The Clean Energy Jobs Act Needs Your Help
By Susan Olsen, Our Maryland Mike Pretl Fellow
If we global citizens do not increase our use of renewable energy by 48 — 60% by 2030, we will suffer a 1.5 degree global temperature change causing increased flooding, more severe storms, more extreme heat and droughts. The Fourth National Climate Assessment (Vol II) stated that in 12 years, it is going to be harder to grow food because the soil will be so compromised. Maryland’s 3,000 miles of coastline make us particularly vulnerable to sea level rise caused by global warming.
We are already hearing that our earth’s temperature is rising faster than predicted in climate reports published less than six months ago, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report (2018) and the UN Climate Change Report.
Fortunately, Maryland legislators have been working to ameliorate this situation.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) is being created to address the need to cross over to renewable energy as quickly as possible. The provisions in the bill would require that we reach the goal of 50% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% by 2040. Details in the bill will affect not only climate change but health outcomes, workforce development, subsidies to incinerators, and social justice.
Fossil fuel combustion is creating a public health crisis in our state. In Baltimore City, twice as many children are diagnosed with asthma as the national average. In Wicomico County, one in four children have asthma, and asthma attacks are the leading cause of emergency room visits. According to the Maryland Environmental Legislative Summit, this change to renewable energy is expected to prevent 290 premature deaths annually. Communities of color are more likely to live near facilities that emit toxic emissions; 68% of African Americans and nearly two in five Latinos live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. These individuals have higher cancer risks from their greater exposure to air pollutants.
The CEJA is a job creating mechanism. Thousands of new in-state jobs would be created. For example, Maryland now has over 165 solar energy companies and employs over 5,000 people. Between the years 2015 and 2016, Maryland’s solar industry grew twenty times faster than our state’s overall economy. Nearly 20,000 jobs would be created in the solar industry by raising Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard to 50% by 2030, and a typical wind farm creates about 1,079 jobs over the project’s lifetime. The CEJA policy would increase funding for capital and loans to help minority, veteran, and women business owners enter and succeed within the renewable energy community. Job training is also being planned as the bill directs funds to the Maryland Employment Advancement Right Now (EARN) program that will establish pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs as well as other workforce initiatives.
Implementation of the CEJA will phase out subsidies for waste incineration which produces more greenhouse gases per unit of energy than coal plants (Maryland Environmental Legislative Summit). By executing the CEJA, we will decrease carbon emissions and subsequently, reduce healthcare costs. This is also a social justice issue as low-income individuals and people of color are more likely to be living near an incinerator.
Some legislators are saying that we should wait to pass this bill until next year; however, we cannot wait! Every day the effects of climate change are becoming more obvious. We must act now! Members of the Senate Finance Committee will be discussing this bill on Friday, March 15th. Please call to let them know that we want this bill to be passed into law this year.
The Finance Committee Chair is Delores Kelley (410-841-3606) and her Vice-Chair is Brian Feldman (410-841-3169). Members include Senators Augustine, Beidle, Benson, Hayes, Hershey, Jennings, Klausmeier, Kramer and Reilly. You can find specific phone numbers and email addresses at the Maryland General Assembly website (MGA): http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?pid=cmtepage&stab=04&id=fin&tab=subject7&ys=2019RS
The views expressed here are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of Our Maryland or Our Maryland Education Fund