ANNAPOLIS – Gov. Martin O’Malley and two lawmakers announced legislation Friday that would require Maryland to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020.
The bill, sponsored by House Majority Leader Kumar Barve, D-Montgomery, and Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George’s, looks to the Maryland Department of the Environment for a plan to meet the emissions reduction target in the allotted time. The department would need to submit the plan by 2011.
The bill also specifies a reevaluation period in 2016 to ensure that the state is on track to meet its goal.
The department’s plan would likely include some of the Maryland Commission on Climate Change’s 42 recommendations on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which range from energy conservation techniques to developing alternative energy sources.
Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide contribute to the warming of the planet. Human activities, such as driving cars that burn fossil fuels, increase the levels of greenhouse gases.
Some elements of getting to the reduction goal are simply saving electricity through better home construction, Pinsky said.
“Less electricity means less greenhouse gases,” he said. “If you put better insulation in homes, with programmable thermostats and better windows, it’ll mean savings for people who have to pay their electricity bill.”
This reduction in emissions won’t break the bank, and would in fact lead to an overall economic gain, Barve said.
“According to the [Maryland Commission on Climate Change], there would be $2 billion in net savings for Maryland,” Barve said. “The way most scientists look at this thing is the cheapest electron is the one you don’t have to buy.”
Any costs that the state may have to pay for developing green energy will be more than reimbursed by the boost to the economy, said Shari Wilson, secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment.
“A lot of job growth would result from new investment in energy conservation and alternative energy,” Wilson said.
A similar bill failed in the General Assembly last year because of concerns by manufacturers and labor groups. Leaders are confident that this year’s bill will win over past holdouts.
Last year’s failure allowed lawmakers and environmentalists to rework the bill into a form all stakeholders would support, O’Malley said. Manufacturers and labor groups previously opposed to the bill have signed a letter in support of the new legislation.
“After working through the year and having those who were opposed to it last year and those who were advocates come together, I think we have a really good bill to put in the legislature this year,” O’Malley said.
If Maryland were to pass the bill this session it would have an impact on environmental policy across the country, Wilson said.
“By having this requirement in state statute it signals to the rest of the country that as we switch to a more carbon neutral economy, Maryland is very serious about encouraging investment in energy efficiency and green energy,” Wilson said.