Go greener, faster: Maryland lawmakers pitch bills to deal with climate change

Maryland is already on track to reach some of its 2016 goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but lawmakers say it’s time to get more ambitious.

On Wednesday, the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee heard from proponents of the Climate Solutions Act of 2020, a state Senate bill that includes a number of measures, including achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.

Sen. Paul Pinsky, who chairs the committee, is one of the sponsors of the bill.

“It’s bold. I’ll be the first one to admit it,” he said. “It’s going to be a challenge.”

But Pinsky said the impact of climate change — globally, as well as locally — demands action.

“More severe storms, drought, you name it — we’re reading about it and it’s being confirmed time and time again,” he said.

Pinsky noted how the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported data in July that documented the increased frequency of “nuisance flooding” in places like Baltimore and Annapolis.

Nuisance flooding, also called high-tide flooding, results in public inconveniences, such as road closures, according to the NOAA.

Referring to the number of days that Annapolis and Baltimore experienced sudden flooding, Pinsky said, “That affects not only tourism in the capital, it affects the businesses downtown — here and in Baltimore.”

Among the measures called for in the bill:

  • Gas-powered vehicles would be phased out of the state’s vehicle fleet by 2030. Instead, the state would have to use zero-emission vehicles.
  • Any building that is built with at least 25% of state funds would have to be “carbon neutral.”
  • Any commercial building with a rooftop of 20,000 square feet or more would have to use solar power (there would be some exemptions depending on shade, or other site-specific obstacles).
  • Increase energy efficiency and conservation program requirements overseen by the Public Service Commission.

Pinsky conceded that state expenditures to put the program into action would increase, but said environmental changes — from salt water intrusion on Eastern Shore farmland to flooding in tourist destinations like Ocean City — carry their own costs.

“I mean, this has economic implications all over the map,” Pinsky said.

Maryland’s House of Delegates is considering a similar bill.

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