By KATE ELIZABETH QUERAM, Capital News Service
ANNAPOLIS (Jan. 23, 2008) - Several hundred environmental activists flocked to a plaza across from the State House in the snow last Thursday to rally support for the Global Warming Solutions Act, slated to be introduced in the Senate this week.
If passed, the bill would call for the strictest greenhouse gas emission reductions in Maryland's history, continuing the General Assembly's aggressive moves to curb pollution in the state.
Greenhouse gases are those that contribute to the heating of the planet - carbon dioxide or methane, for example. Human activities, such as driving cars that burn fossil fuels or the creation of landfills, increase the levels of naturally occurring greenhouse gas emissions.
The bill calls for a 25 percent reduction in 2006 greenhouse gas emissions in Maryland by 2020, and a 90 percent reduction by 2050. Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George's, along with Delegate Kumar Barve, D-Montgomery, first introduced the bill last year, but it was defeated in committee.
David Kahn, Pinsky's legislative aide, thought the bill got lost amid several environmental initiatives last year, including one that required stricter automobile emissions standards. "But we think it has a very good chance of passing this session," Kahn said.
Supporters of the bill, both Maryland residents and state legislators, share Kahn's optimism. Those present on Lawyer's Mall Thursday cheered and waved signs as 16 legislators walked a green carpet to sign on as co-sponsors to Barve and Pinsky's bill.
The issue of global warming is especially relevant to Maryland, as its 3,100 miles of coastline make it "the third most vulnerable state to sea level rise," said Claire Douglass of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the event's master of ceremonies.
Pinsky echoed those remarks, taking the podium amid shouts of "You're the man, Paul!"
"I don't care how big a wall you build at the beachhead in Ocean City," Pinsky told the crowd. "It won't stop the water from affecting tourism. If there's any sand left, people can put their heads in it, ignore this, and hope it goes away, but it means sentencing our children and grandchildren to a difficult life."
The bill doesn't outline specific strategies for reducing gas emissions, instead delegating the responsibilities to state agencies, Kahn said, which legislators may prefer since it doesn't tie them to specific solutions.
Brad Heavner, state director for Environment Maryland, who spoke at the rally, said it's difficult to compare environmental laws among states, but if passed, the legislation would be "among the best" in the nation - which would hopefully motivate other states and countries to follow suit.
Some legislators, including Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Garrett, remain dubious about such claims.
"I just think this kind of an effort needs to be a national effort - by the federal government," Edwards said. "Maryland, as small as we are, you can beat your chest and say we did this, everybody's going to follow us - we're not California. When they do something, it impacts a lot more than Maryland does. I think we need to be concerned about the environment, but the bigger slice of land you get involved, the better it is, and we, Maryland, just by ourselves, aren't going to do it."