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Maryland to increase RPS, further reduce power usage, cut emissions by 40%


Maryland will boost its renewable energy portfolio standard, strengthen its programs to further reduce energy usage and require power plants to reduce their emissions by 40%, Governor Martin O'Malley said Thursday.

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O'Malley said the state is likely -- as things stand -- to fall short of its target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2020 and therefore he was releasing a plan to get the program back on track.

Maryland plans to make good on its recent agreement with members of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and further reduce its carbon dioxide emissions from 165 million mt to 91 million mt by 2020, he said.

The state is currently required by law to reduce its energy usage 15% by 2015. O'Malley said the existing program will be strengthened to allow the state to exceed that goal.

Maryland is on target to reach a 15% reduction in peak demand, but may fall short of reaching the 15% in per capita usage. The state is evaluating programs to determine the relative value of energy efficiency and conservation programs, the 265-page plan said.

"Climate change is not an ideological issue anymore than gravity is. It's about physics," O'Malley said, noting that 98% of scientists agree.

Maryland is losing 1.6 acres of land a day and has already lost 13 islands in the Chesapeake Bay, he said.

The means the state has taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are also reducing other emissions, including nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, fine particles and mercury. Total emissions from power plants would be reduced by 40%, O'Malley said.

The plan also considers hydraulic fracturing for natural gas as a significant greenhouse gas source and therefore is not including the switch to gas from coal as the primary fuel for power production as a source of greenhouse gas reductions.

"For natural gas, the full fuel cycle emissions will vary depending on two key factors: the share of natural gas produced from conventional drilling relative to hydraulic fracturing; and the methane leakage rate of hydraulically fractured gas," the plan said.

If methane leakage is high then the climate benefits from phasing out coal in favor of natural gas will be negligible, the report said.

--Mary Powers,
--Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh,