From the Maryland Climate Coalition:
As the 2015 Maryland General Assembly kicked off Wednesday, activists packed Lawyer’s Mall in front of the State House to call for action in 2015 to double the state’s use of clean electricity like wind and solar. The rally was headlined by a broad array of social justice, environmental, faith, labor and business leaders, who declared the historic clean energy bill a priority to pass in 2015 for the climate, the economy and health.
“Maryland needs to get out front of the burgeoning clean energy industry in this country. It will mean good paying jobs and a much needed boost to our economy. Other states are advancing on clean energy, and Maryland has a golden opportunity now to get ahead of the curve with this legislation,” said Sen. Brian Feldman, Democrat from district 15 and chief sponsor of the legislation in the Senate.
The Maryland Clean Energy Advancement Act of 2015 will double Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requirement to 40% clean electricity by 2025. The current state RPS requires 20% of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2022. The RPS was originally signed into law in 2004 by former Republican Governor Bob Ehrlich. Maryland utilities are currently on track to surpass the current standard, providing Marylanders with 10.3% of energy purchased from renewable sources in 2014.
“Marylanders are ready for this move forward on clean energy,” said Susan Cochran of the League of Women Voters of Maryland. “We can and must pass this legislation to double our clean energy use.”
Dozens of activists packed Lawyer’s Mall for the event, holding “Forward with Clean Energy” signs and waving small handheld wind turbines. A poll released last week showed that more than two-thirds of Maryland voters—or 69 percent—support raising the state’s clean electricity standard to 40% by 2025.
“A 40 percent renewable energy standard would make Maryland a national leader in clean energy and super-charge the market for good-paying clean energy jobs,” said Bob Keefe, executive director of Environmental Entrepreneurs, a national nonpartisan business group. “Lawmakers should seize this opportunity for the good of the state’s economy and its environment.”
The solar industry in Maryland now surpasses the state’s iconic crab industry in total economic value. Doubling Maryland’s renewable portfolio standard would create nearly 2,000 new jobs per year in the state’s solar industry and spur over 20,000 new jobs in the regional wind-power economy.
The promise of good clean energy jobs and cleaner air and water also drew support from Maryland’s health care workers. “The health care workers of 1199 SEIU support expanding Maryland’s renewable energy portfolio because climate change is a public health crisis,” said Pat Lippold, political director of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. “The impacts fall disproportionately on Maryland’s communities of color and poorest communities, which suffer from more polluted air and higher rates of breathing problems.”
“Climate change is already having direct negative impacts on our lives, families, and communities, and those impacts will only get much worse in the coming years,” stated Gerald Stansbury, President of the Maryland State Conference of the NAACP. “That’s why climate change is a civil rights and an economic justice issue. At the same time, doubling our clean energy will greatly benefit our communities. It will help clean up our air, put people to work, and seriously address climate justice.”
Currently, more than 85 percent of Marylanders live in areas that fail to meet the nation’s clean air standards, and the National Academy of Sciences estimates that illness caused by polluting energy sources costs Maryland households an average of $73 per month. A separate analysis shows that a 40% clean electricity standard will prevent 200 to 450 deaths per year in Maryland.
“Children are among the most vulnerable to climate change, especially from extreme heat events, widespread disease and increased air pollution,” said Trisha Sheehan, Northeast Regional Field Manager for Moms Clean Air Force. “Maryland has the ability to double its use of clean energy by 2025. We need to act now to cut our reliance on the dirty fossil fuels that are polluting our air and making us sick.”
Maryland faith leaders also joined Wednesday’s rally. The Ecumenical Leaders’ Group, representing seven denominations of Christian churches throughout Maryland, voted this fall to endorse a 40% clean electricity standard for Maryland. Since that announcement, more than 100 religious leaders representing diverse faith traditions have signed onto their call, which includes a commitment that congregations also reach 40% clean energy.
“This opportunity to source 40% of Maryland’s energy from renewable sources by 2025 is a step in the direction of stewardship, a sign of respect to God and fulfilling our God-given responsibility to creation,” said Reverend Ryan Sirmons, United Church of Christ Annapolis.