Senate Bill Sought 60% Target
A Maryland House of Delegates committee on Thursday approved legislation to increase the state’s 2030 greenhouse gas reduction target to 50% from 2006 levels, an increase from the current 40% goal (HB 583). But the vote disappointed some because the bill is less ambitious than the version the Senate approved March 12, which set the goal at 60% (SB 414).
House Environment and Transportation Committee Chair Kumar Barve (D) said he supported the 50% target because of concerns the Senate goal was unrealistic.
He said he was deferring to Economic Matters Committee Chair Dereck Davis’ (D) expertise on the electric grid and PJM. “He has said he thought 60% was a pretty tall order, and I have to take him at his word there,” Barve said during an Environment Subcommittee meeting Wednesday.
The committee also stripped from the Senate bill requirements that new commercial and residential buildings of 25,000 square feet or more make at least 40% of the roof “solar ready” and that they exceed the energy-use reductions in the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Beginning in 2033, such new buildings would have to achieve a net-zero energy balance under the Senate bill. Also eliminated was a requirement that all new schools be solar-ready or net zero beginning in 2022.
Sen. Paul Pinsky (D), lead sponsor of the Senate bill, toldMaryland Matters he was “extremely disappointed” in the House’s amendments. “They almost gutted the bill,” he said.
Pinsky told Barve’s committee on Wednesday that the bill would prompt more aggressive climate actions from the administration of Gov. Larry Hogan (R), such as requiring purchase of zero-emission vehicles for the state’s 4,000-vehicle fleet beginning in 2027. The Maryland Transportation Administration would be required to purchase zero-emission buses beginning in fiscal 2023.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s been much urgency in the administration,” Pinsky said. “I sat on the [Maryland Commission on Climate Change] for a number of years. They’ve rejected more aggressive actions.”
The bill would also require the Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities to recommend a methodology for identifying communities disproportionately affected by climate change and develop recommendations for improving them.
“The environmental justice commission has been moribund for years,” Pinsky said. “So we include some really explicit charges to jump start them.”
The bill also would:
- create a Just Transition Employment and Retraining Working Group to identify the skills and training required by jobs to counter climate change and strategies for workforce development and job creation for those whose jobs are threatened by the transition to a low-carbon economy;
- set a goal of planting 5 million sustainable native trees in the state by the end of 2030, including at least 500,000 in “underserved” areas;
- allocate Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative auction proceeds exceeding $50 million annually to programs subsidizing zero-emission vehicles, providing loans for net-zero school construction and covering administrative costs for the departments of the Environment and Labor; and
- create a Solar Land Use Commission to make recommendations on how the state can meet its solar goals in the face of restrictions on solar projects on agricultural land.
Barve said the land use commission is needed to address opposition to community solar. “We can’t move to a higher rate of carbon-neutral, carbon-free energy sources without actually producing electrons and doing so in the state of Maryland,” he said.
He said some environmental groups are “trying to have it both ways” in pushing for increased renewables but blocking siting of projects.
In an interview with NetZero Insider, Barve cited Montgomery County Council’s vote in February, which he said “functionally banned” community solar from the county’s 93,000-acre Agricultural Reserve.
“There is just a lot of actions like that around the state of Maryland that causes me to wonder if we’re even going to be able to achieve a 40% goal,” he said during a meeting of the Environment Subcommittee on Wednesday.
Barve also noted that while the amendments reduced the 2030 goal, it eliminated a requirement that the goal be reauthorized in 2025. It also kept the Senate bill’s ultimate target of net-zero statewide GHG emissions by 2045.
California’s 2030 GHG target is identical to Maryland’s current 40%. Massachusetts last month enacted legislation committing to a 50% emission reduction by 2030 but from a base of 1990. (See Mass. Governor Signs NextGen Climate Bill.)
Del. Dana Stein (D), vice chair of the Environment and Transportation Committee and lead sponsor of the House measure, defended the revisions to the building efficiency standards. “We listened to building engineers who said that requiring a net-zero energy standard … was not practical without advances in technology and that decoupling the state from national building codes (such as the IECC) would be challenging to implement,” he wrote in an email outlining ways he said the House improved the Senate bill. “We did not want to mandate building standards for which no modeling has been done.”
He noted that the House bill would require new state buildings (including those in which the state will lease more than 50% of the space) use a high efficiency HVAC system such as geothermal if the net present value over 15 years is less than a standard HVAC system. It also requires state agencies to give a price preference for concrete produced with lower GHG emissions.
Del. Ann Healey (D) asked Pinsky about organized labor’s opposition to the bill.
Pinsky said it was impossible to estimate the impact of the clean energy transition on labor without the study by the transition work group.
“While I know labor doesn’t support it and they are concerned, I think they understand changes are coming and they want to be at the table. And that’s, at this point, what I can do,” Pinsky said.
Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles endorsed the House’s amendments, saying it “codifies into law the science-based, ambitious and broadly supported goals and recommendations of Maryland’s independent Commission on Climate Change and the administration’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan released earlier this year. By elevating the plan to enforceable law with urgent requirements and visionary goals, we would demonstrate that Maryland continues to be a national leader with real and achievable commitments to dramatically reduce greenhouse gases and increase climate resiliency and environmental justice.”
Jamie DeMarco, federal and Maryland policy director for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, told the Environment Subcommittee on Wednesday that his group supported the amendments to ensure speedy passage through the House. Sine Die, the last day of the General Assembly’s 90-day session, is April 12.
“We’re only just seeing the amendments today so we … haven’t had a chance to go through all of them,” he said. “I hope we can continue this conversation as we go forward and possibly in conference committee.”
Asked whether the two differing bills would be resolved in a conference committee, Barve responded: “There’s going to be discussions between us and the Senate before Sine Die, let’s put it that way.”
In the interim, he predicted, “there’s going to be much wailing and gnashing of teeth” over the bill.