Snow fell on a global warming protest outside the State House yesterday, but it did not dampen the shouts of about 400 activists who urged lawmakers to pass the nation's toughest law to control greenhouse gases.
As supporters waved signs, chanted and banged drums, 18 legislators walked down a symbolic green carpet to sign up as co-sponsors of a bill that would require all businesses and institutions in Maryland to cut emissions of global warming pollution by 90 percent by 2050.
"We are going to pass this bill this year," said State Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Prince George's Democrat. "We are not going to rest, we are not going to stop. ... We are going to keep going until we pass this bill."
Pinsky and co-author Del. Kumar Barve last year proposed a similar but unsuccessful "Global Warming Solutions Act" that would have created a system of financial rewards and punishments to force all businesses to reduce their emissions.
The General Assembly over the past two years has approved legislation requiring more limited cuts in carbon dioxide for coal-fired power plants and cars. Those require a roughly 25 percent reduction.
The Maryland Chamber of Commerce, Constellation Energy and many Republicans oppose the 90 percent mandate, saying such aggressive regulation could cripple Maryland's economy if other states don't have such limits.
"It would be harmful for employment," said Senate Republican leader David R. Brinkley. "We have a conscientious business community, and nobody wants to contribute to pollution, but these guys are intent on making Maryland uncompetitive."
California has approved a law requiring an 80 percent reduction by midcentury, and Maryland's law is modeled after it. The Maryland proposal would order state agencies to come up with a variety of regulations to increase energy efficiency, encourage use of mass transit and discourage the burning of fossil fuels and sprawling development.
After last year's bill failed, Gov. Martin O'Malley appointed a climate change advisory commission that recommended that the state adopt a California-style program and cut greenhouse gases by 90 percent by 2050.
A spokeswoman for O'Malley, Christine Hansen, wouldn't say yesterday whether the governor would support the legislation. "He is going to look very seriously at the bill," she said. "The governor knows that we need to work to address global climate change."
Many of the protesters who endured the cold to chant "Stop Global Warming!" said they didn't find the snowfall conflicted with their message.
Davey Rogner, a 22-year-old student at the University of Maryland, College Park who beat on an African Djembe drum, said the snow was a "gift" to remind everyone about how rarely Maryland has been blanketed in recent years given gradually increasing average temperatures.
"It's only the second snow of the year, which is very sad," said Rogner, who is from Silver Spring. "Global warming is the most important issue of our generation. The state of Maryland should be taking a leadership role in it, because of our vulnerability with all our shoreline."