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Senate Passes Climate Bill

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Ambitious bill aims to reduce greenhouse gases in Maryland

The State Senate easily passed an ambitious bill Friday that aims to eliminate greenhouse gases in Maryland by 2045.

Among other things, the measure would make changes in the state’s building code to promote more energy efficiency.

It would empower the state’s Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities to decide how much of Maryland’s climate funds would be invested in communities like Baltimore’s Westport in the shadow of the BRESCO incinerator.

The bill also would create a work group of various labor unions and advocates to make recommendations on workforce development and training for fossil fuel workers thrown out of their jobs by changes to more clean burning fuels.

It would increase the carbon reduction requirement set in a 2016 bill from 40% by 2030 to 60% and it calls for planting 5 million trees by 2030.

It was the tree-planting provision that brought objections from Republicans who worried that using Bay Restoration Fund money for trees would divert money from water and sewer improvements in their districts.

Minority leader Bryan Simonaire said he would like to vote for the bill but couldn’t.

“The main issue with this bill is it gives a false narrative that we must choose between planting more trees or protecting local sewage projects in our communities,” he said.

Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Prince George’s Democrat and the bill’s sponsor countered that the sewer systems the Republicans were worried about are overflowing because of the severe storms brought on by climate change. He said the state has thus far only done what’s comfortable and needs to do more.

“This bill before you, it's not a radical bill,” he said. “But it can serve as a pivot point. It demands we take stronger action.”

Senate President Bill Ferguson called the passage “a massive step forward” in climate change efforts. And environmental groups cheered its passage.

“The science is clear,” said Kim Coble, executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. “This is a huge leap forward in correcting the long-standing inequity of climate pollution in communities of color and fighting climate change.”

Jamie DeMarco, Maryland Policy Director at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network Fund, called it a “truly historic day” in which the Senate “voted to eliminate our impact on the climate in just 23 years.

The bill moves to the House, where a similar bill is awaiting action.