Governing the state of Maryland for the next four years won’t be entirely about business and taxes and budgets.
The next chief executive of Maryland will also certainly face a number of environmental policy challenges.
Decisions on fracking, the Chesapeake Bay, clean and renewable energy initiatives will all be in front of the next governor, whether it is Anthony G. Brown, the Democrat, or Republican Larry Hogan.
Here is where the candidates stand on a number of energy and environmental issues in Maryland based on interviews, statements made in interviews, debates, and other public appearances.
Maryland’s next governor will likely have to make some decisions on whether to allow mining of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale deposits in Western Maryland through a hotly debated process commonly known as fracking.
A state commission tasked with studying the process and making recommendations on how the state might allow the process, if at all, is expected to complete its work by the end of the year.
Pressure to open the doors to fracking could also come from Virginia. In early October, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe told Reuters that he wants to create manufacturing jobs, including those that would build electricity-generating wind turbines, through the building of a pipeline that will transport the gas through his state from as far away as New York and Ohio.
Brown said he supports fracking and its potential for jobs provided it can be done without harming the environment or endangering the health of Western Maryland residents. He said mining the natural gas “provides a tremendous economic opportunity” under the right circumstances.
“If you look at the last 10 years in this nation, America has been an energy generating nation and Maryland ought to be a part of it,” Brown said during an Oct. 7 debate. “However, I’m not going to support development of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale unless it can be done without ruining or disturbing the rural legacy of Western Maryland.”
Brown said he believed both goals were achievable.
Hogan, in the same debate, blamed Gov. Martin J. O’Malley and Brown for not moving faster to optimize the economic benefits for an area starved for jobs.
“We’re sitting on an economic goldmine with the Marcellus Shale,” Hogan said during the same debate. “I agree that we want to extract clean natural gas in an environmentally sound way, but I think we’ve delayed making that decision for years and years and we need to make a decision. We have all the date that we need.”
THE CHESAPEAKE BAY
Both Brown and Hogan will also be responsible for implementing policies to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay—the largest estuary in the United States and a resource both candidates say is of paramount importance to the state.
Perhaps the biggest political target of the campaign has been the stormwater management fee, which opponents, including Hogan, have more commonly come to call “The Rain Tax.”
“It’s actually insulting to say we’re taxing the rain,” Brown said during an Oct. 13 debate. “What we’re doing is funding a program mandated by the EPA to reduce stormwater from carrying pollution into the bay.”
Brown over the last several months has pointed to the fee as part of a balanced effort to address pollution in the bay and to protect the “tens of thousands of jobs” associated with it.
For Hogan, it’s been a key attack in his effort to highlight what he says is an overwhelming tax burden over the last eight years.
“We’re the only state in the nation to tax the rain,” Hogan said. “It’s the least popular of all the taxes.”
Hogan has said he would like to roll back many of the tax increases he attributes to O’Malley and Brown, including the stormwater management fee. Doing so could prove difficult as it has the support of the Democratic-controlled legislature, including Del. Maggie McIntosh, chair of the House Environmental Matters Committee, and Sen. Joan Carter Conway, chairwoman of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.
Instead, Hogan said he would like to focus efforts on reducing pollution from sediment related to the Conowingo Dam. Hogan said that 43 percent of the pollution of the bay comes down the Susquehanna River from New York and Pennsylvania.
Hogan said his administration would take a different approach to cleaning up the bay.
“Rather than just blaming farmers and watermen and the rain that falls on people’s houses, we’re going to take other actions,” Hogan said during the Oct. 7 debate. “We’re going to push back and make sure that Pennsylvania and New York pay their fair share.”
Another component of reducing pollution in the Chesapeake Bay could come in the form of a state-mandated reduction of phosphorous that comes from chicken manure. The controversial phosphorous management tool has chicken farmers, prevalently on the Eastern Shore, concerned that the mandate will ultimately force them out of business through onerous regulations.
The state is evaluating the potential economic impact of imposing the tool on chicken farmers. Additionally, the General Assembly is likely to revisit a bill that would impose a nickel tax on each chicken in Maryland —a tax that could raise $15 million on the 305 million chickens produced in Maryland each year, according to the Delmarva Poultry Industry.
And while both Brown and Hogan have promised to balance the desire to reduce pollution in the bay with protecting jobs on the Eastern Shore, neither offered specifics.
“The poultry industry is too important,” Brown said during a debate. “We can implement a phosphorous management tool in a balanced way that does not drive the poultry industry out of Maryland and that’s what we’ll do.”
Similarly, Hogan said the industry and its associated jobs must be protected, but he blamed O’Malley and Brown for attempting to implement the regulations.
“We’re going to do everything we can to ensure we don’t put entire regions of the state or industries out of business,” Hogan said during that same debate.
In 2013, the General Assembly passed legislation authorizing a charge of up to $1.50 per home in Maryland that would subsidize development of an electricity-generating wind turbine farm off the coast of Ocean City. The fee creates a subsidy of up to $1.7 billion over 20 years.
The surcharge would kick in if a developer built a wind turbine farm generating at least 200 megawatts of electricity.
In August, the U.S. Department of the Interior auctioned 80,000 acres off the Maryland coast to Italian-owned U.S. Wind for $8.7 million.
Brown supports the expansion of clean energy programs including wind turbines as part of Gov. Martin J. O’Malley’s initiative to cut carbon emissions in the state by 25 percent — an estimated 55 million metric tons of carbon dioxide — by 2020.
In a position paper, Brown promised to “expand our renewable mix with investments in Maryland-based solar and wind, which can both create new jobs and reduce air pollution that affects the health of everyday Marylanders.”
Hogan has previously said he opposed the creation of the subsidy for the wind turbine farms.
“This offshore wind scheme requires a tax to make it possible,” Hogan said in a 2013 statement following the passage of the bill. “The private sector does not get to tax people to experiment with projects and with very few exceptions neither should government. This will be a huge waste – assuming anything gets built at all.”