ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland lawmakers gave final approval on Thursday to a sweeping measure aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, sending the bill to Gov. Larry Hogan who called it a “reckless and controversial energy tax bill”.
The Democrats, who control the legislature, voted for the measure with enough time to still be in session to override a veto before lawmakers end their legislative session on April 11, if the Republican governor decides to reject the bill.
Although the measure is not as expansive as originally proposed, it is intended to boost the state’s current goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from 40% of 2006 levels to 60% by 2031. It also sets the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2045 in the state. This means that at least as much carbon would be removed from the atmosphere as is emitted.
The passage of the bill, which stalled last year and was made a priority this session, comes at a time when other states are directing excess funding to projects aimed at slowing climate change.
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom has called for $22 billion in new climate-related projects like school bus electrification over the next five years. Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed a package of bills aimed at tackling climate change last week. New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham included funding for a “climate change office” in her budget proposal.
Maryland legislation takes a variety of steps to reduce emissions, including increasing the state’s electric vehicle fleet and reducing emissions from large buildings.
“This bill takes many, many steps,” said Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Democrat from Prince George’s County who was the bill’s lead sponsor. “So the question before us is, do we want to help shape our future, the history of our state and our planet, or do we want to stay on the sidelines, silent?”
Opponents denounced the cost of the bill, echoing Hogan’s energy tax tag.
“Governor Hogan called this an energy tax when we’re facing a cost of living issue in Maryland and across America, so for those reasons the push is definitely not worth it” , said Sen. Bryan Simonaire, an Anne Arundel County. Republican who is the Senate Minority Leader.
Most buildings in Maryland that are at least 35,000 square feet (3,251 square meters) would be required to reduce carbon emissions. Manufacturing buildings, single-family homes, historic properties and agricultural buildings would be exempt.
The measure would create a “green bank,” called the Climate Catalytic Capital Fund, to invest in projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in low- and moderate-income communities. It would also create a program to help train young people for climate-related jobs and implement emission reduction projects.
Legislation was scaled back from the original proposal under strong opposition from utilities and construction companies, who objected to a provision that would have required newly constructed buildings to use electricity for heat and water heating, rather than fuel oil and natural gas, by 2024. , the State Civil Service Commission will study the impact of building electrification.
Despite the changes, environmental groups have described the measure as a good start towards reducing the emissions that fuel climate change.
In February, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and six other federal agencies released a report that the US coastline will experience sea level rise over the next 30 years as much as during the 20th century, major cities in the East being regularly affected by costly floods even on sunny days.
The report lists Annapolis among cities that already experience “nuisance” flooding during high tides, which will be replaced by several “moderate” floods per year by mid-century, those that cause property damage, the researchers said. .