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Political Notes: More than 100 State Candidates Sign Carbon-Free Electricity Pledge

5/13/2022 | Elizabeth Shwe, Danielle E. Gaines, Josh Kurtz

Maryland Matters

More than a hundred candidates for the Maryland General Assembly signed a resolution to move Maryland to 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035 and remove trash incineration from the state’s “clean energy” classification during the 2023 legislative session.

The resolution — which was developed by the Chesapeake Climate Network Action Fund, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 26, CASA of Maryland and the NAACP Maryland State Conference — demands that at least 40% of all clean energy and climate investments go to historically disadvantaged communities and that clean energy jobs include “family-supporting wages,” health benefits and bargaining rights.

To date, 143 candidates for the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates have signed the resolution. This comes after the Chesapeake Climate Network Action Fund announced eight Democratic gubernatorial candidates signed the resolution last month.

This is the first “climate justice resolution” that Maryland state candidates have signed, according to Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

“We want 100% clean electricity in this state — not 99%, not 98% — we want 100%,” Tidwell said at a press conference in Annapolis on Thursday morning. But for the state to get there, “we have to have clean energy leaders,” Tidwell said.

The resolution states that race is the “#1 indicator of placement of toxic facilities” and that communities of color are 79% more likely to live near air pollution sources which increase the risk of cancer, neurological issues, and heart and respiratory illness. The pledge specifically calls out Baltimore’s Wheelabrator trash incinerator, stating that power plant emits high levels of air pollution and contributes to respiratory illnesses.

It further contends the state of Maryland should commit to an “equitable investment in environmental justice communities” and ensure economic benefits to low-income neighborhoods throughout the clean energy transition.

Madison Green, a climate justice fellow with CASA who lives in Prince George’s County, said any climate solution that does not center around the communities most impacted by climate change “is not a solution at all.”

“Environmental degradation and climate change always impacts immigrants and working class communities first,” she said.

The pledge was signed by the following Democratic gubernatorial candidates: former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, Maryland Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot, former Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, former Obama administration official Ashwani Jain, former U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr., author and former nonprofit CEO Wes Moore, former U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez, and founder of the socialist Bread and Roses Party Jerome Segal.

Jain and running mates for Perez, King and Gansler came to Annapolis on Thursday to stand in support with advocates on the climate justice resolution.

Michelle Siri, King’s running mate, said their campaign sees this resolution as a “starting point for our environmental action — there’s so much that needs to be done.”

Shannon Sneed, Perez’s running mate, said she believes the state can support business, environment and labor at the same time. “We will create a cleaner, greener future and we can do it in a way focused on environmental justice for all so we can equitably provide lasting solutions, create good paying jobs and spur economic growth,” she said.

Former Hyattsville mayor Candace Hollingsworth, Gansler’s running mate, said safety does not mean just safety from violence but also clean water and air. She promoted expanding public transportation, such as the Red Line in Baltimore — which Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) canceled — as an example that would have made Baltimore a safer city by connecting people to more jobs and opportunity.

Jain said he is committed to removing subsidies for trash incinerators and paper mills and mandating environmental impact studies for any bill in Annapolis that could impact the state’s infrastructure and the environment.