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Overturn Hogan's clean energy veto

Op-ed: The case for overturning Md. Gov. Larry Hogan's clean energy jobs act veto.

Developing clean, renewable energy and creating jobs isn't a partisan issue. That's why Marylanders of all political stripes were glad when Gov. Larry Hogan announced a plan to spend almost $65 million on job growth initiatives in green industries. We look forward to seeing the details, but at face-value, we appreciate that the governor has joined the General Assembly, businesses and environmental advocates in our efforts to advance clean energy jobs.

Unfortunately, his proposals do not compensate for his veto of the Clean Energy Jobs Act. Now that the General Assembly has an opportunity to overturn Governor Hogan's veto, we believe it's time to enact the Clean Energy Jobs Act into law once and for all.

Governor Hogan's plan would not independently increase the amount of clean energy required for our state. The Clean Energy Jobs Act, on the other hand, uses a market-based system to meet Maryland's clean energy targets, which would increase to 25 percent by 2020. This boost to our top program for renewable energy will stimulate a resurgence of good-paying jobs in our burgeoning clean energy economy.

This isn't an either/or proposition. First, the state must increase the market demand for clean energy. Then, the governor can supplement an increase in renewal energy commitments with the fiscal commitments he is endorsing. Such a combination of strategies will be a win/win. But without pushing the clean energy market forward by setting a new target that is in line with climate science and economic trends, we cannot reach our goals.

Maryland has already committed to, and Governor Hogan has already endorsed, making long-term cuts in climate-polluting, greenhouse gas emissions. The Clean Energy Jobs Act will help us meet these goals, creating incentives for roughly 1,300 megawatts of new, renewable energy in our region and reducing carbon output equivalent to taking 563,000 passenger vehicles off the road every year.

Governor Hogan is not wrong to keep a keen eye on the fiscal realities for Marylanders. An independent analysis estimated that increasing our renewable energy use to 25 percent by 2020 could cost residential households up to 58 cents on average per month in 2020, decreasing thereafter. Yet poll after poll show that an overwhelming number of Marylanders are clamoring to reduce our state's contribution to greenhouse gases and feel that 58 cents per month is worth it for better air quality, less asthma and improved respiratory and cardiac health.

The non-partisan polling firm OpinionWorks found that a majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents support the Clean Energy Jobs Act, as do a majority in rural, urban and suburban communities — even with a small increase in their electric bill. Support is no lower than 63 percent throughout the state, and some areas peak at 81 percent in favor.

For a half-penny per day investment per resident, the renewable energy expansion could prevent up to 50 deaths annually and increase net economic growth by up to $600 million per year due to better health outcomes and the creation of new Maryland jobs. On the other hand, there is a steep cost to not increasing the renewable energy standard.

Maryland still has seven large coal-burning power plants pumping dangerous pollution into our air and water, and failing air quality grades for ozone pollution from the American Lung Association. The asthma rate among Baltimore City children is an astounding 20 percent — far beyond the national average. Endorsing the status quo allows outdated energy generation to continue polluting our air.

Our governor remains popular because he has exhibited an independent streak and a willingness to listen to what Marylanders want. And Marylanders overwhelmingly agree that we favor significant state investment in green jobs and renewable energy. With so many climate change deniers being named to the new president's cabinet, it is more important than ever for states to serve as bastions of hope on climate action.

Republican Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker recently signed a law that has the Bay State poised to purchase more energy from renewable sources than ever before. States like California, New York and Oregon, and our neighboring District of Columbia, have already committed to frameworks that achieve 50 percent of their energy from clean sources. Vermont has set its goal standard at 75 percent, and Hawaii has mandated that all of the state's electricity come from renewable sources by 2045.

The path forward is clear: It is the marriage of enacting the Clean Energy Jobs Act into law and making critical financial investments in green industries. We hope Governor Hogan and the General Assembly will both take the necessary actions to make Maryland a leader in clean energy.

Karla Raettig (kraettig@mdlcv.org) is executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. Josh Tulkin (josh.tulkin@sierraclub.org) is executive director of the Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club.

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