Gov. Martin O'Malley said yesterday that Maryland is poised to help shape national environmental policy by passing legislation that would curb pollutants linked to global warming.
The bill, which had its first hearing in the state Senate yesterday, is likely to pass this year after proponents agreed in recent weeks to essentially exempt manufacturers from mandates against greenhouse gas emissions. Opposition from unions and manufacturers killed similar O'Malley-backed legislation last year.
At a news conference on the lawn of the governor's mansion, O'Malley called Maryland, with its abundant shoreline, the "fourth-most-vulnerable state in America" with respect to climate change.
"The answer to climate change is happening at the state level," said Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, a Prince George's County Democrat and the lead Senate sponsor of the bill. "So far, it's not at the federal level."
Brad Heavner of Environment Maryland, an advocacy group, said that if the bill passes, the state would become the seventh in the country to set similar curbs on pollutants. The bill would commit Maryland to achieving a 25 percent reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases - mainly carbon dioxide - by 2020. The state would have until 2012 to develop a plan for reaching the goal.
The Senate passed a watered-down form of the bill last year, but opposition from unions and manufacturers killed it in the House of Delegates.
The impetus for legislation comes in part from a 2007 report by the world's top climate scientists, which concluded that global warming is happening and that human activity is "very likely" a contributing factor. Unabated warming would bring a steady rise in sea levels in decades to come, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said.
Though some unions and business groups now support the bill, opponents include Constellation Energy Group, the Maryland Taxpayers Association and groups representing the retail and petroleum industries. The state Chamber of Commerce is not taking a position.