MD Lawmakers Put $195M in Federal Funds at Risk by Gutting Key Part of Landmark "Climate Solutions Now Act"

With funeral music from a New Orleans-style brass band on Lawyers Mall, climate groups saw a new amendment could kill part of the Building Energy Performance Standards that are key to winning a major U.S. EPA grant and reducing greenhouse gas emissions

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Backed by funeral music from a New Orleans-style brass band, climate groups today lamented lawmakers passing of a controversial budget amendment that would strip a key provision from the state’s Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS). Groups said this will kill a key part of the state’s Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022 and jeopardize a stunning $195 million in federal funds when the state is already strapped for resources. 

BEPS requires large buildings in Maryland to achieve zero direct greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 and efficiently use energy to meet this target. Now, however, lawmakers passed a budget that included a last-minute amendment that will gut the regulation and force the Maryland Department of the Environment to rewrite the rule. At issue are the Energy Use Intensity (EUI) provisions, which are vital to achieving reductions from the building sector in a way that maximizes efficiency. This uncertainty threatens to undercut Maryland’s joint application for $195 million through a competitive grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). If awarded, those federal funds would be used to help building owners comply with the BEPS regulations and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions statewide. 

Advocates for climate action gathered on Lawyers Mall to protest the proposed budget amendment. Speakers emphasized that Marylanders strongly endorse BEPS and the Climate Solutions Now Act – sending thousands of letters of support to Maryland legislators in just the past several days.  

“The state needs new revenue to balance our long-term budget and meet our climate goals in a rapidly warming world. Yet Maryland lawmakers are about to throw away $195 million in federal dollars,” said Jamie DeMarco, CCAN Action Fund’s Maryland director. “This was supposed to be the year Maryland took big steps to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. Instead, we are watching our leaders in Annapolis weaken the landmark Climate Solutions Now Act.” 

Jose Coronado-Flores, the Climate Research and Policy Analyst at CASA said, “”We are working for holistic solutions: improved housing quality, reduced emissions, cheaper utility bills, and healthier homes. Much of this relies on Energy Use Intensity, which is why this budget amendment is devastating to low-income renters around Maryland.” 

“It is disappointing that despite concern from the Maryland Department of the Environment and many other groups, the legislature approved a last minute budget amendment weakening existing legislation on building energy performance standards (BEPS). It is everyday Marylanders that will be affected by delay in implementation of our climate solutions,” said Josh Tulkin, Director of the Maryland Sierra Club. “In the transition to a clean energy future, there will be bumps in the road. Programs will need adjustment. But this should happen in the daylight with engagement from the communities that will be most impacted, and the agencies involved. We look forward to working with all parties to develop a holistic strategy that everyone can be proud of.” 

“We are stunned that after fighting to pass strong climate legislation, including the Climate Solutions Now Act, we are seeing bills that roll back progress, first the Critical Infrastructure Streamlining Act which removed the PSC from accounting for greenhouse gas emissions for data centers and now a long, unnecessary delay in launching the program to improve energy efficiency in large buildings in Maryland,” said Monica O’Connor, Co-Chair of MLC Climate Justice Wing, “Delay is not our friend; we will lose the chance to leverage millions of federal dollars and squander our leadership on climate.” 

The Building Energy Performance Standards were on the verge of being finalized after two years of input from a wide range of stakeholders. The budget amendment language would require MDE to monitor Energy Use Intensity in buildings until the second half of 2026 before it could set Energy Use Intensity standards. This would constitute a significant change to the regulation and as a result, the entire regulation would have to be reissued, delaying the entire BEPS program from being implemented.   

For more background information, see this article in Maryland Matters.  

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The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) Action Fund is dedicated to driving change in public policies at the local, state and national level to address the climate crisis. Through voter education, lobbying, and participation in the electoral process, we seek to advance our country’s leadership in the global movement towards clean energy solutions — focusing our efforts primarily in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC. We know that a vibrant democracy is central to our success so we work to defend democratic integrity wherever we can.