Hogan's clean energy war

Op-ed: Gov. Larry Hogan is waging a war on clean energy in Maryland.

Gov. Larry Hogan is waging a war on clean energy in Maryland.

He's battling wind turbines, attacking solar power and assaulting energy efficiency. Each week he opens up a new beachhead, it seems. On May 27th, he vetoed the "Clean Energy Jobs Act," a bill passed by the General Assembly and supported by 71 percent of Maryland voters. It would have created over 1,000 high-paying jobs by expanding low-cost renewable power in Maryland.

Like all wars, Mr. Hogan's attack has real casualties. The governor is harming Marylanders' health — literally causing more kids to get asthma — by blocking pollution-free power in the state. So it's time to put away the illusion that Mr. Hogan is some sort of moderate Republican when it comes to climate change and clean air.

Just look at the record.

Wind and solar power: The Clean Energy Jobs Act would have expanded the state's use of renewable power to 25 percent by 2020. It would build on a policy originally signed into law 12 years ago by Mr. Hogan's Republican predecessor Robert Ehrlich, Jr. For an investment of less than a penny per day per Maryland resident, this clean energy bill expansion would create billions of dollars in economic gain in the state. The Hogan administration's own study in October confirmed the policy's massive economic benefits. But in May , Mr. Hogan absurdly called the bill a tax and vetoed it, showing he's far to the right of even Bob Ehrlich, which puts him light years away from average voters.

Energy efficiency: If Mr. Hogan is against renewable power, maybe he champions efficiency? Nope. His administration has unleashed the policy equivalent of a frontal assault to destroy an amazingly popular program called EmPOWER Maryland. This eight-year-old program reduces monthly electricity bills for businesses and residents through a range of investments in efficiency. By saving the state a documented $4.39 billion dollars and reducing dirty energy use, the program has wide support ranging from BG&E to environmental leaders to poverty groups. But Hogan has ordered key administration staffers to tell the Public Service Commission (PSC) to reject new investments in EmPOWER Maryland, attempting to dismantle it.

Speaking of the PSC: The PSC is a powerful five-member commission appointed by the governor to regulate energy policies in the state. On June 2nd, Mr. Hogan made his latest of three appointments, tapping Republican Anthony O'Donnell. Mr. O'Donnell is a former member of the Maryland House of Delegates who voted against virtually every major clean energy bill introduced over the last 20 years, including the Clean Energy Jobs Act. Mr. Hogan has also appointed Michael Richard, his former deputy chief of staff, to the PSC. Mr. Richard quickly became involved in a scandal by sending inappropriate emails from his official PSC address revealing his explicit opposition to efficiency programs and implicit opposition to offshore wind development in Maryland. In short, through his appointments, Mr. Hogan is radicalizing the PSC against clean energy.

The Maryland Energy Administration (MEA): Finally, Mr. Hogan is hostile even to basic energy policy research, analysis and consumer advice. Those functions, until Mr. Hogan's election, were served by the MEA, a body highly respected by legislators of both parties in Annapolis. But Mr. Hogan has gutted this agency. Visit the MEA website and this is what you see: Chief of staff — "vacancy." Communications manager — "vacancy." Policy director — "vacancy." And on and on.

Most harmful, though, has been the way Mr. Hogan has confused the public about his overall battle plans. In April, with a grand ceremony in Annapolis, the governor signed the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act, mandating a 40 percent reduction in statewide carbon pollution by 2030. But Mr. Hogan is careful to point out that the bill has no specific mandates as to how to achieve the goal. So the governor has taken enormous and undeserved environmental credit for signing a bold target on paper while actively obliterating every major policy realm in the state dedicated to actual climate pollution reductions.

So here's the question for the governor: What is your plan? If you have pledged to cut harmful greenhouse emissions, how will you do it if not with the Clean Energy Jobs Act, the EmPOWER Maryland program and the rest? And if your goal is to protect ratepayers and businesses, then how will you do that? Efficiency lowers bills. Period. Clean power standards, contrary to your absurd claim that they are "taxes," actually provide the equivalent of tax relief by locking in lower, long-term rates through wind and solar power. Period.

Thankfully, the General Assembly will likely override the governor's ill-considered veto of the Clean Energy Jobs Act in January. But it's still worth asking: What is your plan, governor? You've proven adept at tearing down money-saving, environmentally friendly energy policies. When will you put away the policy explosives and join the right fight for clean air, a stable climate, and a sustainable Maryland economy?

Mike Tidwell (mtidwell@chesapeakeclimate.org) is executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Karla Raettig is executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters.

Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
37°