The Maryland Senate on Friday began preliminary discussions on a broad climate action plan that calls for net statewide net greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.
The Climate Solutions Now Act of 2021 aims to reduce Maryland’s global warming pollution to 60% below 2006 levels by the next decade by planting 5 million trees by 2030, electrifying the state government vehicle fleet and constructing more energy efficient school buildings, among other efforts.
After thoroughly examining the bill in four voting sessions last month, the Senate Committee on Education, Health and the Environment nailed on seven amendments for consideration by the Senate.
“Climate change is affecting the whole state, the whole nation, the whole world,” Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), the bill’s main sponsor, said on Friday. “Maryland is probably considered the third most vulnerable because of our coastline, both the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay.”
Senator Robert G. Cassilly (R-Harford) said he apprehended “omnibus plans to solve complex problems”, especially those that require advanced scientific knowledge, and asked if a committee could look into the matter before proceeding. enact anything in law.
But there is already one – the Maryland Commission on Climate Change, which includes Pinsky, people appointed by the governor’s administration, and representatives from environmental groups. The commission advises the governor and the General Assembly on ways to mitigate the impacts of climate change, but their recommendations have not reached the urgency needed to deal with the climate emergency, Pinsky said. The commission’s latest plan called for a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
In addition, the Maryland Department of the Environment published a climate action plan more than a year late.
This sweeping climate action bill is one way to fill that gap, Pinsky said.
The measure also includes a sunset provision in 2025, which means lawmakers can over four years assess whether reduction targets are too fast or too slow and change them accordingly.
When the original 2009 plan to reduce greenhouse gases was due to end in 2016, the legislature realized that a more aggressive plan was needed and increased reduction targets from reducing emissions by 25% by 2020 to reducing emissions by 40% by 2030.
Legislative analysts say it is difficult to calculate the overall costs of the bill’s far-reaching proposals to change government agencies and functions in a greener way.
Part of Pinsky’s bill requires that at least one of the next five schools built in each jurisdiction meet net zero energy needs, through energy efficiency measures, solar panels or geothermal energy. A loan fund would be available to pay for the upfront costs. However, any schools that are not built to achieve net zero energy must be ready to add solar panels at a later date.
Senator Katherine A. Klausmeier (D-Baltimore County) called for a stricter mandate – that all newly built schools be built to be net neutral. Although Pinsky endorsed the idea, he said he wanted to set a reasonable target for each county and allay concerns about the upfront costs of building energy-efficient schools.
“The hope was that at least every county would have a centerpiece to show that it can be done and that it can save money,” Pinsky said.
There are already three net zero school buildings in Maryland: Wilde Lake Middle School in Howard County, which was completed in 2017, and Graceland Park / O’Donnell Heights Middle School and Holabird Academy in Baltimore City, which have opened their doors this school year.
“At the end of the day, it will be savings,” Pinsky said.
Pinsky’s bill would require no more than $ 20 million from the Strategic Energy Investment Fund to help pay for the replacement of the state’s fleet with electric cars and for school buildings to become neutral carbon or solar ready. For tree planting, $ 15 million from the Bay Restoration Fund per year and $ 1.25 million from the Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund would be mandated.
The House Environment Subcommittee has started work on the House cross file Wednesday.
Senate Speaker Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) told a press conference on Friday that he looked forward to seeing climate bills on the floor, which he expects ‘they will be “hotly debated next week”.
“It is the existential crisis that is slowly burning in our midst. This is the thing Maryland needs to be a leader on, ”he said.