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Howard County Times
Howard County

Howard County Council to discuss bills to address climate change at the local level

Howard County Council member Christiana Rigby has proposed two bills aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in newly constructed buildings and public transportation in the county.

The two bills were introduced by the District 3 representative on Jan. 3 and will get a public hearing at 7 p.m., Tuesday. The bills will be voted on at a Howard County Council legislative session Feb. 6.

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“We must act with urgency to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and comprehensively address climate change at the local level,” Rigby said. “To meet these goals, I am advancing a legislative package that progresses critical climate and transportation initiatives in Howard County. Howard County must continue to lead the way into a climate-resilient future.”

Last year, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Climate Solutions Now Act, which sets statewide carbon reduction goals for the state. Under this law, Maryland must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2031, and ultimately reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2045.

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All-electric building standards

Rigby’s proposed Clean New Buildings Climate Act would require Howard County government to make recommendations for all-electric building standards for new construction and present them to the County Council at the end of the year, according to a county news release.

Last year, the county developed a preliminary Climate Action and Resiliency Plan that states that buildings account for roughly 40% of Howard’s local greenhouse gas emissions, 11% directly from onsite fuel combustion in buildings.

Howard must move toward all-electric buildings by phasing out the use of fossil fuels in new construction, RIgby said.

“In addition to the climate benefits, all-electric buildings also enhance the safety and health conditions for residents who live and work in buildings,” the news release said. “Numerous academic and medical studies have linked the use of natural gas in buildings to higher rates of childhood asthma, poor air quality, and exposure to hazardous pollutants.

The proposed legislation will not impact existing buildings in the county that rely on fossil fuels.

Stepping up public transportation

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Rigby’s proposed Transit Investment Act would create a dedicated fund for public transit operations in the county’s operating budget. The bill would also 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. These types of systems have printed or posted timetables and designated stops where riders are picked up and dropped off.

Howard’s preliminary Climate Action and Resiliency Plan states that the transportation sector accounts for about 55% of the local greenhouse gas emissions.

“These emissions are largely driven by single-occupancy vehicle trips within the county,” the news release said.

The proposed bill is also intended to improve and encourage more county residents to use the public transportation system. The county asserts that many residents do not use the bus because of limited routes and frequency of service.

“The Transit Investment Act seeks to address these issues by directing increased investment into Howard County’s public transit services,” the news release said. “The funds generated from this legislation must be used to make improvements to fixed-route transit operations in Howard County, which may result in new [Regional Transportation Agency of Central Maryland] transit routes, better bus frequency, and improvements to existing bus infrastructure and service.”

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Watch County Council meetings at https://cc.howardcountymd.gov/Online-Tools/Watch-Us or on channels 44 (Verizon) and 99 (Comcast). Sign up to provide virtual or in-person testimony at https://apps.howardcountymd.gov/otestimony/.


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