery

The My Green Montgomery educational website continued its growth in 2014 with the expansion of the blog and newsletter.  The blog had over 90 articles, including guest blogs by amateur writers, nonprofits, students and businesses.  The newsletter now has over 450 subscribers, a 50% jump from 2013.

 

Social Media and Websites

In January 2014, DEP updated its website to a new platform and structure to compliment the overall County website.  Responses have been positive to the new design and easier navigation.  Further, DEP increased its reach on social media.  The My Green Montgomery Facebook and Twitter sites grew significantly, with the Facebook page having 370 likes and Twitter having 534 followers.  The Department also expanded its usage of Flickr and YouTube, thereby making Flickr the storage site for most of its photos.  DEP’s newest social media platform is Instagram, which launched over the summer.

 

Examining green roof materials

Several DEPC staff toured Pepco’s WaterShed Sustainability Center earlier this summer. This display allowed them to feel the temperature difference between regular roofs and green roofs.

 

Compliance

The Compliance section analyzes their data based on the fiscal year July 2013-June 2014.  The following data applies to that time period:

  • The Compliance section handled over 1,400 environmental complaints and requests related to air, water quality, illegal dumping and noise.
  • The Compliance section hosted Community Noise Enforcement Training taught by the Rutgers Noise Technical Assistance Center.
  • DEP is proud to partner with the Friends of Sligo Creek on an innovative program, Water WatchDog, to utilize local residents as “eyes on the ground” to report water pollution. If, during their daily routine, residents of the Sligo watershed spot any pollution, they report it directly by email to the DEP Compliance section. In early winter of 2014, The Montgomery County Civic Federation awarded their Community Hero Award to County residents involved with the Water WatchDog program. The winners of the award from the Friends of Sligo Creek graciously recognized the contribution of DEP to their success. The Water WatchDog program shows how County agencies and community groups can work together to achieve great things.

 

Water sampling during a fish kill

Compliance staff investigated a fish kill earlier this summer by collecting and analyzing water samples.

 

New Staff

This year, the Division of Policy and Compliance hired three new staff members, increasing our total size to 13 people.

  • Michelle Vigen is the new Senior Energy Planner. She brings a background in energy research, policy, and program implementation, and will be working to support building owners in the benchmarking process and bring resources to the table, such as PACE financing and utility incentives. In her first six months of the job, Michelle has hosted numerous benchmarking trainings, including a highly successful forum, and starting the benchmarking working groups.
  • Gwen Bausmith is the new Outreach and Education Planning Specialist.  Gwen specializes in marketing development, design and social media, including the creation of posters, brochures, signage and other communication materials.  She started the County’s first Instagram account and has greatly expanded its presence on other social media platforms. Further, Gwen has partnered with numerous nonprofits and County residents to tell their stories on the My Green Montgomery website.
  • Christine Nouri transferred to the Division of Policy and Compliance after a year and a half with the Division of Solid Waste Services. Christine is responsible for regulatory groundwater sampling and investigating complaints about illegal dumping and noise.

 



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