Maryland General Assembly Passes Clean Energy Jobs Act

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE MARYLAND CLIMATE COALITION. Member groups include Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Maryland League of Conservation Voters, Maryland Sierra Club, Interfaith Power & Light DC-MD-VA, Citizens Climate Lobby, SEIU, Moms Clean Air Force, and others.

With veto-proof majorities, the legislation will require 50% renewable electricity by 2030 and creates a pathway to 100% clean energy by 2040.

Senator Brian Feldman (D-Montgomery) led the legislative fight for Maryland’s strongest bill ever to fight climate change.

 

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Today, in a watershed victory for clean energy and climate policy in Maryland, the General Assembly gave final approval to the Clean Energy Jobs Act ( SB 516 ). Both House and Senate chambers provided veto-proof margins: 95-40 in favor in the House and 31-15 in the Senate. This late-breaking bill, sponsored by Senator Brian Feldman (D-Montgomery), is one of the last major issues addressed by the General Assembly this year and was made possible by an immense grassroots push in the final weeks of session. The General Assembly heard that call to action and the bill now goes to Governor Larry Hogan for his signature.

“This bill now makes Maryland a true national leader in the fight against climate change and in favor of clean energy,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and CCAN Action Fund. “But great bills don’t happen without great leaders. Senator Brian Feldman and House Delegate Dereck Davis will be remembered forever as the true founders of a new energy paradigm in this state to create a prosperous, clean economy.”

Feldman was joined in the final days of the session by Davis (D-Prince Georges) in pushing the bill over the finish line. Davis is chair of the powerful House Economic Matters Committee.

The legislation will transform the way electricity is used in the state, making roof-top solar power and utility-scale solar common forms of generation in the coming years. It will also further kickstart the state’s offshore wind industry, with incentives for 1200 megawatts of ocean-based power. The bill increases the state’s renewable electricity standard to 50% of the total grid by 2030 and requires the state to examine pathways for achieving 100% clean power by 2040. The state’s current law is 25% renewable electricity by 2020. Maryland now joins California, Hawaii, New Mexico, DC, New Jersey and a handful of other states at the front of the clean energy movement.

A downside of the bill is that legislators did not succeed in closing a controversial loophole that counts waste incineration as renewable power, allowing the polluting technology to receive the same incentive as clean wind and solar technologies. For the second year in a row the Maryland Senate passed a bill to remove the clean energy subsidy for burning trash; and, for the second year in a row, the House Economic Matters Committee did not move the policy change forward.

“This bill, overall, is a tremendous step forward for our future, but there is still work to be done to protect our communities from pollution,” said Rev. Dellyne Hinton, Chair of the Central Maryland Ecumenical Council. “Maryland currently considers waste incineration renewable energy, yet burning trash for energy creates more climate emissions than burning coal, and releases toxic substances into the lungs of our most vulnerable neighbors. We should not be subsidizing this industry with dollars meant for truly clean energy sources.”

The Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) is the most broadly supported state climate bill in Maryland’s legislative history, with more than 640 community, labor, faith, business, climate, and environmental groups from across Maryland endorsing the proposal as originally introduced. The combined result of the bill will create tens of thousands of new jobs, create billions of dollars in net economic expansion for the state, and invest millions in minority-, women-, and veteran owned clean energy businesses and worker training programs. The pollution reduction benefits equal taking 1.7 million cars off of Maryland roads.

“Maryland must be a leader on this issue: We are already seeing the impacts of climate change as one of the country’s most vulnerable states to rising sea levels,” says Karla Raettig, Executive Director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. “This bill is critical to address climate change at the state level while we still can — and is all the more important since the federal government continues to take little to no action. Our success in moving this legislation as far as we have is thanks to grassroots efforts by concerned citizens of Maryland who recognize that now is the time to double our use of renewable energy over the next 10 years so that we can avoid the worst effects of climate change and also expand jobs, investment and tax revenue in our state.”

“We are thrilled to welcome Maryland to the growing roster of states raising the bar on clean energy,” said Pari Kasotia, Vote Solar’s director of Mid-Atlantic states. “We thank state lawmakers, clean energy advocates, environmental justice leaders, and the many others who have led this multi-year effort to put Maryland on track to a thriving clean energy economy. Today’s vote puts us one step closer to a vibrant future for local jobs, healthy communities, and climate leadership, and we encourage Governor Hogan to immediately sign this important legislation.”

“Today, by passing the Clean Energy Jobs Act, the general assembly showed moral leadership, helping to protect our neighbors and God’s creation from climate change,” said Avery Davis Lamb, Director of Faithful Advocacy of Interfaith Power and Light (DC.MD.NoVA). “The thousands of people of faith who supported this bill can breathe a clean sigh of relief, knowing that our state’s energy is moving toward a renewable future.”

Maryland would invest $17 million in job training in economically distressed regions of the state, and make small minority-, veteran-, and women-owned businesses in clean energy industries eligible to receive dedicated funding for market growth through the state’s “Strategic Energy Investment Fund.” In addition, t he bill contains several provisions to protect ratepayers by capping any related increases in electricity bills at around $1.50 for the average household.

On this issue of waste incineration, Josh Tulkin, Director of the Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club, said, “ This bill includes ambitious and necessary targets for solar and offshore wind but there is still work to be done on our renewable energy programs. Maryland still allows polluting resources like burning trash to qualify as clean energy. Baltimore City and Montgomery County, which are home to Maryland’s two trash-burning incinerators, have made it clear that they want to move away from incineration and toward zero waste. The state needs to back them up and help build a just transition — not hold them back by continuing to prop up polluting facilities.”

The Maryland Climate Coalition and the 660+ groups who endorsed the Clean Energy Jobs Initiative will work on a just transition for workers until we achieve a zero-waste future. This includes phasing out incentives for waste incineration.

The Coalition also acknowledges mixed emotions on the day after House Speaker Michael E. Busch passed away. “Today is a Sine Die like none other,” said Mike Tidwell of CCAN Action Fund. “We are thrilled that this important legislation passed, but are deeply saddened by the loss of Speaker Mike Busch, who did so much to improve the environment in Maryland. We thank him for his service, his integrity, his hard work and his profound impact on Maryland.”

The Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act was sponsored in the House by Delegate Cheryl Glenn (D-45) and in the Senate by Senator Brian Feldman (D-15). The Coalition urges Governor Hogan to sign the bill into law. A recent statewide poll found that Marylanders want our Governor to support the Clean Energy Jobs Act.

The Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) recently commissioned a well-known California think tank, E3, to model this legislation as part of its “exploratory” look at a suite of possible emissions-reduction policies. The report found that increasing our RPS to 50% by 2030 is essential for the state to reach its greenhouse gas reduction targets. MDE also asked Towson University to run the economic impact numbers for the same model. They found net positives across the board on total jobs, GDP and income growth. (See here for the full slides of the E3 report and Towson report ).

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The Maryland Climate Coalition brings together environmental, faith, health, labor, and civic organizations to advance clean energy and climate policies in Maryland. For more information about the Maryland Climate Coalition, visit: http://marylandclimatecoalition.org/.