Hogan Gets Mixed Grades in Green Group’s Report Card

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) campaigned for reelection last year touting his administration’s record on Chesapeake Bay cleanup and climate change.

That didn’t stop leading environmental groups from endorsing his Democratic challenger, Benjamin T. Jealous. But they conceded that his first term had exceeded their expectations – especially in the final two years.

A report released last week by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters outlines Hogan’s policies and priorities that the environmental community likes – and those it doesn’t. It builds on a report card LCV issued in 2017 on Hogan’s first two years in office – and finds considerable improvement.

Still, LCV’s overall verdict for the second half of Hogan’s first term is “mixed.”

“The governor’s performance has improved since our last report card,” said Karla Raettig, the Maryland LCV executive director. “However, given the urgent need, Governor Hogan must demonstrate greater leadership and initiative on fighting climate change.”

The LCV analysis divides Hogan’s record into five categories and 14 subgroups. Hogan gets a “good” grade for his land use and conservation record – though that’s actually a downgrade from the previous report card – and gets a “mixed” grade in the Energy and Climate Change, Administration and Appointments, Water Quality and Democracy categories.

Michael Ricci, a Hogan spokesman, pushed back on the environmental group’s assessment.

“Governor Hogan has a strong record as a true steward of the environment, from slashing greenhouse gas emissions, to strengthening Maryland’s Climate Change Commission, to committing record funding for Chesapeake Bay restoration,” Ricci said in a statement provided to Maryland Matters.

And he took a small dig at LCV: “In recent days, Governor Hogan has spoken at a global climate change conference, and called on Congress to boost funding for Chesapeake Bay cleanup, making the timing of this release – well — mixed.”

Grades differ in the subgroups within the categories:

— On air pollution, the governor gets a “mixed” grade. “We applaud the efforts to begin the process of reducing Baltimore’s poor air quality by addressing the [Baltimore Refuse Energy Systems Co. waste-to-energy] plant, however we can’t ignore his previous actions to ease restrictions on coal fired power plants,” the group writes.

— On the Public Service Commission, the entity whose commissioners are appointed by the governor to regulates utilities, LCV gives Hogan a “good” grade, up from “needs improvement” in the previous report card. LCV said it was “pleased” by the PSC’s decision to approve two wind energy projects in 2017, and also applauded the agency for its openness.

— On climate action, Hogan gets a “mixed” grade, winning praise from LCV for announcing that Maryland would join the U.S. Climate Alliance, a group of states to meeting or exceeding the goals of the U.N.’s Paris climate pact that the Trump administration is trying to demolish. The group also praised him for reiterating the state’s commitment to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – currently chaired by his Environment secretary, Ben Grumbles – and for signing a bill that requires the State Retirement and Pension System to consider climate change when it makes its investments.

“While recognizing these actions on climate change, there is increasing concern that [Hogan] and Maryland state agencies aren’t doing enough to adequately address the causes and growing impacts of climate change through taking active and significant policy initiatives that would drive the state towards addressing the climate crisis – even as the anticipated impacts are becoming more and more dire with each new scientific study/report,” LCV writes.

— In the renewable energy vs. fossil fuel infrastructure subcategory, Hogan gets a “mixed” grade – praised for embracing the effort to ban fracking in the state, but dinged for an “inconsistent” policies on fracked gas infrastructure.

— Hogan’s energy agencies get a “good” grade – an improvement from the previous report cards.

— When it comes to transportation policy, the LCV says Hogan’s record “needs improvement.” The group praises the governor for including Maryland in a regional initiative to cut carbon emissions from the transportation sector, but argues that the administration has “fallen significantly short of its goals” on encouraging the use of electric vehicles, and adds, “Our most serious concern remains Governor Hogan’s commitment to highway funding over public transit.”

— Hogan gets a “mixed” grade for secretarial appointments within his administration. “While we often find ourselves on opposite sides of the table from the Departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture, we continue to respect the leaders as capable and qualified (with caveats related to the forced attrition of several qualified scientists and enforcement staff, especially in the DNR,” LCV writes. But the green group faults the “problematic” leadership at the Department of Planning, which has been led by acting secretaries who have not won Senate confirmation.

— On enforcement, the Hogan administration gets a “poor” grade, as the LCV notes staffing shortages in the Maryland Department of the Environment and other agencies.

— On land preservation and open space, Hogan gets a “good” grade for fully funding Program Open Space. But LCV casts doubt on Hogan’s bid to swap state land in Western Maryland for Oxon Cove and Oxon Hill Farm National Park in Prince George’s County, which he suggested could be used for a football stadium and other development projects.

— On phosphorous management, Hogan gets a “mixed” grade – with LCV suggesting that important steps to monitor and improve the amount of phosphorous running into the Chesapeake Bay are moving too slowly.

— When it comes to management of oyster sanctuaries and the Conowingo Dam, LCV gives the Hogan administration “mixed” grades.

— On regulations, the administration gets a “poor” grade. It faults Hogan for failing to come up with a robust alternative to the prior administration’s septic regulations that it rolled back. “Additionally, we are concerned with the administration’s unwillingness to follow the intent of the General Assembly with regard to antibiotics legislation,” LCV writes.

— Hogan also gets a “poor” grade in the subcategory of election law. But he gets good grades for his commitment to open government and redistricting reform.

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Josh Kurtz
Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.

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