Marylanders Rally on First Day of General Assembly Session to Double State’s Clean Energy Goals

Carolyn Millard

On the cold morning of January 14th, the first day of Maryland’s General Assembly, the National Wildlife Federation, our partners in the Maryland Climate Coalition, and other clean energy supporters rallied 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.

Ralliers from broad array of social justice, environmental, faith, labor and business groups packed Lawyer’s Mall holding “Forward with Clean Energy” signs and mini-wind turbines.

“Maryland needs to get out front of the burgeoning clean energy industry in this country,” Sen. Brian Feldman, chief sponsor of the legislation in the Senate told the group.  “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.”

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.

Pat Lippold, political director of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, told the crowd that the promise of good clean energy jobs and cleaner air and water 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 Lippold. “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.”

The Maryland Clean Energy Advancement Act of 2015will 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.

“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.

The Maryland Climate Coalition and partners will continue to work to make this historic clean energy bill a priority to pass in 2015 for the climate, the economy and public health.

Take action to double Maryland’s clean energy standard, email your legislators here.