The House Environment and Transportation Committee received an update from the Maryland Commission on Climate Change on January 18, 2018. The Commission panel discussed the current and future plans for climate change policies in Maryland. Commission panelists included: (1) Maryland Secretary of the Environment and Commission Chair Benjamin Grumbles; (2) State Treasurer and ex officio Commission member Nancy Kopp; and (3) Town Creek Foundation Executive Director and Commission Co-Chair Stuart Clarke.
Grumbles stated that the Commission is “bi-partisan, collaborative, and science-based.” Grumbles noted that the Commission was in 2007 through executive order and later codified in statute in 2015. The Commission has four working groups: (1) Mitigation; (2) Adaptation and Response; (3) Scientific and Technical; and (4) Education, Communication, and Outreach.
Grumbles stressed the climate change record of the Governor Larry Hogan Administration, including support for the work of the Commission, the recently enhanced power plant emission goals under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), and the Governor’s recent announcement that Marylaad will join the US Climate Alliance. Grumbles also noted that Maryland is on track to reach its current goal of reducing greenhouse gases by 25% by 2025.
Grumbles also provided members of the Committee with the Commission’s annual report and highlighted three of the Commission’s proposed activities for 2018: (1) enhancing the greenhouse gas emissions inventory due in 2018; (2) a healthy soils initiative where the Commission would engage with the agricultural sector to adopt better carbon sequestration practices; and (3) remaining active in a multi-state climate initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. Grumbles also stated that a new Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act plan is due by the end of 2018 that will detail how Maryland can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. Kopp noted the new plan will include 5-year benchmarks and measurable goals.
Delegate Stephen Lafferty noted that a lot of the Commission’s work requires or involves local governments. Lafferty asked how the Commission was engaging with and assisting local governments. Grumbles responded that the Commission has local government representatives on both the Commission and its working groups, works with local communities on energy and water infrastructure, and regularly presents at MACO and the Maryland Municipal League’s annual conferences.
Lafferty also asked whether any local governments have begun to do climate assessments to gauge climate change impacts on their jurisdictions. Grumbles responded that local leaders are developing strategies for mitigation, adaptation and resiliency, and renewable energy. Some strategies, like the one developed by Ellicott City, involves responding to past or potential future disasters. Kopp added that many counties are addressing the issues through land use and transportation planning. Kopp also suggested that MACo or local government representatives highlight some of the climate planning that local governments are doing.
Committee Chair Kumar Barve stated that utility scale solar is now economically competitive with natural gas and urged the relevant state agencies to consider how to incorporate utility scale solar into land use planning. Barve believed that there is enough space to accommodate large solar facilities without disrupting agriculture, other industries, or forestlands. Grumbles noted that various State agencies are working on this.