Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) signed an executive order Wednesday designed to promote clean and renewable energy projects in the state.
Executive Order 01.01.2019.09, establishes the Governor’s Task Force on Renewable Energy Development and Siting, which will work to develop consensus-based recommendations on the siting of new solar and wind energy projects in the state.
Hogan’s executive order is substantially similar to legislation from the last General Assembly session, which would have created a task force to explore siting of solar installations in the state. That legislation, sponsored by Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Chairman Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s) and Del. Dana Stein (D-Baltimore County), passed unanimously in the Senate but did not get a hearing in the House.
In a controversial case, Maryland’s Court of Appeals ruled last month that the Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities in the state, should have jurisdiction over where large energy projects should be sited, rather than local governments.
To jumpstart the process over site selection guidelines, the governor announced new initiatives Wednesday aimed at advancing solar energy deployment and development on state-managed and -owned properties:
- The Maryland Department of General Services, along with the Maryland Environmental Service, will conduct a first-time assessment and inventory of state properties that could be utilized for solar energy.
- The state is pledging an additional $4 million in grants to aid large public institutions, including community colleges and universities, to deploy solar arrays on existing infrastructure—such as parking lots and rooftops—while encouraging state agencies to incorporate solar energy into any future construction.
“These innovative initiatives will provide millions of dollars in benefits to Marylanders and lower energy and maintenance costs, all while creating clean energy and green jobs opportunities,” Hogan said in a statement.
The Governor’s Task Force on Renewable Energy Development and Siting will include stakeholders from state agencies along with representatives of Maryland’s agriculture community, local government, as well as the solar and wind energy sectors.
The task force will be chaired by former Washington County Commissioners president Greg Snook (R), who currently serves on the boards of Hagerstown Community College, Meritus Medical Center, and Maryland State Roads Commission. Snook is the president and CEO of the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation.
The Hogan administration said the task force will seek to accelerate clean and renewable energy projects while minimizing and mitigating the impact on agriculturally or ecologically important, sensitive, and valuable areas.
The task force is being asked to submit its initial findings in December 2019, with final recommendations due within a year.
But one environmental leader said green groups appear to be cut out of the process.
“The only distinguishing feature we can find [between the bill and the executive order] is that [Hogan] removed participation from environmental or land use organizations,” Joshua Tulkin, Maryland director, said in an email to Maryland Matters. “Which may explain why Sierra Club, and other environmental organizations, were not consulted.”
In May, while letting the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which passed through the legislature this year with substantial support from green groups, become law without his signature, Hogan said he would introduce a proposal to put Maryland on a path to 100% clean electricity by 2040. The governor said he plans to submit the Clean and Renewable Energy Standard (CARES) plan to the General Assembly on the first day of the 2020 legislative session.
“We are pleased by Gov. Hogan’s commitment to expanding clean, renewable energy in Maryland and making our state a leader in confronting the global threats of climate change,” said Chuck Porcari, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters’ interim executive director. “We hope that as part of his task force he will engage with all the stakeholders on the challenging issues around solar siting, including the environmental community who led the charge on passing the 2019 Clean Energy Jobs Act.”