Berliner Bills Would Add Sustainability Requirements

Councilmember Roger Berliner (file photo)Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Chevy Chase) will introduce a package of 13 bills next week to make installing solar panels easier, require new commercial buildings meet LEED Silver standards and get the county government to up its use of renewable energy.

Berliner, an energy lawyer who chairs the Council’s Transportation and Environment Committee, said at a town hall meeting on Wednesday that the package is meant to reflect “a community that embraces sustainability as a core value.”

In a memo to Council colleagues (see PDF below) he said the recent minimum wage increase by the group inspired him to step up efforts in the environmental protection realm.

“We need to use less energy and cleaner energy. Period. This package of bills is taken in many instances from what other leading jurisdictions are doing — from Chicago to Seattle to California and New York states,” Berliner wrote. “They are a mix of leading by example, rewarding green businesses, supporting market forces, adopting more exacting standards, and holding our county government accountability.”

The bills cover solar panel use, new regulations for county government and requirements for private property owners.

One zoning change would allow solar panels to extend two feet into the side or rear setback. Another zoning change would require all new buildings to install one electric vehicle charging station for every 50 parking spaces.

At the meeting on Wednesday in the Town of Chevy Chase, Berliner indicated he had support for the package of bills from County Executive Isiah Leggett. Some of the bills would impose new laws on the county government.

In 2008, the Council passed a similar package of laws with the formal goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Montgomery County by 80 percent by 2050.

Berliner said it’s now time to hold county government more accountable in that mission.

One bill would require the county’s Department of Permitting Services to establish an Office of Sustainability to monitor and improve its policies for sustainability. Two of the bills would require DEP to come up with a faster and cheaper way to permit solar panels and electric vehicle charging stations.

Another would require the county’s Department of Transportation to contract with an LED lighting company for all county streetlights after its current contract expires.

The package would also require all new commercial buildings to meet existing county standards for Silver LEED certification.

The rest of the package is described in a fact sheet, provided below.

PDF: Berliner Environmental Package, memo and fact sheet

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