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Commentary Energy & Environment

Commentary: Md. can lead the transition away from fossil fuels

Baltimore Department of Transportation workers help residents fill sandbags ahead of a wet storm in October 2021 that led to flooding in the city. Baltimore DOT photo.

By Susan Stevens Miller

The writer is an attorney with Earthjustice.

The energy sector is profoundly transitioning away from toxic fossil fuels to clean renewable energy, and Maryland is among the states that can lead it there.

In 2022, the Maryland General Assembly passed comprehensive legislation, the Climate Solutions Now Act, that sets the state’s admirable goals of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 60% from 2006 levels by 2031, achieving 100% clean energy by 2035, and reaching net zero emissions by 2045. Still, such ambitions are not self-executing. While various groups have laid the groundwork for Maryland’s energy goals, it is ultimately up to the state’s leaders to take charge and move forward.

Maryland’s electric grid can carry out a major transition to building and vehicle electrification. In fact, the state’s energy experts have already outlined how to do it.

The Maryland Department of the Environment’s plan is a roadmap for transitioning from dirty fossil fuels responsibly by replacing old systems with cleaner ones that save costumers money and don’t release toxic indoor air pollution. According to Maryland’s energy experts, simple building performance standards will allow buildings of 35,000 square feet or larger to reduce their direct greenhouse gas emissions by 20% in just six years. The first step to successfully transitioning Maryland to clean energy is ending new investments in new fossil fuel infrastructure and redirecting that money to electrifying the region.

Maryland’s governor and lawmakers must make it clear, the state’s transition to clean and safe energy practices is a priority. Changes needed to safely transition Maryland to clean energy require serious political capital during the legislative session. There are several bills that could launch Maryland in the right direction.

Buildings using gas pipes and appliances pose a risk to people. Gas leaks can cause deadly home or school explosions. Gas stoves, even when they are not in use, can give off harmful air pollution that worsens people’s breathing. Under a comprehensive EmPOWER bill, the state’s Public Service Commission can incentivize greenhouse gas reductions.

Maryland’s lawmakers can ensure a safe transition to clean energy under the Ratepayer Protection Act, which requires any gas infrastructure spending to prioritize safety. Utilities should replace gas pipes most at risk of leaking, rather than replacing every gas pipe to make more money. Modifying the Ratepayer Protection Act’s Strategic Infrastructure Development and Enhancement Plan (STRIDE) to prioritize highest risk pipes could prevent deadly home or school explosions.

Legislators created these two bills alongside stakeholders and community members to help Maryland achieve clean energy. State lawmakers should work toward finalizing and implementing energy standards that safely transition Maryland to clean energy.

The Moore administration and lawmakers can provide the political capital necessary to position Maryland as a catalyst for a clean energy sector. Utilities are aggressively replacing gas pipes because they see the future and it’s not fueled by gas. Reducing Maryland’s dependence on gas not only aligns with the state’s energy goals, but it’s also critical to protecting people and their beloved environments.


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Commentary: Md. can lead the transition away from fossil fuels