Sitting outside along the Baltimore waterfront Thursday evening, a group of environmental leaders said Maryland should invest in climate change solutions for the abundant jobs they will create and for the well-being of the next generation.
Jeff Eckel, chief executive officer of Hannon Armstrong, a publicly-traded company based in Annapolis dedicated to investments in green energy, talked about how many jobs are created every time his company invests in an energy or environmental restoration project.
“We’re creating jobs in Annapolis that didn’t exist five years, 10 years ago,” Eckel said during a panel discussion at the annual awards dinner for the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, an environmental advocacy organization. “And you’re going to have a lot more in five to 10 years because of the offshore wind resources in the Mid-Atlantic.”
“A constructive political background in Maryland is very helpful for job creation in Maryland — there is a reason things are happening in Maryland and perhaps not in Virginia,” he continued.
He lauded the Comprehensive Conservation Finance Act, which did not pass during the 2021 legislative session but would have expanded opportunities for state agencies to obtain private investment for environmental projects, such as for restoration efforts and building green infrastructure. “Private sectors are just ready to go,” he said. “We’re going to save people money and create jobs.”
The emerging alliance between the green energy industry and environmental advocates was on vivid display at the LCV fundraiser Thursday, which took place in Fells Point, at the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park, and political leaders were eager to be associated with both. Five of the Democratic candidates were on hand, along with both Democratic candidates for state comptroller, Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles, and scores of state legislators and local elected officials.
David Hardy, chief executive officer of Ørsted Offshore North America, said making climate investments allowed the Danish company, which has been in business for three decades, to become one of the largest sustainable energy companies in the world and help create a transition for middle class Americans into a new industry.
Individuals can help drive the energy transition by demanding green electricity from big consumer brands they buy from, he continued.
Sacoby Wilson, associate professor of environmental health at the University of Maryland and an environmental justice advocate, talked about the work that Maryland still has to do to eliminate gas pipelines and mitigate toxic emissions from chicken farming. Communities living close to sources of pollution have higher rates of asthma, cancer, birth defects and lower life expectancy, Wilson said.
Individuals should be working with environmental justice and climate groups that are working on the front lines. “Those voices are not heard enough,” he said.
“We’re not going to be able to address climate change if we don’t address racial inequity,” he said.
Sen. Cory V. McCray (D-Baltimore City) said Maryland should invest in finding climate solutions for members of the next generation, who are more environmentally conscious and are watching leaders who do the right thing — or take the wrong action. “Each and every one of us has a responsibility to leave this place better,” McCray said.
McCray was recognized as the “legislator of the year” by Maryland LCV for his bill during the 2021 legislative session that would have dramatically boosted spending on the state’s existing bus and rail system. It passed the General Assembly but was vetoed by Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R).
Several speakers exhorted the 300 people in attendance to help ensure that the legislature overrides the governor’s veto.
Kim Coble, the executive director of Maryland LCV, summarized reasons Marylanders said solving the climate crisis was important. “‘It’s personal.’ ‘It’s urgent.’ ‘It’s about our children.’ ‘It’s about creating jobs.’ ‘It takes passion.’ ‘We have to address racial injustice if we’re going to address climate,’” she said. “We have to be true believers.”