MACo Blog Series: Climate Change & Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Part 2): Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act Plan

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 is the second in a new series that will examine proposals being considered by Maryland to address climate change.  This post will provide an overview of the State’s draft Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act (GGRA) Plan, which lays out proposed strategies for handling climate change.  The draft Plan is currently open to public comment.  The final version of the Plan is being targeted for adoption in 2012.


The Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009 (HB 315 / SB 278) requires 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 legislation also required that any GHG reduction proposals in the Plan have a net economic benefit for Maryland.  The 362-page Plan is divided into 9 Chapters and offer 65 initial proposals for reducing GHG emissions.  The majority of reductions will come from energy( 49%), transportation (22%), and agriculture and forestry (12%).  The Plan also has nearly 2,000 pages of supplemental material included in 7 appendices.   MDE views the Plan as a “multi-pollutant” plan that will not just target air quality but also nutrient run-off into the Chesapeake Bay.

A preliminary economic analysis conducted by Towson University’s Regional Economic Studies Institute (RESI) estimates that if all 65 of the Plan’s proposals are implemented the result will be the creation of approximately 36,000 jobs, $6.1 billion in additional economic output, and $2.1 billion in additional wages.  (These numbers do not include the estimated $3 billion required to implement the proposals.)  RESI’s full economic analysis can be found in Appendix E of the Plan.


Chapter 1 of the Plan provides basic background on climate change, why the Plan is needed, Maryland’s climate change efforts to date, and the GHG reduction efforts of other states.  The Plan notes that Maryland, with the 4th longest coastline of any state and a large agricultural component to its economy, is ranked as the 3rd highest state most susceptible to climate change.


Chapter 2 contains a brief review of the most recent findings of climate change science, including global air temperatures, sea ice thickness, ocean acidification, and severe weather events.

The good news is that we are improving our understanding of the phenomenon of climate change, its repercussions and its likely course.  The bad news is that the substantial preponderance of the new science indicates that significant climate change is more certain, will occur sooner than previously thought, and will result in largely negative consequences for the wellbeing of humans and their planet’s critical living systems.


Chapter 3 discusses how the GRRA Inventory and Forecast were computed.  The inventory is the amount of GHG emissions generated in Maryland in 2006.  The inventory found that the top three GHG generators in 2006 were electricity use (39%); onroad transportation (28%); and residential, commercial, and industrial fuel use (16%).  The forecast projects GHG emission patterns through 2020 and includes a “business as usual” scenario if not additional GHG reduction strategies were implemented.

For additional information on quantifying GHG emissions in Maryland see Appendix B.


This Chapter updates a prior report by the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Environmental Research (CIER) on the costs if the State failed to implement climate change and GHG reduction policies.  The report was originally included as part of the 2008 Maryland Climate Action Plan, which was used to help set the goals and requirements of the 2009 Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act.  The study methodology used by CIER can be found in Appendix F.

The Chapter highlights the impacts and costs of climate change to Maryland in five sectors:  (1) coastal land and ecosystems; (2) tourism; (3) agriculture; (4) public health; and (5) energy.


Chapter 5 discusses how the Plan is part of a larger “multi-pollutant” reduction strategy by MDE and is the first of three pollution reduction plans that MDE will be creating in the next few years.

The 2012 GGRA Plan will not only help reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), but also will help Maryland meet its mandates to:  (1) further clean up the Chesapeake Bay; (2) meet new National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ground-level ozone, fine particles, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide, and (3) meet federal and State requirements to further reduce regional haze as well as mercury and other air toxics.

MDE’s development schedule for the three plans is as follows:

  • Phase 1:  Adopt final GGRA Plan – December 2012
  • Phase 2:  Adopt State Implementation Plan for new federal Clean Air Act ozone standard – 2013 or 2014
  • Phase 3: Adopt State Implementation Plan for new federal Clean Air Act fine particle standard – 2013 or 2014

The Chapter also discusses Maryland’s existing air quality programs, including:  (1) the Maryland Healthy Air Act; (2) the Maryland Clean Cars Program; and (3) EmPOWER Maryland.  Finally, the Chapter discusses several frameworks for implementing and analyzing a multi-pollutant policy.  For more on multi-pollutant planning see Appendix G.


Chapter 6 is the core section of the Plan and describes the 65 proposed GHG reduction programs and State agency responsible for each program.  Some of the proposals that may have significant county government impacts include:

  • Increasing recycling and source reduction standards – MDE
  • The Transportation and Climate Initiative – MDE
  • Evaluate the GHG emissions impacts from major new projects and plans – Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT)
  • Increasing urban trees to capture carbon – Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
  • Building and trade codes in Maryland – Department of Housing and Human Development (DHCD)
  • Reducing GHG emissions from the transportation sector through land use and location efficiency – Maryland Department of Planning (MDP)
  • Transportation GHG targets for local governments and Metropolitan Planning Organizations – MDP
  • Funding mechanisms for Smart Growth – MDP
  • GHG Benefits from Priority Funding Areas and other growth boundaries – MDP

The Chapter provides a potential breakdown of the GHG reductions and job creation and economic benefits that could be achieved by program and by sector (Energy, Transportation, Agriculture and Forestry, Recycling, Multi-Sector, Buildings, Land Use, and Maryland’s Innovative Initiatives).  The Innovative Initiatives sector contains proposals that do not fit within any other particular sector and serves as a “catch-all” category.  The land use sector GHG reductions assume that 75% of Maryland’s new development between 2011 and 2020 will be compact development.

Further details on the 65 proposals can be found in Appendix C.


Chapter 7 discusses the job and economic growth impact of the 65 proposals and is primarily based on the 2011 RESI study (see Appendix E) and the 2011 updated cost of inaction analysis by CIER (see Chapter 4 and Appendix F).  RESI’s preliminary findings indicate that for every $1 million invested in the 65 proposals, 15 jobs will be created with an economic output of $1.8 million and $0.6 million in wages.

If all 65 proposals are implemented, “[t]he programs will support a total of 35,981 jobs, $6.1 billion in output, and $2.1 billion in wages annually once in operation.”  The employment, economic output, and wage impacts are broken down by sector (Energy, Transportation, etc.) and proposal.  Indirect and induced impacts are also included by sector.

The RESI study also includes a literature review of other climate change economic impact studies in Maryland.


Chapter 8 discusses how Maryland must not only work to mitigate the effects of climate change, but also adapt to the current and future effects that climate change will cause to the state.  Many of the discussed adaptation strategies have an implementation time that extends beyond 2020 and many are ongoing in nature.  The Chapter discusses how climate change will affect a variety of policy areas and offers potential adaptation strategies to address these changes.  In some cases the adaptation identifies the lead State agency, key partners (such as local governments), priority, timeframe, and potential implementation cost.

The policy areas include:  sea level rise and coastal storms; human health; agriculture; forest and terrestrial ecosystems; the Bay and aquatic ecosystems; water resources; population growth and infrastructure; and tools, research, and education to inform sound decisions.

For example, under population growth and infrastructure, on of proposed adaptation strategies is to institutionalize consideration of climate change in government decisions.  MDP is tasked with considering climate change issues in combination with ongoing growth and development planning efforts.  promoting the integration of climate change adaptation strategies into State and local policies and programs.  Local governments and the Sustainable Growth Commission are listed as key partners.  The implementation priority is listed as high, the timeframe is short-term, and the potential cost is low.


Chapter 9 discusses three major legislative initiatives that are linked to the draft Plan.  The three initiatives include:  (1) the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2012; (2) the need for increased transportation revenue (such as a gasoline tax increase); and (3) the Sustainable Growth and Agriculture Preservation Act of 2012 (septic system legislation).  Of the three initiatives, only the septic system legislation passed during the 2012 Session and its potential GHG reduction benefits will need to be factored into the Plan.

The remainder of the Chapter summarizes other Maryland climate legislation that has been passed from 2006 to 2011.


The draft Plan contains seven appendices (A-G).

Appendix A – Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009 [10 pages]

Appendix B  – 2011 Final Report on Analysis of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions by Science Application International Corporation (SAIC) [316 pages]

Appendix C – Maryland Climate Policies (detailed explanation of the Plan’s 65 proposed climate change initiatives) [380 pages]

Appendix D – MDOT 2011 Draft Climate Implementation Plan [178 pages]

Appendix E – RESI 2011 Draft Economic Impact Analysis [972 pages]

Appendix F – CIER 2011 Review of Climate Change and the Cost of Inaction in Maryland [56 pages]

Appendix G – Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) Multi-Pollutant Planning Approach [69 pages]


The draft Plan is open for public comment through August 17.  Please direct question or comments about the draft Plan to

A June 8 article provides some stakeholder reactions to the Plan.

Comments largely have been positive, said George “Tad” Aburn, air director for MDE. …

In general, only a narrow range of such programs are likely to be effective, said Thomas Firey, senior fellow with the conservative Maryland Public Policy Institute. Cap-and-trade programs are the most efficient way to reduce emissions, said Firey, adding that it was encouraging that the O’Malley administration was supporting one.    …

Some of the individual initiatives, such as transportation projects, will require the participation of local jurisdictions, Aburn said.

The article notes that the Maryland Sierra Club was “pleased” with the draft Plan.  Environment Maryland argued that that Governor Martin O’Malley’s offshore wind proposal needs to pass the Maryland General Assembly “ASAP.”


MDE GGRA Plan page

Conduit Street Climate Change Blog Series Part 1:  Overview of State Efforts

This Post Has 6 Comments

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.