MACo Blog Series: Climate Change & Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Part 1) – Overview of State Efforts

From time to time MACo will discuss particularly significant or complex policy issues that affect local governments through a series of blog articles. This post will be the first in a new series that will examine proposals being considered by Maryland to address climate change. This post will provide a basic overview of upcoming greenhouse gas reduction proposal and initiatives being considered by the State. Many of these proposals can have a significant effect on local land use.

THE GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS REDUCTION ACT OF 2009

In 2009, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act (GGRA) [HB 315 / SB 278], which required the Maryland Department of the Environmental (MDE) to develop a plan that will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the State by 25% from their 2006 levels by 2020. The bill requires a study of the economic impact of GHG emission reductions on the manufacturing sector and MDE must consider the rural impact of any GHG emission reductions relating to transportation.

THE STATE GGRA PLAN

MDE has prepared its 2011 draft GGRA Plan and is now taking public comments. The biggest reductions under the Plan are expected to come from energy (49% of the total effort) and transportation (22% of the total effort).

From the GGRA Plan page on the MDE website:

The 2011 draft of the GGRA Plan fulfills the law’s requirement for the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to submit a draft of the GGRA Plan to the Governor and General Assembly in advance of the final Plan. The final GGRA Plan is due in December of 2012. During the interim period, MDE will solicit public comment on the Plan through a series of public workshops. MDE is encouraging public comment on the Plan as a whole, on the 65 control measures that comprise the Plan and on any new ideas that members of the general public may have.

The 2011 draft Plan puts the State on track to achieve the 25 percent GHG reduction required by the law while also creating jobs and improving Maryland’s economy. The Plan also will help with other environmental priorities, including restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, improving air quality and other critical energy and national security issues.

The public workshops have the following schedule:

  • May 8, 2012 – 12:00 PM-2:00 PM Elkton Central Library 301 Newark Avenue, Elkton, Maryland 21921 410-996-5600
  • May 15, 2012 – 12:00 PM-2:00 PM Queen Anne’s County Health Department 206 North Commerce Street, Centreville, Maryland 21617 410-758-0720
  • May 24,2012 – 12:00 PM-2:00 PM C. Burr Artz Public Library 110 East Patrick Street, Frederick, Maryland 21701 301-600-1630 First Floor – Community Room
  • May 31, 2012 – 6:00 PM-8:00 PM Maryland Department of Natural Resources 580 Taylor Avenue, Annapolis, Maryland 21401 1-877-620-8367 C1 Conference Room
  • June 5, 2012 – 6:00 PM-8:00 PM Maryland Department of the Environment 1800 Washington Boulevard, Baltimore, Maryland 21230 410-537-3240 First Floor – Aqua & Terra Conference Rooms

According to MDE, preliminary analyses show an annual economic and jobs benefits of about 34,000 jobs, $5.5 billion in economic output, and $2 billion in wages resulting from the Plan’s proposed GHG emissions reduction strategies.

TRANSPORTATION AND LAND USE STRATEGIES GROUP

As previously reported on Conduit Street, there is also a Transportation and Land Use (TLU) Strategies Group that is focusing on GHG emission reductions through transportation and land use changes. From the Group’s website:

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is leading this stakeholder process to develop and analyze additional policy recommendations for the transportation and land use (TLU) sector. This process will enhance existing policies to achieve long-term reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and emissions that impact the Chesapeake Bay, while also providing positive economic, job creation and health benefits for the State. For this particular effort, the TLU Strategies Group will include both private sector and public sector participants. MDE is working with the Center for Climate Strategies (CCS) to conduct the stakeholder process and assist the TLU Strategies Group in identifying practical, effective strategies that will meet these goals.

This work will build on the policies developed by the State under the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009 (GGRA), and will include consideration of California’s Senate Bill (SB) 375 and the Carbon Neutral Corridor effort led by the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT). The process will begin where the State is now and is not intended to replace the TLU strategies currently in the State’s GGRA Plan. Its focus will be on strategies that have the potential to achieve longer-term (post-2020) climate and Bay benefits. The TLU Strategies Group includes stakeholders representing the business, local government, transportation, housing and environmental communities, as well as several State agencies.

SB 375 essentially requires the development of regional GHG emission reduction targets for passenger vehicles and each region must demonstrate how the region will meet its GHG reduction targets through integrated land use, housing, and transportation planning.

POTENTIAL COUNTY IMPACTS

There could be a significant impact on local land use planning as a result of the proposals in contained in the draft GGRA Plan and TLU Strategies Group. This could include vehicle miles traveled (VMT) reduction targets for local governments, the withholding of State funding for any transportation project that will increase VMT, and limiting development projects that do not reduce or mitigate VMT and GHG emissions.

An April 4 Maryland Department of Planning presentation to the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board Interagency Consultation Group contained the following quote:

“The only method to ensure a reduction in overall transportation emissions over time is to sharply reduce the rate of growth in VMT, which will require a significant adjustment of land use patterns away from automobile-oriented development.”

– Growing Cooler, 2007

Reducing GHG emissions is a complex undertaking and will require a coordinated effort by the State, local governments, private businesses, and citizens. However, it should not be realized through a “one-size-fits-all” approach or the loss of local land use autonomy. MACo will continue to report and be engaged in this issue over the interim. Future blog posts will provide more detail on the various components discussed above.

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