Purple Line clears federal environmental review

State officials' assessment of the environmental impacts of the proposed Purple Line through suburban Washington satisfies federal environmental standards, the Federal Transit Administration announced this week — an important green light for the project to proceed. The federal clearance is required for federal funding to be spent on the project, as planned, and gives state officials more confidence to begin the long task of acquiring land in the proposed transit line's right-of-way, officials said. (Balt. Sun)

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Harbor Point critic sets up his own air monitoring system

A vocal opponent of the Harbor Point development is setting up his own air monitoring system to assess whether hazardous chemicals are released into the air during construction of the Exelon Tower. With federal and state environmental officials poised to grant approval of the developer’s air monitoring system – thus allowing the Exelon building to break ground – Stelios Spiliadis has arranged for air monitoring equipment to be installed at his boutique hotel, Inn of the Black Olive, across Caroline Street from the site. The baseline readings will be used to assess the amount of dust and hazardous chemicals released during construction of the 650,000-square-foot Exelon building. (Brew)

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Proposed changes to Montgomery County energy benchmarking bill favor building owners

The Montgomery County real estate community’s outpouring of concern about a proposed energy benchmarking and auditing bill has spurred some drastic changes in the private sector’s favor. In January, Councilman Roger Berliner, D-District 1, introduced a package of “green” bills aimed at driving the private sector to improve the energy efficiency of its real estate. One of those bills, as currently drafted, includes an energy benchmarking requirement that kicks in almost immediately for the largest residential and commercial buildings, as well as a mandate that property owners have their buildings audited and retro-commissioned to encourage less energy consumption. But in response to opposition and calls for study, Berliner is poised to make a series of key amendments to his bill — delaying the first private benchmarking submissions by at least 18 months, applying benchmarking requirements only to nonresidential buildings, eliminating the energy audit and retro-commissioning mandate, and creating a benchmarking work group. (Wash. Bus. Journal)

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Proposed CSX cargo facility causing friction

City and state officials are re-evaluating their approach to a proposed railroad cargo facility in Southwest Baltimore, acknowledging that their initial response to community concerns fell flat. The public backlash stalled the CSX Corp. project, which is nearly a year behind schedule, and created tension between local officials, who are collaborating on bringing a project considered critical to the port of Baltimore to fruition, according to interviews and internal email. (Balt. Sun)

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Sinclair Broadcast could be forced to sell assets under proposed FCC rules

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. is one of several large broadcasters that could be forced to sell television stations or other assets or rethink future acquisitions under new media ownership rules the Federal Communications Commission is set to consider later this month. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed changes that would restrict the number of TV stations controlled by a single owner in a market, a step designed to protect competition and diversity in local media. Specifically, the FCC is examining broadcasters' use of sharing arrangements for sales as well as facilities and employees. (Balt. Sun)

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March 21 // 'Ban the Box' legislation under fire

An influential business group is waging a last-minute effort to derail legislation aimed at helping ex-offenders find work in Baltimore, arguing that the measure would drive jobs from the city. The Greater Baltimore Committee has asked the City Council to delay action on the bill, due for a final vote as early as Monday, until its impact on job creation can be fully evaluated. The legislation would bar most businesses from performing a criminal background check on a potential employee until the applicant has completed the interview process and a conditional job offer has been made. (Balt. Sun)

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Washington County delegate sponsors bill that would alter engineering contracts

Some Maryland construction contracts require engineering, architectural and construction firms to pay defense costs resulting from injury or loss claims because of the negligence of their clients, or instances in which the client might be solely responsible for such a claim. Although a firm is free to refuse such contracts, many smaller companies sign on because of competition to get contracts or the obscure language in them, according to Christopher Costello, a spokesman for the American Council of Engineering Companies, Maryland. A bill sponsored by Del. Neil Parrott, R-Washington — which has received unanimous approval from the House of Delegates and is headed to the Senate — would make such requirements in the contracts unenforceable. (Herald-Mail)

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Purple Line receives federal environmental approval, allowing condemnations to begin

Federal officials have approved an environmental study for a proposed 16-mile Purple Line in the Maryland suburbs, a milestone that allows the state to begin condemning private property for the light-rail line’s construction, Maryland officials said Thursday. The approval, called a “record of decision,” also sets the clock ticking on potential lawsuits, which must be filed within 150 days. (Wash. Post)

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