Climate Change is a global emergency that is already upon us, and will only get worse if we don’t take urgent and immediate action. The IPCC said that climate change is unprecedented, inevitable and irreversible. Only “immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions” in greenhouse gases can prevent further temperature rise exceeding 1.5 or even 2C, which will have catastrophic consequences.
We must act on many fronts to achieve the necessary greenhouse gas reductions:
- Continuing to move the electric grid to clean, renewable sources. Among other things we need to remove dirty sources like incineration from Maryland’s renewable portfolio standard;
- Enact standards for new buildings and major renovations to decarbonize and electrify buildings and move to net zero or net positive;
- Require new and renovated schools and state government funded buildings to use passive house design and build to net zero standards;
- Increase availability and quality of zero emission transit;
- Transition government fleets to zero emission vehicles;
- Continue to expand the use of electric and ZE vehicles through a combination of requirements and incentives, including increasing availability of vehicle charging stations;
- Charge businesses a fee on fossil fuel use in the state to be used for climate resilience and environmental justice. If businesses insist on using fossil fuels, they should have to pay for the consequences.
Our reliance on disposable products has created a waste crisis. Landfills are filling up and microplastics are found everywhere on earth, including in animals and humans. Decomposition of food waste releases methane. We need to increase composting and move towards zero waste. We cannot recycle our way out of the waste crisis: some materials can’t be recycled, and recycling processes can also generate emissions. We need to reduce the waste generated in the first place and reuse what we can.
- Prohibit most single use plastics;
- Develop greater composting capability and encourage food diversion to composting or programs addressing food insecurity.
- Enact extended producer responsibility programs;
- Enact Right to Repair.
From pesticides to PFAS “forever chemicals,” we must stop contaminating our environment with toxic chemicals which have a devastating impact on the environment, human health, and animal species, including pollinators.
Due to a history of redlining and race-based land use policies, communities of color are more likely to be impacted by the climate crisis. Highways, incinerators, and power plants are often located in or near communities of color, creating higher levels of air pollution. Often urban communities of color are subject to the heat island effect due to a lack of green space and trees, and communities of color are often on land that is more vulnerable to flooding. Research from Neighborspace of Baltimore County shows that many areas inside Baltimore County’s Urban-Rural Demarcation Line (URLD), including large sections of District 44B, have a deficit of greenspace.
We must be intentional about ensuring that our policies to combat the climate crisis center these vulnerable communities.
- Amend the Maryland Constitution to guarantee environmental rights to all Marylanders;
- Create pocket parks and other green space, and planting trees in urban areas to reduce heat islands and reduce stormwater runoff.
- Fund programs or grants for renovating housing in vulnerable communities to increase energy efficiency and build in resilience to the effects of climate change.
- Increase the availability of zero emissions mass transit in those communities.
- Ensure that climate programs in vulnerable communities pay prevailing wages and hire local. Set requirements on any grants that they also pay prevailing wages and hire local.
The Chesapeake Bay is our treasure and we must do everything we can to protect it, and all of Maryland’s waters. Industrial agricultural practices cause nutrient pollution runoff into the Bay, creating algal blooms leading to dead zones. Pesticide runoff into Maryland’s water system is a threat to the environment and human health. Stormwater runoff from development and impervious surfaces causes an increased risk of flooding and carries toxic substances into the watersheds and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. Steps that can be taken to alleviate these issues:
- Promote sustainable and regenerative agriculture by funding initiatives to support farmers in making the transition and in being able to sell their products
- Better regulate CAFOs and limit further expansion
- Better regulate pesticides by creating a systematic, science-based approach to pesticide regulation under the jurisdiction of MDE or MDH
- Better regulate septic systems to protect Maryland’s waters from nutrient and other pollution as a result of poor installation or maintenance
Transit & Land Use
Replacing gasoline powered vehicles with EV’s without changing our car-centric culture only solves part of the problem. EV’s still have an environmental cost, from manufacturing to the need for roads and parking spaces. We must build reliable, equitable, multi-modal, effective, and clean energy transit systems statewide. We also need to be smarter about land use policies to discourage suburban sprawl and encourage carefully planned, mixed-use, transit-oriented development, so that people can live, work, play, and shop without needing to rely on cars.
My 2022 Environmental Bills
HB387: Pesticide Regulation - Transfer to Department of the Environment
Transfer pesticide regulation authority and resources from the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) to the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), and authorizing MDE, in consultation with MDA and the Maryland Department of Health, to enact policies regulating, limiting or prohibiting pesticides. While MDA has expertise in how pesticides are used in agriculture, MDE has broader expertise in toxic substances.
HB141: Equity in Transportation Sector - Guidelines and Analyses (The Transportation Equity Act of 2022)
Transportation is not only a way to get from one place to another, but it plays a key role in economic development and the environment. But as with so many things, the benefits and consequences of the state's transportation decisions do not accrue equally to everyone. There is a long history of disparate impact in transportation decisions, from highways running through Black communities, creating health and safety hazards in those communities, to the cancellation of the Red Line in 2015. The federal Title VI requirements should prevent disparate impact in transit, but they’re inconsistently enforced, don’t cover other transportation like highways, and only require analysis after transportation decisions are made. We need to make sure that Maryland's transportation decisions are made with equity in the forefront, rather than as an afterthought.
HB141 makes equity a core part of all transportation planning statewide. It adds equity as a goal in the Maryland Transportation Plan, requires reporting on racial and ethic disparities and impact on persons with disabilities in the annual Attainment Report, creates a Commission on Transportation Equity, and ensures a transit equity analysis, cost benefit analysis, and outreach to impacted communities are done before any major service change or reduction or cancellation of a capital expansion project exceeding certain thresholds.
HB363: Attorney General - Climate Change Actions - Authorization
The fossil fuel industry knew as far back as the 1960s that fossil fuel emissions would lead to climate change, with catastrophic consequences. Yet they chose to conceal what they knew and deceive the public through decades of climate misinformation. Now that the climate crisis is upon us, the taxpayers should not have to pay for damage due to the deceptive and fraudulent actions of the fossil fuel industry. HB363 authorizes the Attorney General to file suit against publicly-traded companies and their subsidiaries that contributed to the climate crisis through their unlawful actions, and to hire outside counsel if needed on a contingency basis.
Retail Service Stations – New Construction – Setbacks and Electric Charging Stations
Mitigates the health and environmental impacts of gas stations by requiring all new gas stations over a certain size to be set back at least 1000 feet from schools, day care centers, parks, playgrounds, churches, hospitals, outdoor recreation areas, residential property, and other gas stations. It also requires all new gas stations to install at least one level 2 EV charging station for each gas pump.
Maryland Energy Administration – Energy and Water Efficiency Standards – Alterations
Requires the Maryland Energy Administration to adopt water and energy efficiency standards for a variety of products, including portable electric spas, air purifiers, commercial dishwashers, commercial steam cookers, faucets, and residential ventilating fans. Requires the Maryland Energy Administration to review standards for electric vehicle supply equipment and high CRI fluorescent lamps and authorizes them to adopt standards for those if determined needed by the outcome of the review.