An Updated Maryland Violations Tracker
Chesapeake Legal Alliance was founded on the belief that anyone’s environmental concerns are worthy of attention. CLA’s network of more than 250 pro bono attorneys was established to serve the many and varied needs of residents throughout the 64,000 square miles of the Chesapeake’s watershed. We know how important it is to meet people where they are – wherever that is.
That is why we created the Maryland Violations Tracker. With the help of the technical wizards at The Commons, we created this tool to unlock the data buried across various datasets on the Maryland State Open Data Portal and integrate them into a single interactive map. We want to make sure every Marylander in every community can better understand their own environment – the permitted facilities, their compliance status, and what the State is doing to resolve any illegal pollution. It is often lamented that the Chesapeake Bay is dying a death by a thousand cuts through the many disparate environmental harms happening throughout the watershed. One of the best tools to restoring the Bay then is to help communities throughout the Bay deal with their own pollution and, by extension, help the Bay.
CLA worked tirelessly over the course of several years to help the Maryland General Assembly pass legislation to require vastly greater transparency at the Maryland Department of the Environment (“MDE”). We work closely with staff at MDE on a routine basis and know the great strides that have been made to digitize their data over the years. The new law simply requires MDE staff to “turn their computers around” and make the new electronic data they hold public facing. But CLA didn’t stop there.
With the enactment and implementation of this new law, we knew that there was a tremendous opportunity to daylight the new digital data that MDE was required to make publicly and electronically available. So, we created this one-stop shop for information on (1) MDE inspections of permitted facilities, (2) a list of those in “significant noncompliance” with the law, and (3) a list of enforcement actions. Importantly, with a couple of clicks, you can even access the actual inspection reports – with photos of any violations! Thus, the tool makes instantaneous a process that used to take months of writing and responding to letters (and the possible payment of extensive fees) through the Public Information Act process.
The Clean Water Act was destined to empower all of us to help implement and enforce the provisions that support the extraordinarily bold and ambitious vision of this bedrock environmental law. In this spirit, CLA hopes to enable all Marylanders to participate in this process and reclaim the rights granted to them by the Clean Water Act by giving them free and instant access to all of the environmental compliance information about their community in easy to use format. Consider it a gift in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act.
But wait, there’s more! We are proud to announce that our partners at The Commons have just completed an update to the tool to make it even more powerful. Previously the Violations Tracker tool had to be manually updated, which limited the number of times that the tool would be refreshed with new information (about every two months). Now, the tool is able to grab new information daily from the various underlying databases. So while the previous iteration of the tool represented a relatively recent snapshot of the situation, the tool is now reflective of all of the information contained in the underlying databases at all times. Plus, it contains a number of features not present in the MDE databases, such as watershed information and environmental justice index scores (based on a combination of demographic and environmental data). We hope that you find this useful. Don’t hesitate to ask us any questions you may have and stay tuned for future webinars and training opportunities!