The Howard County Council held a workshop Monday morning to discuss two bills aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The two bills, introduced by Howard County Council Chairwoman Christiana Rigby of District 3 earlier this month, will be voted on during a Feb. 6 legislative session.
The council first discussed Rigby’s proposed Transit Investment Act that would create a dedicated fund for public transit operations in the county’s operating budget. The bill also would direct an estimated $500,000 to fixed-route transit operations annually. Fixed-route transportation systems use buses, vans, light rail and other vehicles to operate on a predetermined route according to a predetermined schedule.
There was discussion among the council on whether ride-share companies, such as Uber or Lyft, would better reduce the number of cars on county roads, but Rigby pointed out that someone on a fixed income might not be able to afford that.
Currently, it costs $2 one way to ride a transit bus in Howard County.
“If you’re on a fixed income you can’t rely on a private service,” Rigby said. “Buses are best. If we invest in the buses, it is the best step.”
The proposed bill would also create a Transit Services Improvement Fund, which the Howard County Auditor’s office estimates would generate approximately $531,000 annually.
The money would be used to purchase additional buses, purchase electric vehicles and charging equipment, improve bus stops or bus facilities, operate new fixed route service and fund the cost of required services outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The council also discussed Rigby’s proposed Clean New Buildings Climate Act that would require all-electric building standards for new construction updated each year.
The bill would require the county’s Department of Inspections, Licenses & Permits to report to the council with recommendations on changes to the building code in order to implement all-electric building standards for new construction, major renovations and additions.
Last year, the county developed a preliminary Climate Action and Resiliency Plan showing buildings account for roughly 40% of Howard’s local greenhouse gas emissions, 11% directly from onsite fuel combustion in buildings. The plan states Howard must move toward all-electric buildings by phasing out the use of fossil fuels in new construction.
According to the county’s Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits in a fiscal impact report, there will be “no immediate fiscal impact from this legislation.”
The proposed legislation will not affect existing buildings in the county that rely on fossil fuels, nor would it ban homes using natural gas.
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Council member David Yungmann, who represents District 5, said passing this legislation is only going to drive up the cost of electricity.
“We’re not going to solve climate change in Howard County,” he said.