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  January 14, 2018

Maryland Bill Calls For 100% Renewable Energy by 2035

Delegate Shane Robinson, the lead sponsor of the bill, says it would set an important example nationally and internationally
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DHARNA NOOR: While the Trump Administration is rolling back environmental protections and has pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement, some advocates in Maryland are demanding the state completely wean itself off non-renewable energy.

SHANE ROBINSON: I want to highlight that it is very important, urgently important, and even, in fact, vitally important that Maryland take the lead in moving, not only our state, but our country to 100% clean energy.

DHARNA NOOR: In Annapolis on Tuesday, the day before the 2018 Maryland General Assembly Session, representatives from Food and Water Watch, Energy Justice Network, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Montgomery County's Sugarloaf Citizens Association gathered to call for the state's General Assembly to pass a bill that would move the state to 100% clean energy by 2035.

SPEAKER: We are proud to support legislation that eliminates waste incineration from our sources of electricity and promotes those with no harmful effects on our citizens or our planet, such as wind and solar.

DHARNA NOOR: The year is significant. Climate scientists have found that globally, humans must phase out of the use of fossil fuels by 2035 to avoid catastrophic climate change brought by global temperatures rising by over 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Montgomery County Delegate, Shane Robinson, the bill's lead sponsor, will introduce the bill in January.

SHANE ROBINSON: This is something that we don't have time for. Time has run out. We have to act now in order to mitigate this crisis that is happening around us already, and is only going to get worse. We can't count on the Trump Administration to take action. We can't count on Scott Pruitt to take action. We can't count on other states. We have no control over what they do. So, we have to do it here in Maryland.

DHARNA NOOR: Robinson's bill also aims to change Maryland's renewable portfolio standard, which incentivizes the use of renewables. Currently, the standard includes incentives for the use of what the advocates call "dirty renewables," including trash incineration and the burning of paper mill waste products known as "black liquor."

SPEAKER: Years ago, when we passed this renewable portfolio standard, the people thought they were getting clean energy, but instead, they got asthma and cancer. Here we are today to bring truly 100% clean electricity to this state so we can truly have a healthy, fresh air. And our skies can stay as blue today, as blue the next day, as they always have been.

DHARNA NOOR: At the press conference, advocates explained that in 2015, only 22% of Maryland's renewable energy credits went to sources that they really think are green.

SHANE ROBINSON: This is the data from 2015. We're going to be getting soon data from 2016, but you can set that really only 22%, as it says here, of the renewable energy credits retired in Maryland are going to what we define in this bill as "clean energy," which means that the bulk is actually going to dirty energy.

DHARNA NOOR: As the Baltimore Sun exposed, Maryland's largest polluters are considered producers of renewable energy, and are being subsidized by taxpayers. Robinson's bill would remove incentives for dirty renewables.

SHANE ROBINSON: The reality is that we're burning trash, and we're burning toxic paper byproducts to create our energy and we're calling that "renewable energy." And we're touting it as green.

DHARNA NOOR: Robinson said he's seen widespread support for the move to 100% renewables, except for from utilities companies.

SHANE ROBINSON: The utilities, of course, don't want this. They don't want to be told what type of energy that they can buy and then sell. So, that's, I don't fault them for that.

DHARNA NOOR: The Real News reached out to Baltimore Gas and Electric Company for comment, and they said, "BGE is committed to working with all of our stakeholders, including the Maryland General Assembly, to advance prudent and sound energy policy. We will carefully review the legislation at the appropriate time and respond accordingly." We await comment from the HVAC contractor, Pepco. Robinson also said his bill could lead to green jobs.

SHANE ROBINSON: One of the largest job growth areas right now are solar panel installers and offshore and onshore wind technicians.

DHARNA NOOR: This past autumn, the Baltimore City Council endorsed a proposal to move Maryland to 50% renewables by 2030. Some questioned why they didn't endorse a more ambitious proposal.

SHANE ROBINSON: I think if the people that presented that to them had asked them to support 100% renewable energy, they would have. So, my question is, "Why did you only ask them to do 50%?" Maybe we need to go back and say, "Would you support 100%?" And we get that resolution as happened in Montgomery County.

DHARNA NOOR: Last month, the Council of Maryland's most populous county, Montgomery County, passed a resolution that aims to lower greenhouse gas emissions by 100% by 2035. This all comes as the Trump Administration issues blow after blow to renewable energy advocates. Just last week, the Trump Administration proposed opening 90% of US waters to offshore drilling.

SHANE ROBINSON: The silver lining of all this is we might end up actually getting some action faster at state levels because of the lunacy that's happening at the federal level.

DHARNA NOOR: Robinson doesn't think this bill alone can fight climate change but he thinks it presents a necessary step.

SHANE ROBINSON: We're only six million people in this state. So, our emissions are geopolitically insignificant. We can go to 50%. We can go to 100. We can stay at where we are. We're not gonna stop or further the speed and impact of climate change based on our actions here. But what we can do is create policy that will cause a ripple effect across the other states and hopefully other countries to get them to look at what we're doing and then implement a version that will work in their areas.

DHARNA NOOR: For the Real News, Dharna Noor, Annapolis.


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