Four Maryland lawmakers joined a national network of public officials who support holding corporate polluters accountable for their contributions to the climate crisis.
Delegates Lorig Charkoudian (D-Montgomery), Dana Stein (D-Baltimore County), Vaughn Stewart (D-Montgomery) and Jennifer R. Terrasa (D-Howard) announced Tuesday that they are joining Leaders for Climate Accountability.
By offering campaign, communication and legal support, the organization’s mission is to empower communities and elected officials to make the fossil fuel industry pay for its share of the cost of climate change. Currently, 68 state and local officials from 18 states are a part of the group.
“I am pleased to join Leaders for Climate Accountability,” Charkoudian said in an email to Maryland Matters. “State and local governments, individual constituents, and Maryland small businesses are paying a high price in infrastructure, health, flooding, and other climate change related costs.”
“The fossil fuel industry knew for decades that their products caused climate change, and they lied to the public and actively promoted disinformation to protect their profits. Now we must hold those companies accountable and have them pay for the damages caused by fossil fuels on our climate and in our communities,” she continued.
Charkoudian has a slate of bills addressing the climate crisis this year, including House Bill 298, which would require the Maryland Public Service Commission, the state’s utility regulator, to consider the effect of climate change while reviewing applications for new generating facilities.
Another bill from Charkoudian would require the PSC to provide energy efficiency programs to low-income residents. And House Bill 264 would require some grocery stores and restaurants to divert large amounts of food waste from landfills through donation programs or composting.
Stewart said that joining the organization was personal to him because Monsanto, an agricultural biotechnology company, “poisoned” his hometown in Alabama through PCB toxins in the air and water. This made residents more susceptible to illness, including Stewart himself, who said he had cancer twice at a young age probably because of those toxins.
“We need to start thinking about the fossil fuel industry as not just energy suppliers, but as polluters, because in a lot of ways, they are really no different than the industrial polluters of the 20th century, or even the 19th century,” he told Maryland Matters.
The fossil fuel industry “lied to the public to protect their own profit margins and now, Maryland taxpayers are paying,” he continued.
Stein is sponsoring a sweeping climate action bill, which would require the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60% and plant 5 million trees by 2030. The crossfile of the bill passed the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee last month and advanced through the Senate Budget and Tax Committee on Tuesday.
“I support the group’s mission of holding polluters accountable for their role in contributing to climate change,” Stein said.
Terrasa is sponsoring a bill that authorizes the state attorney general to defend lawsuits holding businesses accountable for their negative contributions to climate change, including through fraud and deception.
Terrasa’s bill will be heard next Wednesday.