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Climate advocates take aim at Md. emissions plan


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Climate advocates take aim at Md. emissions plan

An initial proposal for cutting greenhouse gas emissions in Maryland may not get the state to its goals, according to a review conducted on behalf of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the Climate XChange.

The Maryland Department of the Environment in October released a draft plan for meeting a state requirement to cut greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030. The draft plan includes, among other things, emissions cuts to the electricity generation sector through increased use of low- and zero-carbon resources and greater adoption of electric vehicles.

A review conducted by the Center for Climate Strategies concluded that Maryland under the draft plan is "unlikely to meet state-mandated emissions reductions targets in 2030 or long-term decarbonization pathways needs through 2040 and 2050," a report released Dec. 19 said.

"It needs improvements in its transparency (clarity and detail), openness and stakeholder inclusion, level of ambition for the short and long term, viability of analysis assumptions, and inclusion of all measures and strategies needed to meet goals," the report said.

Scott Williamson, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Climate Strategies and an author of the report, said one problematic assumption in the draft plan is an expectation that electric vehicle sales will increase significantly.

Currently, less than 10,000 electric vehicles are sold in Maryland each year. The plan assumes that the figure will jump to an average of 50,000 electric vehicles sold per year from 2026 to 2030.

"That's a major shift without really any major policy support or really much expectation that that's going to be driven by the national market at this point," Williamson told reporters on a call to discuss the review's findings. "It's not a shift that we dislike, or that anybody thinks would be a bad thing, but it's just not well supported."

Governor wants 100% clean electricity by 2040

The draft plan also covers the implementation of Gov. Larry Hogan's goal for Maryland to get all of its electricity from clean resources by 2040.

The governor in May stated his intention to introduce his Clean and Renewable Energy Standard, or CARES, proposal on the first day of the next legislative session. This came as he let a bill requiring companies such as Exelon Corp. subsidiaries Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., Delmarva Power & Light Co. and Potomac Electric Power Co. and FirstEnergy Corp. subsidiary Potomac Edison Co. to get half their power from renewable sources by 2030 become law.

Hogan on Dec. 17 released more details on the upcoming legislation.

In a news release, the governor said that along with increasing strategic use of zero- and low-carbon sources, the CARES proposal would make nuclear energy facilities such as small modular reactors eligible for clean energy credits, support hydropower, and provide incentives for carbon capture, utilization and storage. The governor said the proposal also would promote combined heat and power systems.

That is similar to language in the draft emissions reduction plan, which lists eligible CARES technologies as additional solar beyond an existing solar-carve out, combined heat and power co-generation facilities, hydropower, nuclear power, and natural gas with carbon capture.

Steven Hershkowitz, Maryland director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said the CARES legislation ultimately may not be as environmentally friendly as advertised, adding that plans that would involve using fracked natural gas to generate electricity cannot be clean.

He also suggested that meeting Maryland's emissions goals alone may not even be enough, asserting that the state should aim for greenhouse gas emissions cuts of 60% by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2045. Doing that would be in line with recommendations from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius to avoid the worst effects of climate change, Hershkowitz said.

"The main message of the report seemed to be 'Everything we are doing already is good enough,'" Hershkowitz said of the draft plan. "But we know that's not true."

Jay Apperson, a spokesman with the Maryland Department of the Environment, said the reduction plan will not be final until the General Assembly and members of the public have had an opportunity to provide input. Apperson said the CARES proposal would get the state to 100% clean electricity by 2040 "in a way that achieves greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals at the greatest value to ratepayers."