Maryland Senate OKs new goal for reducing greenhouse gases

Maryland would seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030 under bill OK'd in Senate.

Maryland's Senate on Tuesday approved a new goal and deadline for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the state.

By a 38-8 vote, senators approved a bill that requires to state to cut its greenhouse gasses -- such as carbon dioxide -- by 40 percent by 2030. The goal uses 2006 as the baseline for measuring emissions.

The House of Delegates will hold a hearing on their version of the bill later this week.

All eight dissenting votes came from Republicans, even though the proposal was approved unanimously by Republican and Democrats on the Senate's Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

Some lawmakers raised concerns that the bill would represent an expensive burden on businesses and harm the economy.

"I think there will be a big fiscal impact," said Sen. Michael J. Hough, a Frederick County Republican. "Clearly this is a mandate, so I'm going to vote 'no.'"

But supporters said it's wise to reduce greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change. Climate change change can cause expensive problems, said Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Prince George's County Democrat and sponsor of the bill.

"The question is: Do we pay the cost up front -- if there is in fact a cost -- or do we pay it later on?" Pinsky said.

The previous goal was to cut emissions by 25 percent by 2020 and was set six years ago. That law would expire if not reauthorized by lawmakers.

The new goal was proposed by Maryland's Climate Change Commission, which includes members from the legislature, nonprofit groups, private businesses and state agency secretaries appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan.

The commission noted that Maryland was making steady progress on reducing greenhouse gases while creating new businesses and jobs in the clean energy field.

The Sierra Club applauded the Senate vote. David Smedick, leader of Sierra's "Beyond Coal" campaign in Maryland, said the vote was a "truly exciting moment."

"This action shows that across multiple sectors, the state is ready to move forward on smart and achievable climate pollution reductions for the next 15 years," he said.

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