Governor, Legislators Unveil Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gases - Southern Maryland Headline News

Governor, Legislators Unveil Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gases


By ERICH WAGNER

ANNAPOLIS (Jan. 23, 2009)—Gov. Martin O'Malley and two lawmakers announced legislation Friday that would require Maryland to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020.

The bill, sponsored by House Majority Leader Kumar Barve, D-Montgomery, and Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George's, looks to the Maryland Department of the Environment for a plan to meet the emissions reduction target in the allotted time. The department would need to submit the plan by 2011.

The bill also specifies a reevaluation period in 2016 to ensure that the state is on track to meet its goal.

The department's plan would likely include some of the Maryland Commission on Climate Change's 42 recommendations on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which range from energy conservation techniques to developing alternative energy sources.

Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide contribute to the warming of the planet. Human activities, such as driving cars that burn fossil fuels, increase the levels of greenhouse gases.

Some elements of getting to the reduction goal are simply saving electricity through better home construction, Pinsky said.

"Less electricity means less greenhouse gases," he said. "If you put better insulation in homes, with programmable thermostats and better windows, it'll mean savings for people who have to pay their electricity bill."

This reduction in emissions won't break the bank, and would in fact lead to an overall economic gain, Barve said.

"According to the [Maryland Commission on Climate Change], there would be $2 billion in net savings for Maryland," Barve said. "The way most scientists look at this thing is the cheapest electron is the one you don't have to buy."

Any costs that the state may have to pay for developing green energy will be more than reimbursed by the boost to the economy, said Shari Wilson, secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment.

"A lot of job growth would result from new investment in energy conservation and alternative energy," Wilson said.

A similar bill failed in the General Assembly last year because of concerns by manufacturers and labor groups. Leaders are confident that this year's bill will win over past holdouts.

Last year's failure allowed lawmakers and environmentalists to rework the bill into a form all stakeholders would support, O'Malley said. Manufacturers and labor groups previously opposed to the bill have signed a letter in support of the new legislation.

"After working through the year and having those who were opposed to it last year and those who were advocates come together, I think we have a really good bill to put in the legislature this year," O'Malley said.

If Maryland were to pass the bill this session it would have an impact on environmental policy across the country, Wilson said.

"By having this requirement in state statute it signals to the rest of the country that as we switch to a more carbon neutral economy, Maryland is very serious about encouraging investment in energy efficiency and green energy," Wilson said.

Capital News Service contributed to this report.

Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act—Bill Summary

Provided by Gov. O'Malley's Office

Background: Maryland, with more than 3,100 miles of coastline, is the fourth most vulnerable state in the nation to the effects of climate change. Scientists worldwide agree that early carbon reductions of at least 25 percent are necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Early actions now to reduce greenhouse gas pollution will be much cheaper than in the years to come, and by putting the legislation in place, Maryland will be setting the stage for green jobs and business investments in everything from renewable energy to green buildings and home energy efficiency.

Justification: Recent State initiatives, including the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative cap-and-trade program, Clean Cars Act, and Empower Maryland, have put the State on track to reduce greenhouse gases by 12.5 percent—half of the 25 percent reduction goal. These actions, along with the Climate Change Commission’s Climate Action Plan that details 42 options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, demonstrate that this reduction goal is achievable and beneficial. Preliminary estimates indicate that, by 2020, implementation of these forty-two strategies could result in a net economic benefit to the state of approximately $2 billion dollars. A study by the Baltimore-based International Center for Sustainable Development shows that Maryland could create between 144,000 and 326,000 “green collar” and research and development jobs by developing clean energy industries, contributing $5.7 billion in wages and salaries boosting local tax revenues by $973 million and increasing gross state production by $16 billion.

Legislation: The 2009 Greenhouse Gas Reduction legislation would require the following:

· By 2020, Maryland must reduce Statewide greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent from 2006 levels;

· By 2011, MDE must develop a Statewide greenhouse gas emissions inventory, a “business as usual” emissions projection for 2020; and a proposed greenhouse gas emission reduction plan for public comment;

· By 2012, the State must adopt a final greenhouse gas emission reduction plan that includes regulations and a timeline to implement necessary programs;

· The plan must ensure: no loss of manufacturing existing jobs; a net increase in jobs and a net economic benefit, opportunities for new “green” jobs in energy and low carbon technology fields, and no adverse impact on the reliability and affordability of electricity and fuel supplies;

· Preservation of the State’s authority to regulate the manufacturing sector through expansion of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and, in the absence of a federal program, defers other State regulation of manufacturing sector until after the 2016 legislative review;

· By 2015, an independent study of the economic impact of requiring greenhouse gas emission reductions from the manufacturing due to the Governor and General Assembly;

· In 2015, a report to the Governor and General Assembly assessing: progress toward the 25 percent emissions reduction, benefits to the state’s economy, public health, and the environment, any need for further reductions, and the status of any federal greenhouse gas reduction program;

· In 2016, the Legislature will review the progress report, the report on economic impacts on manufacturing sector, the requirements of a federal program, and other information and determine whether to continue, adjust, or eliminate the requirement to achieve a 25 percent reduction by 2020.

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