Advocates call for fast action on transformative bill as climate change accelerates and fossil-fuel price spikes hurt vulnerable Marylanders
ANNAPOLIS, MD – As climate change impacts worsen and war in Europe triggers spikes in fossil fuel prices, top Maryland environmental leaders gathered for a Zoom press conference today. Their message: Maryland’s General Assembly must keep its promise to meet the climate crisis by passing strong legislation in 2022, starting with “The Climate Solutions Now Act.”
“Top leaders in the Senate and House said they plan to pass ‘historic, bold, and far-reaching’ climate legislation,” said Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network/CCAN Action Fund. “The Climate Solutions Now Act fulfills this goal, and it couldn’t come at a better time. The war in Europe is turning already volatile gas prices into a roller coaster ride. So electrifying more homes and moving away from gas – as this bill will do – addresses both pocketbook issues for low income families AND newly emerging geo-political threats to our national economy from the Ukraine war.”
Speakers at today’s press conference included the Maryland Sierra Club, Maryland League of Conservation Voters, and Chesapeake Bay Foundation as well as Chesapeake Climate Action Network/CCAN Action Fund. Several noted that the United Nations has just released its latest climate science report, which found that delaying climate action would cause the world to “miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”
To address this crisis, advocates spoke in support of the “Climate Solutions Now Act” (SB 528), which has 27 Maryland Senate co-sponsors. Introduced by lead sponsor Senator Paul Pinsky, it calls for: a 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 below 2006 levels and all newly constructed buildings in the state have fully electric energy systems for space heating and hot water no later than 2024. There is a slate of bills introduced in the House that would reach the same goals, known as the “Climate Solutions 2022” legislative agenda.
Utility companies Baltimore Gas and Electric and Pepco are now objecting to the Climate Solutions Now Act, saying they need more time to transition from gas to electricity in order to ensure that their infrastructure can meet the energy demand. Yet Pepco’s parent company Exelon voted in favor of the Maryland Commission on Climate Change’s recommendations for an all-electric standard for new buildings and one of their recent studies said that their infrastructure was ready to handle the additional load.
“Profit is [utilities’] bottom line, but we need to understand they are not the scientists, they are not the credible communicators on this,” said Josh Tulkin of the Maryland Sierra Club. “We need the members of the General Assembly to look to the scientists and the architects and the engineers. This is the year for Maryland to take action.”
“For the last two years, we gave the General Assembly an F and a D on climate,” said Kim Coble of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. “We should be taking a leadership role when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. That’s what they’ll do by passing SB 528.”
“We need climate solutions,” said Josh Kurtz of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “This bill is not only a solution for the climate, it’s also a solution that reduces co-pollutants. When you burn fossil fuels, you’re also producing other gasses such as NOx. When it’s deposited in our waterways that flow to the Bay, it contributes to the deadzone and other issues we’ve been combatting for years. We know that when we combat pollution, we combat its human health impacts as well.”
Chris Parts, AIA, LEED AP, and Principal of Hord Coplan Macht said: “Buildings account for approximately 40 percent of energy consumption in the US and if we work collaboratively, the building industry can make a significant impact in reducing emissions and combating climate change. We are designing buildings across all types as electric buildings now. We can continue to focus on designing smarter buildings to passively demand less energy to heat and cool them, and continue to take advantage of efficiency technology to reduce energy demand.”
“It’s an interesting and exciting time to be an electrical engineer,” said Ben Roush, Principal of FSi Engineers in Baltimore, speaking of his work electrifying buildings. “The cost of gas service savings is so great that it more than pays for the cost of installing the heat pumps. You can save money by building all-electric buildings. It’s feasible now.”
“We’ve been incremental in our response to climate change all over this planet..and across the US… and here in Maryland. But the climate is not changing incrementally. It’s changing massively, with freight-train speed,” said Tidwell in closing. “The Climate Solutions Now Act is not a heavy lift. It is a bill that makes sense, that sets a framework for more climate action later but it must include core provisions like 60% reduction in emissions by 2030 below and full electrification for new buildings in order to fulfill its promise.”
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CCAN Action Fund is the advocacy arm of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the oldest and largest grassroots organization dedicated exclusively to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions associated with global warming in the Chesapeake Bay region. For almost 20 years, CCAN has been at the center of the fight for clean energy and wise climate policy in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.