The Maryland League of Conservation Voters (LCV) was the first environmental organization to endorse Gov. Wes Moore during the 2022 Democratic primary campaign, and now it’s the first to release an evaluation of his first six months in office.
The group’s overall analysis of the Moore administration’s performance on climate change, environmental justice and environmental stewardship in general was, unsurprisingly, positive. LCV also praised Moore’s hires for key environmental and environmental-adjacent positions within the administration.
But the group also warned that Moore must move with dispatch to fulfill important statewide climate and clean energy goals, and it expressed mild disappointment that the governor has yet to hire a chief sustainability, mitigation and resilience officer for the state to coordinate programs that address climate change.
“The Moore Administration has made swift and encouraging progress on a range of crucial environmental actions during its first six months in office,” Maryland LCV Executive Director Kim Coble said in a statement. “But because of the urgency of climate change and the challenges associated with implementation of the Climate Solutions Now Act, the Administration must now execute an ambitious strategy, including prioritizing access to federal funding, to achieve their stated goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2035.”
The LCV releases an annual environmental scorecard for the General Assembly that is considered the gold standard for measuring lawmakers’ positions on green issues (the national LCV releases a similar annual analysis of congressional votes). And two years ago it offered an assessment of then-Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and his administration.
The new analysis of Moore’s first six months, issued Thursday morning, looked at eight campaign pledges the governor made for his first 100 days in office and assessed how he has done so far:
- The report noted that he has yet to hire a chief climate officer, but said a hire is likely to be announced later this summer. “This was a cornerstone of the Governor’s campaign commitments to the environment and is essential to the longer-term success of a bold climate agenda. To ensure the position can be as successful as possible, we strongly urge that this appointment be a top-level post, reporting directly to the Governor through the Chief of Staff,” LCV wrote.
- On beginning the transition to all clean energy use by 2035, the report showed that the Moore administration has yet to offer a full-blown plan for achieving that goal, but saw progress as Moore increased the state’s targets for offshore wind energy production and signed a bill to create a permanent community solar program in the state. Last week, the Maryland Department of the Environment issued a preliminary analysis of what the state needs to do to achieve its climate goals.
- On his commitment to hire additional staff to begin implementing the Climate Solutions Now Act, the sweeping climate bill the legislature passed in 2022, the LCV found that the legislature reduced Moore’s request for 16 additional staffers to nine, but also noted that the Office of People’s Counsel, which represents Maryland consumers on utility regulatory matters, had a $1.3 million increase to its budget to hire additional experts to fulfill its responsibilities regarding consideration of climate change in its work.
- On his commitment to develop formal partnerships with Maryland’s institutions to more effectively achieve greenhouse gas reduction targets, the LCV found progress through the administration’s new agreement with the University of Maryland Center for Global Sustainability and to boost job training opportunities through the state’s new year-long service program for high school graduates. But the LCV suggested those job training programs can be expanded and that the state can partner with other academic institutions on climate measures.
- On the pledge to maximize the state’s ability to compete for critical federal funding, the environmental group lauded the administration for creating a “Federal Investment Team” with point people from each agency tasked with identifying and applying for federal grants for the state, “it has not approached obtaining federal funds with the urgency and prioritization that is needed.”
- When it comes to prioritizing environmental justice, the LCV praised the administration efforts so far, but also urged Moore to issue an executive order directing all state agencies to develop an environmental justice plan and to examine the effects of proposed regulations on environmental justice and racial equity. The group also wants the administration to develop policies on cumulative impacts of pollution on disadvantaged communities, as Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York recently did.
- LCV was generally supportive of the administration’s moves to reduce carbon emissions from transportation, but said a major dose of funding is necessary to ease the transition to electric vehicles and expand public transit options in the state.
- When it comes to Chesapeake Bay protections, the green group praised the Moore administration for adding more than 60 new positions to clear the backlog of administratively continued water discharge permits and increase inspection and enforcement of water treatment plants and for taking steps to confront invasive species in Bay watersheds. “We urge the Moore Administration to target funding and practices to sectors and locations with the highest impact to water quality. We also urge the Department of the Agriculture to work with stakeholders to promote the transition to sustainable agricultural practices that reduce runoff12 and improve the environment.
LCV also praised several Moore administration members for their work on the environmental front: Secretary of the Environment Serena McIlwain, Secretary of Natural Resources Josh Kurtz, Secretary of Transportation Paul Wiedefeld, Secretary of Agriculture, Kevin Atticks, Secretary of Planning, Rebecca Flora, Secretary of Housing and Community Development Jake Day, Maryland Energy Administrator Paul Pinsky, Public Service Commissioners Fred Hoover, Kumar Barve and Bonnie Suchman, and Critical Area Commission Chair Erik Fisher.
“Because of the urgency and gravity of climate change and the challenges associated with implementation of the Climate Solutions Now Act, the Moore Administration must build on the encouraging progress made during their first six months in office and execute an ambitious strategy, including funding, to achieve their stated goal of 100% clean energy by 2035,” the LCV report concludes. “In the months ahead, the administration needs to take immediate and concrete steps to meet the climate challenges facing Maryland.”