Maryland PIRG and Environment Maryland have been on the front-lines of energy issues in this state for decades. We focus on what’s best for Marylanders’ health and climate future while calling for consumer protections in energy distribution and generation so ratepayers aren’t left to foot the bill while utility companies and energy generators reap the profits.
One of our top priorities in the 2022 Maryland legislative session was the Climate Solutions Now Act, a bill to reduce pollution that harms our health and worsens climate change. With 3,100 miles of coastline, Maryland is one of the most vulnerable states in the nation to sea level rise. And Baltimore has some of the nation’s highest asthma rates.
This legislation will help bring about cleaner air to breathe, healthier families and a safer climate for us all. After two years of debate, the bill became law earlier this month after Gov. Hogan chose not to veto the bill. Based largely on recommendations from the Hogan administration’s Maryland Commission on Climate Change, the legislation will improve on the state’s current climate goals, setting a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60% for 2031, and a net zero goal for 2045.
The Climate Solutions Now Act offers Maryland policymakers a clear path to reducing harmful emissions that pollute our air and climate, and will help transition our communities to clean, green renewable energy. The new law was championed by Senate Env. Chair Paul Pinksy, House Env. Chair Kumar Barve and House Env. Vice Chair Dana Stein, and will advance specific steps to help make sure more of Maryland’s buildings and transportation are ready to run on clean energy.
Specifically, the legislation will:
- Sets goals for 60% global warming emissions reductions by 2030, and net zero emissions by 2045. These goals are ambitious, but achievable if the state follows through with smart implementation policy.
- Creates a Building Energy Performance Standard for buildings 25,000 sq. ft and larger to reduce emissions from state-owned buildings to net-zero by 2035 and privately-owned buildings to net-zero by 2040, and create a pilot program for net-zero schools. By 2030, all state facilities would have to get at least 75% of their electricity from low– or zero-carbon sources.
- Establish a Building Energy Transition Implementation Task Force to study and make recommendations regarding the reduction of global warming pollution from buildings and retrofits of existing buildings through tax credits, subsidies, and other state support. This Task Force will help move Maryland’s buildings away from polluting fossil fuels like oil and gas and towards electricity powered by clean, renewable energy.
- Help transition state government vehicles, transit buses and school buses to clean, electric vehicles that will improve air quality and reduce climate pollution. The state must electrify its fleet of cars by 2031 and light-duty trucks by 2036. And, it creates a pilot program for school board’s who chose to electrify their buses.
- Incentivise Community Solar for low and moderate income customers through tax incentives.
We have the ability to power our society with 100% renewable energy from the sun, the wind and the warmth of the Earth. One step to realizing that vision is making sure our buildings and transportation are ready to use the renewable energy we harness. This bill is a solid start on both fronts, but there is much work to be done.
A provision of the bill that would have required all new large buildings to use electricity for hot water and heat was removed from the bill even though it was recommended by the Hogan administration’s Maryland Commission on Climate Change. Buildings account for 40 percent of the greenhouse gasses generated in Maryland, so shifting away from fossil fuels in buildings will be a critical step in the process to decarbonize. And in addition to the negative environmental and public health ramifications, this is a particularly significant missed opportunity because investments in gas infrastructure for new buildings may create additional stranded assets that harm Maryland’s utility customers.
Likewise, some local jurisdictions are concerned that a move to strike language in the bill to clearly enable local jurisdictions to enact stricter building emissions regulations could tie up attempts to do so in court.
The bill positions Maryland as a national leader in the movement to avoid the worst effects of climate change and reap immediate benefits for public health and safety. But the only way we will hit the ambitious and achievable goals laid out is with additional laws and regulations to help us get there. We’ll keep working to ensure Maryland’s energy policy is designed to protect public health and the planet while maintaining strong consumer protections for utility customers.
This blog was written by Emily Scarr, Maryland PIRG Director and Johanna Neumann, 100% Renewable Energy Senior Campaign Director with Environment America.
SUPPORT OUR NEXT VICTORY
We’re promoting a bold vision of a greener, healthier world, one powered solely by clean, renewable energy.
Senior Director, Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy, Environment America
Johanna directs strategy and staff for Environment America's energy campaigns at the local, state and national level. In her prior positions, she led the campaign to ban smoking in all Maryland workplaces, helped stop the construction of a new nuclear reactor on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and helped build the support necessary to pass the EmPOWER Maryland Act, which set a goal of reducing the state’s per capita electricity use by 15 percent. She also currently serves on the board of Community Action Works. Johanna lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with her family, where she enjoys growing dahlias, biking and the occasional game of goaltimate.