Common ground on Conowingo and beyond

In today’s world, far too much of our public discourse has degraded to half-truths and personal attacks rather than conversation and compromise. One obvious casualty has been the environment, which is now routinely used as a wedge instead of a common cause. Finding the right balance on environmental policy is important, but we all aspire to achieve the same goals — protecting and preserving the natural world we inhabit for our children and grandchildren.

As governor of Maryland, one of the most important responsibilities I have is protecting the Chesapeake Bay. It’s a job I take extremely seriously, and I am proud of the progress we have made.

During my campaign for governor and from the earliest days of our administration, we have worked relentlessly to expose the growing threat to the Chesapeake Bay from sediment flowing through the Conowingo Dam. Now that there is finally consensus among scientists that the dam presents a clear danger, we have a real opportunity to find solutions together. That’s why we recently held our second Conowingo Dam Summit to seek proposals for dredging behind the dam and beneficial reuse of dredged material, as well as innovative pollution prevention projects upstream.

In Maryland, we are setting an example for the country by focusing on what we have in common — not what divides us. This focus has enabled our administration to partner with the environmental, agricultural and business communities to create a cleaner and greener Maryland

Restoring the Chesapeake Bay

Our administration has invested an unprecedented $3 billion in Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts in just two and a half years. We are fully funding Program Open Space, restoring funding for the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund, and fighting to protect federal bay funding. Most importantly, I am happy to report that the Chesapeake Bay is the cleanest it has been in 25 years.

In addition to sediment behind the Conowingo Dam, we have addressed other sources of pollution in the bay, forging an unprecedented partnership between environmental and agricultural leaders to develop new Phosphorous Management Tool regulations for cleaner water, healthier soil and more innovative ways to generate energy. With my election as chairman of the Chesapeake Executive Council this year, Maryland is perfectly positioned to work with our regional partners to make even greater progress on restoring the bay.

Promoting clean air

When the Trump administration withdrew from the Paris climate agreement, we immediately stated our opposition and reaffirmed Maryland’s commitment to stringent clean air standards. In 2015, together with our partners in the General Assembly, we signed legislation to strengthen and expand the Maryland Climate Change Commission, and this past legislative session we enacted the bipartisan Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2016 to reduce greenhouse gases 40 percent by 2030.

Maryland is a proud member of the multi-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), and we are constantly working as a group to find common ground on the right mix of environmental and economic safeguards while encouraging other states to join this bipartisan organization.

Protecting our natural resources

As the only Republican administration in the nation to sign a law banning hydraulic fracturing, we have made protecting our natural resources — and the health of our citizens — a priority. We are focused on preparedness and planning to protect human health, safety and welfare throughout Maryland. State agencies are examining possible health impacts of climate change, evaluating critical transportation facilities for sea level rise and extreme weather damage, and updating the statewide Hazard Mitigation Plan.

Investing in renewable energy

Our administration continues to launch innovative initiatives that save energy and reduce emissions, such as $24 million for a new energy-water infrastructure program at wastewater treatment plants, and legislation passed this year providing tax credits and rebates for the purchase of cleaner cars and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

We are also supporting the expansion of solar, wind and other renewable energy sources while opposing drilling off of our shores. We are investing in green jobs through Maryland's nationally recognized EARN program and providing $7.5 million to create the Maryland Energy Innovation Institute at the University of Maryland.

Now more than ever, we need fact-based, nonpartisan collaboration to fight climate change and protect our environment, and that is exactly what we will continue doing in Maryland. Our administration is committed to leading by example, finding common ground, and taking smart and balanced actions that preserve our natural resources and grow our economy. When it comes to the environment, the politics can wait.

Larry Hogan is the Republican governor of Maryland. He can be reached www.governor.maryland.gov/mail.

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