Senate President weighs in on BGE controversy
State Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) and the delegates from his legislative district are weighing in on the raging controversy over Baltimore Gas & Electric Co.’s installation of natural gas regulators outside homes throughout the city.
With a Public Service Commission hearing on complaints about the initiative scheduled for next month, the lawmakers wrote Monday to Fred Hoover, the new PSC chair, urging the commission to objectively consider residents’ concerns and not just rely on information provided by BGE.
A group of Baltimore homeowners sued BGE over the placement of the regulators earlier this month, arguing that moving the equipment from inside homes to outside locations is unsafe and unreliable, and that the devices clash with the historic nature of many of the buildings around the city. The homeowners are seeking a moratorium on the installation devices — and a Baltimore judge has granted one through Sept. 5, unless the homeowner has consented to make the switch.
BGE has argued that exterior regulators are more efficient and that installing them outside reduces the risk of gas leaking into homes.
In their letter to Hoover, Ferguson and Dels. Luke H. Clippinger (D), Mark Edelson (D) and Robbyn T. Lewis (D) assert that their constituents are raising “legitimate concerns” about the safety and aesthetics of the devices. They also expressed concerns about BGE’s use of “aggressive tactics” to win consent for the installation of the regulators while the restraining order is in place.
The lawmakers said that while they are “perplexed” it took the PSC two years to schedule a hearing to air residents’ concerns, they are hopeful that the Aug. 15 session will lead to meaningful action by the commission.
“This hearing will provide residents an opportunity to share their concerns on the record and in the context of consumer protection,” they wrote. “We hope it will be quickly followed by an impartial and well-reasoned decision by the Commission based on the independent research of the PSC’s experts, not solely those of BGE. The uncertainty that has existed over these last two years on the balance between safety and aesthetics can only be resolved by the PSC’s regulatory process. Ultimately, our constituents deserve clarity from the State-level regulatory body responsible for overseeing our utilities, as well as from BGE, the company that delivers their energy.”
RAISE money for trails in D.C. region
Federal officials traveled to Maryland on Monday to announce a $25 million investment for transportation projects and enhanced paved trails throughout the D.C. region.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) submitted an application to receive the grant on behalf of not only the county’s Parks and Recreation Department, but also its neighbors in Montgomery County and Washington, D.C.
The money will help with six projects along areas such as the Suitland Parkway Trail, Sligo Creek Trail and Anacostia Riverwalk Trail.
The grant comes from Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program that’s managed by the U.S. Department of Transportation to build or repair road, rail, transit and port infrastructure.
In Prince George’s, part of the work will be along the Blue Line Corridor, where the Maryland Stadium Authority will oversee nearly $400 million in investments to renovate an area which includes FedEx Field, home of the Washington Commanders.
“The RAISE grant that we are announcing today is the latest step in realizing the Blue Line Corridor,” Alsobrooks said near the Addison Road-Seat Pleasant Metro station in Capitol Heights. “I want to thank our federal, state and regional partners for their shared commitment to improvement the quality of life for our residents and helping make our county and region more walkable and bikeable.”
A summary of the project includes eight miles of trail rehabilitation, seven miles of new construction and other safety improvements. In addition, the grant will enhance recreational and economic opportunities in the region for 53,000 workers who reside within a half mile of the trails and improve trail access for nearly 300,000 residents.
“This project stands on its own merits,” said Shailen Bhatt, who was confirmed in December by the U.S. Senate to head the Federal Highway Administration. “The president often talks about investing in America. This to me is a critical project that when we’re done, will have a biking and walking connection with transit. It won’t just be about getting cars more quickly from place to place, but it will be about moving people. Maryland is a key mover in this space.”
The trails are part of the Capital Trails Coalition, a group of public and private organizations and volunteers working to help secure work to complete a more than 900-mile trail network that will also connect with pathways in Northern Virginia. The goal is to serve nearly four million residents annually, support more than 16,000 jobs in a 25-year period and improve quality of life with an annual savings of $517 million toward public health.
“The more people we can get out of their cars and walking and biking to work, the better we are all. When you get more folks off the road, it does relieve traffic congestion as well,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland). “This [project] is a big, big, win, win, win.”
Moore heads west for more fundraising
Gov. Wes Moore (D) heads to the West Coast this week for more fundraising for the Democratic Governors Association. The governor is attending the organization’s Summer Policy Conference in Los Angeles.
This is the second time this month the newly elected governor has led fundraising for the association. Two weeks ago, the governor — who is also the finance chair for the DGA — helped raise money for the association during the Sun Valley Conference in Idaho.
The governor is expected to return to Maryland for a televised town hall on Wednesday with WUSA and an appearance on CNN on Thursday.
Transit officials solicit comments on future of Red Line
Maryland Transit Administration officials will solicit feedback on early concepts as part of its effort to resurrect the Red Line east-west transit project in Baltimore.
Moore announced in June that the state was moving forward with plans to build an east-west transportation line that could connect east Baltimore to portions of western Baltimore County. Former Gov. Larry Hogan (R) canceled the proposed Red Line light rail project in June 2015.
It is unclear if the project promised by Moore on the campaign trail will be a light rail line or another mode of transit.
The first of seven meetings are scheduled for Wednesday, July 26, at Harcum Hall at St. Bernardine Church, 614 Mt. Holly Street in Baltimore. Six more meetings are scheduled between July 27 and Aug. 1.
President Joe Biden on Monday named a former top aide to U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-5th) as his new legislative director.
Shuwanza Goff, who served as the floor director of the House of Representatives when Hoyer was majority leader, will become assistant to the president and director of the Office of Legislative Affairs.
She moved from Hoyer’s staff to the White House legislative affairs shop when Biden took office in early 2021, though spent the past four months working for Cornerstone Government Affairs, a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm.
“Shuwanza is a proven leader and trusted voice on both sides of the aisle,” Biden said in a statement Monday. “She returns to the White House with strong relationships across both Chambers, forged over more than a decade on Capitol Hill.
“As my Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs, Shuwanza helped pass monumental pieces of legislation through Congress: from the American Rescue Plan and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, to the Chips and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. Shuwanza’s close partnership with my decades-long friends in the House and Senate, and her expertise, instincts and deep respect for the United States Congress will continue to serve our Administration and the American people well.”
Just as Goff made history with Hoyer when she became the first Black woman to serve as House floor leader, she’s making history as the first Black woman to serve as a White House legislative affairs director.
Hoyer, in a statement, said he was “elated” by Goff’s appointment.
“Shuwanza has built and maintained close relationships with Members and staff on both sides of the aisle and of the Capitol rotunda,” he said. “Even those with different politics respect Shuwanza for her trustworthiness and pragmatism.”