Maryland Senate passes measure to fight climate change
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The Maryland Senate voted Friday for a package of steps to fight climate change by planting 5 million trees over 10 years, increasing energy efficient buildings and committing to more electric state vehicle use.
The measure would require the Maryland Department of the Environment to plan to increase the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals from 40% of 2006 levels by 2030 to 60%. It also would require the state to achieve net-zero statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.
Supporters described it as a far-reaching measure to address climate change in a state particularly vulnerable to sea level rise due to its large number of tidal communities.
Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Democrat who sponsored the measure, said stronger action is needed in a state that is starting to see islands disappear in the Chesapeake Bay from rising waters. He also noted that sewer systems are being flooded in severe storms, and farmers on the state’s Eastern Shore are losing acres of crops because of salt water intrusion.
“This is not anything we can ignore,” Pinsky said. “We see — here in Annapolis and in Baltimore — days during flooding, people cannot get to their businesses. It is already starting to affect our economy.”
Opponents, however, focused on a provision that would transfer millions of dollars a year from a fund for bay restoration until fiscal year 2030 to help pay to plant 500,000 trees a year for a decade. They say the money would be redirected from critical infrastructure needs that fight pollution, such as improvements to septic systems.
Sen. Bryan Simonaire, the Senate’s minority leader, said the bill creates a false narrative that Maryland must choose between planting more trees or protecting local sewage projects in communities.
“We don’t believe that it is good policy to divert tens of millions of dollars from the Bay Restoration Fund that are desperately needed to address sewage issues adversely affecting our bay and our communities,” Simonaire, an Anne Arundel County Republican, said.
Pinsky, a Prince George’s County Democrat who chairs the Senate’s environmental committee, countered that the fund is not an infrastructure fund, and he said during debate earlier this week that scientists believe trees are actually better at reducing nitrogen pollution.
The bill also includes provisions to expand solar energy and increase the use of electric vehicles in the state government fleet. It would expand requirements for high-performance buildings to capital projects that are at lest 25% funded by state money. Current requirements apply only to projects that are solely funded with state money.
Josh Kurtz, the executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, praised the legislation.
“Climate change is making the Chesapeake Bay clean-up tougher, and warmer water temperatures are depriving Bay life of oxygen,” Kurtz said in a statement. “Today’s vote by the Maryland Senate shows state leaders are prepared to face this threat head-on.”