The Maryland Senate approved a comprehensive climate change bill Monday that seeks to reduce statewide greenhouse gas by 60% from 2006 levels by 2030, purchase zero emission vehicles and establish a youth and young adults in climate justice projects.
The bill labeled “Climate Solutions Now Act” passed by a 32-14 vote, along party lines favored by the Democratic majority, now heads across the hall to the House of Delegates.
Senate Minority Whip Justin Ready (R-Carroll County) said one of the provisions in the bill to retrofit buildings larger than 25,000 square feet would increase demand for limited electric supply and higher costs for renters.
“We are raising energy prices at literally the worst possible time,” he said. “This is going a bridge too far. In a way, it’s going to a bridge to nowhere. There’s no benefit to the overall climate, or to the climate crisis.”
Before his vote, Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-District 22) of University Park who sponsored the legislation called Climate Solutions Now Act, said the legislation doesn’t mention “anything about tax” proposals, a criticism toward Gov. Larry Hogan who called the Senate climate plan “a reckless and controversial energy tax bill.”
Besides Maryland passing several energy initiatives, he said states and major cities passed similar environmental legislation including Washington, Colorado and New York City.
“We can either be part of this movement or stand in the way of this movement,” he said. “Does it go far enough? I don’t believe it does, but it makes a very important step forward.”
A major piece removed from the bill dealt with construction of new buildings for water and space heating systems without the use of fossil fuels.
However, agricultural and historic buildings and public and nonpublic schools would be exempt from emission reduction requirements.
During a public hearing last month before the Senate’s Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, several gas and utility company executives, building and gas representatives and property owners said the bill would decrease jobs and create certain standards not able to be achieved.
Opponents also said a push for new construction of mainly electric-only buildings would increase costs to build infrastructure.
“The Greater Baltimore Committee believes that addressing climate concerns requires commitment from all parties, but the state must set reasonable and attainable goals and acknowledge realistic expectations regarding the cost of compliance for businesses,” said Donald C. Fry, president and CEO of the committee. “Commercial and industrial companies are important economic drivers and job creators in Maryland. Maryland businesses are still struggling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic recession, and adding costly new requirements too quickly could hamper economic growth and job creation.”
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation released a statement and said Monday’s vote represents a step forward.
“While the amended version doesn’t include the important statewide building electrification measures that the state’s analysis has shown is needed, it will make Maryland a leader in electrifying vehicles and state buildings,” said Josh Kurtz, executive director of the foundation. “The legislation also provides a path for environmental justice in communities that have historically been overburdened by pollution. We urge the House of Delegates to approve it and send it to the Governor.”
The House currently has separate environmental bills led by Del. Kumar Barve (D-Montgomery County), who chairs the House’s Environment and Transportation Committee.
Meanwhile, Goucher College released a second poll Tuesday that include whether environmental-related items have a major or minor effect on climate change.
The highest percentage stood at 55% of Marylanders who believe rising sea levels and retreating shorelines are major. In comparison, 27% of respondents said it’s minor and 13% chose no impact.
About 54% of those surveyed believe wildlife has a major effect on climate change. The same percentage of respondents believe extreme weather such as floods, hurricanes and long periods of hot temperatures effect climate change.
Human health received 40% each for minor and major impacts on climate change and 16% not having an impact, according to the poll.
“Everybody in the state knows we’ve had a lot of heavy rain, or usually long periods of hot weather. Those are things that the average person can feel and see,” Mileah Kromer, political science professor and director of the Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics at Goucher College in Towson, said in an interview. “The overwhelmingly majority of Marylanders believe climate change is real and is happening.”