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Environmental Activists, State Candidates Push Support for Clean Energy

5/12/2022 | William J. Ford

The Wasington Informer

More than a month after the majority-Democratic Maryland legislature approved sweeping climate legislation, environmental activists and state candidates are pushing an even stronger proposal: 100% clean energy by 2035.

The resolution led by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) has received support from 143 candidates running for state offices including eight of the registered Democrats for governor.

Part of the resolution states an interim goal for carbon-pollution-free electricity at 80% by 2030, eliminate trash incineration in the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard and increase access to public transit and green transportation alternatives for under-served communities.

The clean energy proposal mirrors a goal set by President Joe Biden for the nation.

“There’s never been a climate justice resolution that any groups have come together and asked potential legislators to sign,” Mike Tidwell, founder and director of CCAN, said Thursday outside Lawyers’ Mall in Annapolis. “We want 100% clean electricity in this state. Not 99%. Not 98%.”

Four of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates and some of their running mates joined Tidwell, members of CASA and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 26 on what they would implement if elected in the July 19 primary and Nov. 8 general elections.

Gubernatorial candidate Ashwani Jain, 32, said his climate change plan would require environmental impact studies for any state legislation that would impact the environment, increase fossil fuel fees, and invest equitably in the light-rail Purple Line project in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.

Former Hyattsville Mayor Candace Hollingsworth, the lieutenant governor candidate running alongside governor hopeful and former Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, highlighted the campaign’s “Green Maryland” plan which includes a five-year, statewide moratorium on new development within the Chesapeake Bay and outside designated priority funding areas.

Michelle Siri, executive director of the Women’s Law Center and running mate of former U.S. Education Secretary John King Jr., mentioned how she and her son joined CCAN’s annual polar bear plunge at National Harbor in February to battle climate change. One part of the campaign’s plan seeks to invest funding in Black and brown communities affected by the environment such as most of the trash burned in Baltimore City are in a majority-Black neighborhood.

Former Baltimore City Council member Shannon Sneed, running mate of former Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, said the state can improve the environment and support project labor agreements to bolster jobs. Part of the campaign’s proposal seeks to boost wages and benefits, especially for unionized workers.

The other four gubernatorial candidates who signed on to support the resolution are former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, state Comptroller Peter Franchot, former nonprofit executive Wes Moore and Jerome Segal, a retired research scholar at the University of Maryland and founder of the former Bread and Roses Party.

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination anticipates a Republican challenge from these four candidates: former Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz, backed by outgoing Gov. Laryy Hogan, whose second four-year term expires in January, Del. Daniel Cox, who represents parts of Carroll and Frederick counties, former state Del. Robin Ficker of Montgomery County and Joe Werner of Baltimore County.

Because Maryland primaries are only open for Democrats and Republicans, two other people registered their candidacies for the general election: Libertarian candidate David Lashar of Annapolis and independent candidate Kyle Sefcik from Montgomery County.

Madison Green of Beltsville, a student at the University of Maryland in College Park, said that whoever voters decide to select, the new governor must present a global view to battle climate change.

“One of the consequences of climate change is the rising sea level. My country will literally be underwater in 10 years,” said Green, 19, a CASA fellow whose family are descendants of Panama. “Millions of people are going to be displaced. This trend is only going to get worse. Standing onto this platform is just the start to the action we need to take to address this crisis.”

Bill signings

In other news in Annapolis on Thursday, Hogan joined Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones to sign more than 100 bills into law.

The legislation approved this year includes cybersecurity, divestment in state retirement and pension from Russia and closing a loophole to provide dental coverage for about 800,000 Marylanders on Medicaid.

Athena, who declined to provide her last name, held a picture of Armstead Hetherington in support of the dental bill. He died Dec. 28 and worked with Athena as homeless advocates for those in the Baltimore area.

“He would be so proud of this legislation passed,” said Athena, who receives Medicare and partial Medicaid. “This dental coverage is needed so much. It’s part of your whole-body care.”