Maryland To Join Eastern States In Regulating Carbon Dioxide
The Maryland General Assembly has given final approval to the Maryland Heathy Air Act, which requires the state to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a group of eastern states committed to regulating carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants. CO2 is the most prevalent greenhouse gas linked to global warming.
After a two-year campaign led by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and a coalition of other environmental, faith, and health groups, the so-called “4-pollutant, or 4-P” bill passd by veto-proof majorities in both Maryland houses. Aides to Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., a Republican, say the governor does not intend to veto the bill.
“Maryland leaders took a historic step today in acknowledging the crisis of global warming and deciding to do something about it,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “While leaders in Washington say carbon reductions are impossible, the capital itself now borders a region stretching from Maryland to Maine where reductions are in fact happening.”
Passage of the “4-P” bill in Maryland was accomplished due to grassroots activism, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) says.
Two years ago, the bill was dead due to opposition by the utilities. But in the summer of 2004, CCAN made the bill its top priority in terms of grassroots education and organizing in Maryland. The group’s members engaged in a media exchange with the utilities over the merits of the bill and the rising threat of global warming.
In November 2004, six CCAN activists, including executive director Tidwell, drew attention to the issue when they were arrested while blocking the entrance to one of Maryland’s coal-fired power plants.
Soon after this action, a leading Democratic candidate for governor in Maryland endorsed the billl. A second candidate, the Democratic mayor of Baltimore, later followed suit.
In the fall of 2005, after more grassroots pressure spearheaded by CCAN, Governor Ehrlich unveiled a regulatory “3-pollutant” plan that would reduce sulfur, nitrogen, and mercury.
Tidwell says, “This then compelled Democrats in the Maryland General Assembly to “one-up” the governor by passing a full “4-P” bill that included carbon dioxide reductions.”
No state in America has passed legislation that reduces all four power-plant pollutants so steeply. “It is our hope,” said CCAN, that “the other states will now follow Maryland’s lead and that the federal government will quickly supercede all such efforts with its own tough and comprehensive greenhouse gas reduction measures.”
The carbon dioxide component of the bill, opposed by all the Maryland utilities, mandates that the state take all necessary steps to join the RGGI process.
Under the RGGI, Maryland will reduce by 10 percent the CO2 emissions from its coal-fired power plants in accordance with the model rule established by Maine, New York, New Hamspire, Vermont, Delaware, Connecticut and New Jersey.
On March 23, the RGGI participating states released a draft version of a model set of regulations for public comment. This model rule details the proposed program, and once finalized, will form the basis of individual state regulatory and/or statutory proposals to implement the program.
Provided by the Environmental News Service.