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Hogan unveils $65 million environmental agenda

Gov. Larry Hogan unveiled a $65 million environmental agenda, including tax incentives, job training and a "Gr

Gov. Larry Hogan announced his environmental agenda for the coming legislative session Tuesday, proposing Maryland spend nearly $65 million over the next three years on tax incentives, job training and a "Green Energy Institute" at the University of Maryland.

The bulk of the money, $41 million, comes from a 2012 settlement with energy giant Exelon. The money must be spent on programs that promote renewable sources of electricity, such as solar and wind.

The other $24 million would go to initiatives Hogan described as "targeted investments and market-based solutions" to environmental issues.

The Republican governor proposes to enhance existing rebates and tax credits that encourage people to buy electric cars. He also suggests spending $10 million to jump-start a Chesapeake Bay cleanup project and putting $3 million into an O'Malley-era program that provides job training for workers in high-demand industries, including green energy.

These moves require approval from the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, which convenes in Annapolis next week, as does the governor's plan to spend $7.5 million creating a green energy research center at the University of Maryland.

"We owe it to the next generation of Marylanders to continue to find innovative and cost effective ways to protect Maryland's environment," Hogan said at an Annapolis news conference.

Sen. Paul Pinsky, vice chairman of the Senate committee that handles environmental legislation, called Hogan's agenda "underwhelming at best."

"He's throwing little bits of money at small, disparate projects that may or may not contribute to the overall problems affecting the air and water of the state," the Prince George's County Democrat said.

Hogan proposed legislation, called the Clean Water Commerce Act, designed to revive a pollution credit-trading program that has languished since it was launched in 2008.

If farmers, local governments or wastewater treatment plants exceed the pollution reductions called for in an Environmental Protection Agency-administered bay cleanup plan, they earn credits that can be sold to polluters unable to meet those mandates.

The $10 million for the program would come from existing fees on sewer bills and septic systems paid into the state's Bay Restoration Fund.

Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles said the money could invigorate the marketplace for the credits, spurring private efforts to make money by cleaning up the bay.

"We can create a market for even better projects," Grumbles said.

Allison Prost, Maryland executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said she needs to see the details of the legislation before commenting. "What are we going to be buying with this $10 million and what is it going to mean for local water quality?" she said.

Most of the money to finance the governor's agenda comes as a result of the 2012 settlement deal, reached under the administration of Gov. Martin O'Malley, under which the Public Service Commission allowed Exelon to merge with Constellation Energy. Exelon agreed to pay $44 million in liquidated damages.

Much of that money was required to be used for renewable energy programs under Exelon's agreement with the PSC. Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer said the governor decided which specific programs would be funded.

Last year, Hogan vetoed a bill that would have required more of the state's electricity to come from renewable sources. On Tuesday, he vowed to fight likely veto override efforts.

An earlier version misstated one of the types of renewable energy sources that was included in the package.

Baltimore Sun reporter Scott Dance contributed to this article.

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