Changing of the Guard: Horacio Tablada to Replace Grumbles as State Environment Chief

John R. Griffin, left, who served as Natural Resources secretary under former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), confers with Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles at a Maryland League of Conservation Voters fundraiser. Photo by Josh Kurtz.

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) announced on Monday that Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Environment Horacio Tablada will succeed current Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles starting June 1.

Grumbles is leaving to become executive director of the Environmental Council of the States, a national nonprofit, nonpartisan association of state and territorial environmental commissioners based in Washington, DC Grumbles has served as the environment secretary since Hogan took office in 2015, making him the longest serving environment secretary in state’s history, according to a Hogan administration news release.

“Horacio Tablada has committed his career to serving the public and protecting the environment and public health,” Hogan said in a statement. “He will lead MDE’s ongoing work to protect and restore the environment, including the Chesapeake Bay, boost jobs and our economy through the safe redevelopment of brownfields, and help the state achieve its climate goals through partnerships.”

This change comes as Hogan wraps up his second term as the governor next January and an increasing number of high-ranking administration officials begin to move on.

Incoming Maryland Environment Secretary Horacio Tablada. Maryland Department of the Environment photo.

Tablada has worked for the Maryland Department of the Environment for the last three decades, starting out in the department’s environmental regulatory programs in 1985 and later as the director of the department’s Land Management Administration and then eventually as deputy secretary starting in 2015.

“I look forward to serving the citizens of Maryland and continuing to advance the science-based policies that have resulted in cleaner air, a cleaner Chesapeake Bay, sustainable and restored properties and protection of our children from lead poisoning,” Tablada said in a statement .

Tablada is a native of Nicaragua who came to the United States in 1975. He and his wife live in Elkridge. They have three grown children and one grandchild.

Grumbles has been the Hogan administration’s leading ambassador to the environmental community, though they have not always seen eye-to-eye. He recently faced criticism from environmental advocates and lawmakers for his department’s enforcement and understaffing issues, following concerns about the state’s drinking water systems and a backlog of expired water quality permits.

Last month, the General Assembly passed sweeping climate change legislation that sets a goal for the state to reduce its carbon emissions to 60% below 2006 levels and be carbon neutral by 2045. This goal will be partially met by requiring owners of large buildings to significantly reduce their use of fossil fuels starting in 2030.

In response to the backlog of so-called “zombie permits,” referring to the period after a permit expires and before a new one is issued, the legislature also passed a bill requiring MDE to clear the backlog of these permits by 2026 and inspect each facility that is in significant noncompliance with its water quality permit once a month starting in July. The agency will also be required to inspect facilities operating under “zombie permits” once every 90 days.

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