Climate change

Climate change bills split to focus in House

As Maryland senators wrestle with a massive overarching bill to zero the state’s carbon footprint, members of the House of Delegates are tackling these climate change issues in four separate bills.

One such bill, requiring the state to gradually convert to an all-electric fleet, has already passed the House. Two others, calling for new construction and for new state-funded buildings to be fully electric, had hearings recently. And one that demands Maryland be carbon neutral by 2045 is scheduled for a committee hearing on Friday.

Of the. Dana Stein, the Montgomery County Democrat co-sponsoring the bills, said splitting them makes sense.

“We decided in the House that we wanted to split our bills so that each bill would be assigned to one committee instead of being assigned jointly to more than one committee,” he explained.

He called it a simpler process.

Environmental activists, who presented an ambitious agenda centered on climate change nearly a month before the start of this year’s General Assembly session, held rallies on Lawyer’s Mall in support of plans to law and lined up to testify on their behalf.

At a hearing this week, Kim Coble, executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, told the House Appropriations Committee that the bill requiring new state buildings to be all-electric should be called Maryland State. Climate Leadership Act.

“It means this is an important goal for our state and we’re going to be leaders in it,” she said. “As Maryland is one of the most educated, well-funded, and wealthiest states in the country, we should be a national leader.”

Chris Parts of the US Green Building Council praised lawmakers for establishing high-performance building standards in 2008, but complained that little had been done since then. He told the committee that Maryland should act now to take advantage of the lower operating costs of all electric buildings.

“Acting under this bill will not only document our buildings’ emissions, but also track our progress towards zero carbon emissions under the legislative target,” he said.

Others, however, worried that the bills would go too far, too fast in committing the state to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Ellen Valentino of Mid Atlantic Petroleum Distributors told the appropriations committee that the bill to make new public buildings all-electric raises safety concerns.

“What happens when the lights go out,” she asked? “And I think that’s a valid question for people to deliberate on. And when the lights go out, you need backup fuel. And that includes fuel oil and propane as well as natural gas.

Jeff Guido of the Baltimore Building Trades Council complained that the Electric Buildings Bill contains no provisions to ensure that workers who move from jobs in fossil fuel companies to work in wind and solar can maintain their standard of living.

“We want the standards to be the going wages with benefits,” he said.

Work on those buildings should be limited to “contractors who have not committed any violations of federal or state wage laws for three years,” he added. And the state should establish a plan “for the outreach and recruitment of Maryland residents in poor and underserved areas of the state.”

Others have said they are in favor of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but they have problems with the bills under consideration.

BGE lobbyists complain in written testimony that the House bill to make Maryland carbon neutral by 2045 requires utilities to “completely overhaul their existing regulatory models to focus on the utility sector.” construction”, which they say “represents only 13% of the economy at scale”. emissions.

Assuming the House bills pass, they still need to be reconciled with the Senate bill. Of the. Stein, the co-sponsor of the House bills, says they drafted the bills to reflect that.

“The goal is for the House and Senate to be aligned on substance so that our bills are very similar in content to the Senate bill,” he said.

He says they are already “in the middle of discussions” with senators to resolve differences.