Maryland Models Bipartisan Climate Cooperation for Nation

In this age of hyper-partisanship, it's great to see a Republican governor's administration work with his state's Democratic legislature to enact climate change legislation that will benefit citizens across their state.

That was the case this week in Maryland, where Republican Governor Larry Hogan signed into law the landmark Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2016. Created with the help of Gov. Hogan's Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles, Democratic legislators, including Senator Paul Pinsky and Delegate Kumar Barve, and advocates such as the Sierra Club, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, and the Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, this legislation commits the Old Line State to one of the most ambitious, economy-wide greenhouse gas emission reduction targets in the nation: a 40 percent cut by 2030. This target, which was recommended unanimously by the state's bipartisan Climate Change Commission last fall, is in line with what scientists say we must achieve, and will help ensure that Maryland does its part to protect against climate change's worst effects.

This ambitious climate target offers a wealth of opportunities to Marylanders. And meeting it will not only help protect the state's kids (and kids everywhere) from dangerous climate change, but will create new jobs by the tens of thousands — 26,000 to 33,000 of them, according to Maryland's Department of the Environment (MDE) — while adding between $2.5 billion and $3.5 billion to the state's economy by 2020. Meeting the state's climate target can also save consumers big money on energy through investments in energy efficiency, and can improve the public's health by cutting dangerous air pollutants — sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and mercury, among others — that pour out of power plant smokestacks along with climate-warming carbon pollution.

To meet its new climate target, the state has great resources at its disposal. Energy efficiency is one of the most promising. Maryland is already among the country's 10 most energy efficient states, and can gain more by setting its sights even higher. For example, Massachusetts (another state with a Republican governor and Democratic legislature) is ranked the top energy efficient state in the nation by American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, and has had great success in pursuing increasing levels of savings — all while getting $3 worth of benefits for every dollar invested in the state's efficiency programs. Over the next three years, Massachusetts plans to get 2.93 percent in annual electricity savings, along with 1.24 percent in annual natural gas savings. Maryland can achieve similar levels of savings by maintaining and increasing its efficiency programs, especially for low-income residents. (Just last summer, the state got a head start on this by strengthened its EmPOWER MD energy efficiency portfolio; my colleague Deron Lovaas provides a great summary of that program here).

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is another vital tool in Maryland's climate toolbox that can continue to play a central role in cutting emissions statewide. Maryland already participates in this pioneering, nine-state collaboration that has helped cut power-sector carbon pollution by 35 percent since 2009. RGGI has added more than $340 million to Maryland's economy and created an impressive 3,845 job-years of work in the state. Now the RGGI states, Maryland included, are working to update the RGGI program to establish new region-wide limits on power plant carbon pollution for the period between 2020 and 2030. By advancing bold, new pollution reduction targets for RGGI, Maryland can leverage the program's highly successful market-based model to cut carbon pollution further, all while creating even more benefits for its residents. And it can do so in a way that can achieve the state's economy-wide climate target for 2030 — and similar commitments from other RGGI states.

Maryland also has many other tools at its disposal to meet its climate commitments. Renewable energy — wind and solar power — offer excellent carbon-cutting, cost-saving, and job-creating opportunities (which explains why an ambitious update to the state's renewable energy standard is currently making its way through the legislature). So do transportation policies such as those advanced by the multi-state Transportation Climate Initiative that support transit and can help Marylanders travel farther on a gallon of gas.

Under Governor Hogan's leadership, that of his Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles and the state's legislature, and with the help of our allies in environmental, health, social justice, and religious groups, Maryland's elected officials did what too many of the country's leaders are afraid to do these days: reach across the aisle and craft solutions that work for everyone. By signing this legislation, Governor Hogan is growing Maryland's economy and helping protect his state and the rest of us from climate change's worst impacts, all while championing the bipartisan governance that our country so desperately needs.

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