Governor Hogan Unveils 2017 Environmental Agenda; Advocates & Legislators React

Governor Lawrence “Larry” Hogan unveiled his Administration’s environmental agenda for the 2017 Session on January 3. Totaling almost $65 million in funding, the Governor’s proposals include:

  1. Renewable Energy Project Funding: $41 million in investment in Tier 1 renewable energy projects through the Strategic Energy Investment Fund (coming from the $44 million in liquidated damages owed to the State by Exelon)
  2. Green Jobs Training: $3 million for the Employment Advancement Right Now (EARN) program for green jobs training for 1,500 workers
  3. Clean Cars Act of 2017: legislation would increase funding to the Electric Vehicle Tax Credit program for purchasers of electric vehicles by 30% and double the Charging Station rebate
  4. Green Energy Institute: $7.5 million in funding for the creation of the Green Energy Institute (GEI) to attract private sector clean energy investment and innovations in Maryland
  5. Clean Water Commerce Act: legislation would allow $10 million from the Bay Restoration Fund to be used to purchase nutrient reduction credits to assist the State in meeting its Chesapeake Bay restoration goals.

From a Governor Larry Hogan press release (2017-01-03)

“The proposals in our package are innovative, forward-thinking solutions to ensure that Maryland continues to lead the way to safeguard our environment,” said Governor Hogan. “I look forward to working with legislators to get these common sense measures passed. We owe it to the next generation to continue to find cost-effective ways to protect Maryland’s environment and stimulate economic growth.” …

“Making it easier and more affordable to invest in alternative energy is essential to move Maryland toward a cleaner energy future,” said Maryland Energy Administration Director Dr. Mary Beth Tung. “The governor’s legislative package goes a long way toward encouraging cleaner, greener, and smarter use of our energy resources.” …

“Under Governor Hogan’s leadership, Maryland has already made great strides to restore the Chesapeake Bay and protect our precious natural resources,” said Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. “The initiatives proposed in the governor’s legislative package will ensure that Maryland continues to make generational progress in improving our environment.”

The press release also stated that the Hogan administration has previously invested a record high of $53 million in the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund, supported legislation that restored $60 million in funding to Program Open Space (POS) and protected the program against future funding diversions, supported legislation codifying the Maryland Commission on Climate Change, and sought proposals on addressing the nutrient and sediment pollution from the Conowingo Dam.

A WJZ CBS Baltimore and Associated Press article (2017-01-03) included reaction from Environment Maryland:

“Our transportation system actually produces 30 percent of the country’s carbon emissions, which is a huge number,” said Andrea Anderson of Environment Maryland. “[Governor Hogan] has a mixed record when it comes to environmental initiatives.” …

“We’re really pleased that he wants to be an environmental leader but there’s so much more he can do as well,” said Anderson.

Anderson also noted that Hogan vetoed legislation during the 2016 Session that would have created more green jobs by expanding Maryland’s renewable energy targets under the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). The General Assembly will  likely consider a veto override during the 2017 Session.

A Washington Post article (2017-01-03) offered the perspectives of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network:

Reaction from environmental advocates was mixed. Karla Raettig, executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, said she was cautiously optimistic about the proposals and pleased that the governor was “showing an interest” in environmental protections.

 But Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said Hogan’s plan would do relatively little to advance clean energy and does not make up for the governor’s 2016 veto of a bill that would have required the state to obtain 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

“He’s late to the party,” Tidwell said. “The real gains have been happening despite his opposition.”

A Baltimore Sun article (2017-01-03) included reactions by Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee Vice Chair Paul Pinsky and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation:

Sen. Paul Pinsky, vice chairman of the Senate committee that handles environmental legislation, called Hogan’s agenda “underwhelming at best.”

“He’s throwing little bits of money at small, disparate projects that may or may not contribute to the overall problems affecting the air and water of the state,” the Prince George’s County Democrat said. …

Allison Prost, Maryland executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said she needs to see the details of the [Clean Water Commerce Act] legislation before commenting. “What are we going to be buying with this $10 million and what is it going to mean for local water quality?” she said.

Finally, a Daily Record article (2017-01-03) included the Governor’s reasoning for vetoing the 2015 RPS legislation:

Last year, Hogan vetoed legislation that mandated the state increase the amount of electricity generated by wind and solar sources to 25 percent by 2020. The measure enjoys strong support from legislature Democrats.

Hogan, speaking on Tuesday, called the vetoed bill a tax on Maryland consumers.

“It was a $100 million tax increase that I opposed. I think we’re able to accomplish a lot of these things without raising, making hard-working Marylanders pay more than they do,” Hogan told reporters. “Back during the campaign I was fighting against the rain tax, right? I jokingly said, ‘What are they going to think of next, a sunshine tax?’ This is actually a sunshine tax. It’s charging people every month on their bill to force people to buy expensive solar and wind energy. We don’t need this bill to pass.”

“I’m just opposed to the sunshine and wind tax,” Hogan said.