Opinion: Md.’s Clean Energy, Transportation Bills Set Stage for Thriving, Low-Carbon Economy

In May, Gov. Larry Hogan announced that he would allow two key clean energy and transportation bills to take effect. The bills will help Maryland unlock a clean energy future.

Alarming new data and careful scientific studies reiterate that we must take bold and immediate action to tackle climate change. Businesses are already heeding this call by investing in clean energy and setting bold emissions reduction targets. However, business action alone is not enough. We need smart policy solutions from all levels of government.

This session, a bipartisan group of Maryland lawmakers approved two ambitious bills aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing the impacts of climate change. These bills — the Clean Energy Jobs Act and the Regional Transportation and Climate Protection Act — would help to curb carbon emissions from Maryland’s power plants and transportation sector.

The Clean Energy Jobs Act sets a target for 50 percent of the state’s electricity generation to come from renewables by 2030 and commits the state to examine pathways to achieve 100 percent clean power by 2040. It would also jumpstart Maryland’s offshore wind industry by incentivizing 1,200 megawatts of new clean energy generation along the coasts.

Maryland’s current law requires utilities to achieve 25 percent renewable energy by 2020 and has attracted more than $2.3 billion in investment and has created more than $6.4 billion in net economic benefit. Utilities are on track to meet this goal by the end of next year. Now is the time to ramp up this commitment to continue driving clean energy investments in the state. This new law is an important step in the right direction. Gov. Hogan also outlined a 100 percent clean energy proposal that we look forward to seeing next year.

The Regional Transportation and Climate Protection Act provides legal support to the governor for advancing the goals of the Transportation and Climate Initiative — a regional program to reduce climate pollution from the transportation sector.

Transportation is the largest source of emissions in Maryland and the U.S., outpacing pollution from power plants. This shift is partly the result of robust policies to expand renewable energy and energy efficiency, but we must do more in the transportation sector, where our policy framework is sorely lacking.

In 2018, the Hogan administration, along with eight other states and the District of Columbia, announced that they would spend the coming year developing a regional market-based policy to reduce emissions from transportation. No single state can tackle its transportation challenges alone but working together the region can foster economic growth and greater investment.

Our region already has a track record of success when it comes to tackling emissions through collaboration. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative — the nation’s first multi-state carbon pricing effort to reduce carbon pollution from power plants — has generated over half a billion dollars for Maryland since 2009. The region has an opportunity to create a similar program for the transportation sector, which could help meet state-level climate goals while potentially increasing economic growth by over $17 billion and creating 125,000 jobs.

These two bills would also help attract large corporate investments. A growing number of companies — including half of the Fortune 500 — have set public goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and power their facilities with clean energy. Forward-looking policies that support the transition to clean energy and clean transportation provide the right market signals that Maryland is open for business.

We commend Maryland lawmakers and Gov. Hogan for setting the state on a path to build a modern economy, tackle climate change and create a cleaner future for all.

–ALLI GOLD ROBERTS

The writer is the senior manager for state policy at Ceres, a sustainability nonprofit organization working with investors and companies to build leadership and drive solutions throughout the economy.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Although the actions described above are outstanding, I’m at a loss to see how Hogan’s Beltway and 270 Expansion fits in with reducing carbon emissions. At a time when we should be focused on REDUCING automobile and truck traffic, facilitating more traffic and more development doesn’t make any sense. As we all know, as soon as roads are improved, more development follows, which as anyone with eyes in their head has seen increases traffic. How many 270 widenings have there been over the years, and how have they improved traffic? Not at all, since local governments have supported unsustainable amounts of development to proceed. Economic growth and development sounds great, until you realize that if we don’t act sensibly to rein in the climate and extinction crises, there won’t be any economy to grow. Widening roads, along with the associated increased development, not only supports more fossil-fuel burning vehicles, it creates more impervious surfaces, generates more heat from road surfaces, and reduces tree cover and wildlife habitat. This is the wrong direction to take, and Hogan should be roundly criticized for supporting this short-sighted project.

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