The House of Delegates approved a priority climate bill on Saturday, sending the measure back to the Senate for final action on the last day of the General Assembly session on Monday.
The amended Climate Solutions Now Act of 2021 includes a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a level that is 50% lower than it was in 2006 by 2030. The Senate had initially proposed a 60% reduction goal. The bill also calls for net-zero statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, or offsetting the amount of emissions produced and amount removed from the atmosphere by 2045.
To help achieve the more ambitious goal, the bill also proposes planting 5 million trees, electrifying the state government’s vehicle fleet and requiring carbon reduction practices for newly constructed buildings.
Del. Dana L. Stein (D-Baltimore County) clarified that this bill would not shut down coal fired power plants, but would require statewide strategies to offset the carbon emissions from those plants, such as through tree sequestration.
Del. Mark N. Fisher (R-Calvert) advocated for nuclear power as a way to respond to the climate emergency, arguing that it is superior to other energy sources, including solar panels, which must be retired in 25 years. The Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant lies in his district.
Stein said the bill is “agnostic” about nuclear power, as it plays a significant role in reducing carbon emissions in the state. The main issue with nuclear, however, is that it’s expensive, said Del. Kumar P. Barve (D-Montgomery), chair of the Environment and Transportation committee.
The Climate Solutions Now Act also has “relatively little direct impact on solar panels,” Stein said. The bill does include a tax incentive for community solar projects that benefit low- to moderate-income households, he said.
Given the significant cost of the legislation, Del. Haven Shoemaker (R-Carroll) questioned how the state could “unilaterally save the planet while industrialized nations like India and China continue to build power plants.”
Del. Sheila Ruth (D-Baltimore County) argued that the costs of climate change could be “astronomical” if unaddressed. Barve contended “little Maryland” has been and can continue to lead the nation in clean energy and cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.
The Climate Solutions Now Act passed in a 95-41 vote and is poised to go back to the Senate chamber, which can either concur with the House amendments or convene a conference committee to work through discrepancies within the bill.