The biggest environmental bill of the 2019 legislative session is, hands down, the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act. With dire warnings on global warming coming from scientists every day — bigger storms, rising seas, failing crops — it’s good to know this bill would double our state’s commitment to wind and solar power by the year 2030. It would also create a process to get us to 100 percent clean power soon after 2030.
Political support for this clean energy legislation has been rising across Maryland right along with the warming temperatures. A super majority of senators — 30 of them — have now pledged to vote for the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act (MCEJA). And 82 delegates, not counting leadership posts, now support the bill, creating a de facto super majority.
The real question now is whether Gov. Larry Hogan intends to support the bill or — catastrophically — veto the measure even as the climate crashes down around us. Hogan vetoed a similar, yet less ambitious, bill during his first term.
In recent months, Hogan has made a big fuss of publically declaring his concern about global warming. He inked a recent Washington Post op-ed and sent his top environmental staffer to international climate talks in Poland. But Hogan has done very little of true substance on the issue since taking office. And even as Annapolis — the actual city — floods more and more from sea-level rise and wildfires rage in California and heat waves intensify across the country, Hogan has yet to decide if he supports the MCEJA clean energy bill. He has no alternative plan to get similar pollution reductions, but apparently he might still veto this hugely popular and scientifically imperative bill.
Particularly frustrating is the fact that Hogan’s own administration has commissioned studies that explicitly document the environmental and economic merits of the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act. In September, the Maryland Department of the Environment announced it had paid the San Francisco think tank E3 to crunch all the numbers related to the MCEJA bill. The verdict? Maryland can ONLY meet its statewide greenhouse gas reduction goals if it adopts the MCEJA goal of getting half the state’s electricity from wind power, solar energy and other renewable sources by 2030.
Towson University was then asked by MDE to crunch the economic numbers. Verdict? The MCEJA bill, combined with a few other climate policies, would grow the economy and create more jobs.
Again, all this data comes from Hogan’s own commissioned studies. In his recent Washington Post op-ed, Hogan wrote that climate change could “cripple our economy“ and “harm public health.” So what in the world is the Governor waiting for? He should support MCEJA now and avoid the political distraction and clean-energy delays that would come from a veto. That veto, of course, would be followed by the inevitable override from the House and Senate.
Thankfully, the rest of the state is not waiting. In addition to super majorities in both the House and Senate, more than 600 organizations across the state are now behind the bill. These include the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland and many, many more.
Senate sponsor of the MCEJA bill in 2019 will again be Brian Feldman, D-Montgomery. Feldman is also the new vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee, through which the bill must past. On the House side, Del. Cheryl Glenn, D-Baltimore city will be the lead sponsor. She is a veteran member of the Economic Matters Committee to which the bill will be assigned. These two sponsors are visionaries and workhorses within their chambers and they have both declared their intention to get this bill to the governor’s desk before the end of the 2019 legislative session.
The question is, what will Hogan then do? Scientists say the time for gestures and speeches is over. On clean energy, we need to move from walking to running as soon as possible. So the Governor should lace up his best sneakers and lead the race, starting right now and for the rest of his term. He should declare his support of the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act.