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ELI Releases “Legal Toolbox” to Help Maryland and Virginia Deploy Green Infrastructure Against Flooding, Water Quality Threats in a Changing Climate

August 2017

Washington, DC: The current legal framework in Maryland and Virginia offers state and local officials opportunities to establish green infrastructure siting guidelines for stormwater management, according to a new report released today by the Environmental Law Institute (ELI). In Green Infrastructure for Chesapeake Stormwater Management: Legal Tools for Climate Resilient Siting, ELI explains how stakeholders in both states can use existing laws and regulations to site green infrastructure projects in locations that maximize their resilience to a changing climate while expanding communities’ capacity to handle projected increases in stormwater runoff.

“Many localities are looking to green infrastructure as a solution, and many have already prepared or initiated climate resiliency and adaptation plans,” observed ELI President Scott Fulton. “Yet none have taken the innovative step of merging the two—incorporating climate change resiliency strategies into siting green infrastructure for stormwater management.”

One of the greatest impacts of climate change on the Chesapeake Bay watershed will be stormwater management. The Chesapeake region is in the position to take national leadership on the issue of climate change impacts to our vulnerable coastal communities. Rather than resorting to retreat, or relying on conventional stormwater strategies already proving ineffective, the people of Maryland and Virginia have an opportunity to demonstrate their resiliency in the face of change.

The report, funded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust, examines and addresses the potential legal obstacles and describes the most promising pathways within the existing legal framework. For state and municipal leaders looking to go even further, the report recommends specific actions that legislative and regulatory bodies can take to modify the current stormwater management regime so as to more easily incorporate pragmatic consideration of climate change impacts.

The report is available at https://www.eli.org/research-report/green-infrastructure-chesapeake-stormwater-management-legal-tools-climate-resilient-siting. A fact sheet provides additional detail on key findings of the report.