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  • Writer's picturePhil Webster

It is a New Day for Climate Change Legislation in the Maryland General Assembly

The climate change movement in Maryland is at an interesting crossroads right now. For the past 8 years, we were in an adversarial position with the Governor. Many of the bills that we have supported have come from the position of having to forcing him into implementing Climate Affirming legislation. Now we have a Governor whose positions mirror our own. We clearly want Governor Moore to succeed -- and we must remain vigilant in advocating for Climate Affirming actions.

We have passed many laws including the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013, the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act and subsequent revisions, the 2019 Clean Energy Jobs Act, the Climate Solutions Act of 2022 among so many others. And yet, the greenhouse emissions continue to rise. Why is that?

A great deal of the blame could be directed to former Governor Hogan. He vetoed many bills, some of which were subsequently overridden. And he was an ambivalent implementer of the climate and environmental laws passed by the Legislature. He killed the Red Line in Baltimore and resolutely sought to expand highways throughout the state. We needed an Implementer in Chief and Governor Hogan did not step up to the plate.

In passing the Climate Solutions Now Act one important part of the bill Senator Pinsky proposed was removed. At the insistence of powerful corporate interests, the Building Energy Performance Standards were removed and replaced with a study of the Electric power grid. This allowed the energy companies more time to build out the methane gas infrastructure.

It is clear what will happen, what must happen, if we are to meet the greenhouse gas reductions mandated in the Climate Solutions Now Act. All buildings must be decarbonized. Meanwhile, the expanded gas infrastructure will have to be paid for. The cost of this “stranded asset” will fall disproportionately on low and moderate income families without the means to transition to all-electric homes. And will also fall on tenants who have no control over the heating, hot water, and cooking appliances in their homes. These are disproportionately black and brown families in overburdened and underserved communities.

The adage known as the “Law of Holes” tells us “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging”. The electrical grid study is just more digging. Not moving as quickly as possible to all electric buildings is just more digging.

It is clear we are entering into a period of implementation and the headaches and obstacle which are entailed.

Now for the good news! Wednesday January 19th represented a change! In his Inaugural Address, Governor Moore said:

“We are often told that Climate Change is a problem for the future, or only something that you have to worry about if you live on farmlands or in a flood zone. But climate change is an existential threat, and it is happening now in our communities. Confronting climate change represents another chance for Maryland to lead. We can, and we will be a leader in wind technology, in grid electrification and in clean transit. We will protect our jewel, the Chesapeake Bay and address toxic air pollution that chokes our cities, and we will put Maryland on track to generate 100% clean energy by 2035 and create thousands of jobs in the process. Clean energy will not just be a part of our economy, clean energy will define our economy in Maryland. But that requires everybody, companies, communities, state and local government and the people to take bold and decisive action together.”

With the new Governor, Lt. Governor, Comptroller and increased progressive Assembly membership, the opportunity for progress is great. UULM-MD coalition members are working to provide input to the Governor on implementation details for the Climate Solutions Now Act.

Governor Moore has moved quickly to put his stamp on the climate with two appointments –

· Maryland Energy Administration, (Former Senator) Paul Pinsky

· Maryland Department of the Environment - Serena McIlwain

Both are excellent choices! It is a new day in Maryland Government!

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