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By BRIAN COMPERE
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Maryland’s top Democratic gubernatorial candidates would all continue state efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are contributing to climate change and rising sea levels globally and in the Chesapeake Bay.
In interviews with Capital News Service and prepared statements, the candidates said that if elected, they would make it a priority to incentivize the use of alternative energy sources in the state.
Maryland is projected to miss the target for greenhouse gas emissions reduction that were established in 2009’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act. That target requires a 25 percent reduction from 2006 levels by 2020. Without new legislation to increase the use of alternative energy sources, the state is projected to achieve a 16 percent reduction from 2006 levels by 2020.
With 7,700 miles of coastline, Maryland is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels. The Chesapeake Bay is rising at two to three times the rate of worldwide sea levels. It rose more than a foot over the past 100 years and is expected to rise 2 to 5 feet within this century.
A sixth of the state’s population — an estimated 900,000 people — live in neighborhoods likely to be affected by rising sea levels over the next 50 years , according to a CNS analysis of census and U.S. Geological Survey data.
Here are what the three leading Democratic candidates -- Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney General Doug Gansler and Delegate Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery -- told Capital News Service about their plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown
For a coastal state such as Maryland, fighting climate change is a top priority, Brown said in a statement. Brown did not grant a request for an interview.
As lieutenant governor, he is part of an administration that adopted the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act and the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act, which added offshore wind energy to the state’s renewable energy portfolio standard, a program that determines how much of the state’s energy is generated by different sources.
“To meet our objective, we will work together across the public and private sectors, to grow our clean and renewable energy sector, support the development of wind power, improve public transportation, and protect our natural lands,” Brown said in a statement.
The O’Malley-Brown administration also participated in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and set goals for increasing the percentage that renewable energy sources represent in the state’s energy generation portfolio to 20 percent by 2022 — including 2 percent of the state’s energy from solar facilities.
“As Governor, I'll make sure that, together, we achieve our shared goals of countering climate change,” he said in the statement.
Attorney General Doug Gansler
Gansler said the environment has always been his top priority as the state’s attorney general and he has “clearly” been the state’s most aggressive attorney general on environmental issues.
Gansler said he wants to improve air quality and increase the amount of state-produced energy coming from renewable sources. He testified in favor of the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards bill, which would require electricity suppliers in the state to produce an increasing percentage of the state’s power from renewable energy sources.
He said he also wants to use chicken manure as a renewable resource; 500 million pounds of manure could be burned to produce 55 megawatts of power, he said.
“The problem with that, of course, is it’s another smokestack and could arguably contribute to air quality problems,” he said. “Although it would have to have been compliant with the Maryland Clean Air Act, which is the most stringent in the country.”
Gansler said he hopes other states will follow Maryland’s lead on greenhouse gas emission reduction and prioritization of renewable energy sources.
“We shouldn’t be polluting the air, we shouldn’t pollute the water; we don’t own the Chesapeake Bay, we don’t own the air,” Gansler said.
Delegate Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery
Mizeur said she would take further steps to fight climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“Maryland’s environment is interconnected with every piece of our lives. ... Maryland’s next governor is going to face an array of tough decisions in the coming years,” she said.
Like Gansler, Mizeur supports the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards bill, which would require the state to produce 40 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2025.
Mizeur also opposes the proposed Cove Point natural gas export facility, because it would hurt state efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The state has to build alliances with other states to prevent a facility like Cove Point from being built outside the state as well, she said, because sea level rise in this state will be affected by other states’ environmental decisions.
She also wants to replace old wood-burning stoves with Environmental Protection Agency-certified biomass stoves. These stoves, which leave a smaller carbon imprint, present an opportunity for middle- and lower-income residents to burn wood or even corn as a cheaper way to generate energy than installing solar panels or geothermal heating systems, she said.
However, Mizeur said she supports legislation that would reclassify black liquor, a byproduct of papermaking that can be burned as an energy source, to not be considered a renewable energy source because it is not clean and would emit greenhouse gases. She is also against reclassification of trash incineration as a renewable source for the same reason.
“The environmental community knows which candidate has had its back all these years and which ones haven’t,” Mizeur said, noting that she has been endorsed by the Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy group. “And I’m excited to have the opportunity to make Maryland a true leader in fighting climate change, creating clean energy jobs, and cleaning and protecting our natural resources.”