Severna Park high school student Olivia Fey speaks at today’s rally.
Annapolis, MD – Students from across the state joined environmental, faith, health, labor, and civic organizations today to push for the passage of the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act (House Bill 1158 / Senate Bill 516) and other environmental legislation being considered by the Maryland General Assembly.
“Students need to take political action, because any and all actions we take now shape the world we inherit tomorrow,” says Maddie Graham, a sophomore at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring. “Waiting until we are older is not an option. We have been given a very clear timeline to solve this crisis, and we must do everything in our power to ensure that actions are taken now that are in line with what top scientists, researchers and intellectuals say is necessary.”
The Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) would double Maryland’s policy to 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 and help put the state on a path to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040. The Renewable Portfolio Standard requires a state to ensure a certain amount of electricity comes from renewable energy resources.
CEJA is sponsored by Delegate Mary Ann Lisanti (District 34A, Harford County) and Senator Brian J. Feldman (District 15, Montgomery County). A likely supermajority of legislators in both the Maryland State Senate and House of Delegates also support it.
More than 600 organizations across Maryland have endorsed the legislation and the rally featured a broad coalition of these organizations, including Maryland League of Conservation Voters, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Interfaith Power & Light (DC.MD.NoVA), Maryland Environmental Health Network, 1199 SEIU and Mom’s Clean Air Force.
According to a recent Gonzales poll, almost two-thirds of Maryland voters (64 percent) believe Governor Hogan should support the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act.
Supporters of the bill say that according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Jobs and Economic Development Indicator (JEDI) model, it help create thousands of sustainable clean energy jobs in Maryland over the next decade, including more than 20,000 jobs from an increased focus on solar power and 5,500 from greater reliance on offshore wind energy.
Maryland’s current Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) designates trash incineration as a top tier form of renewable energy, on par with wind and solar. This means waste incinerators receive public subsidies, even though compared to burning coal, burning trash releases 90 percent more greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy.
The Senate version of CEJA would exclude dirty energy such as waste incineration from Maryland’s RPS portfolio. This means that the two incineration facilities in Maryland – one in Baltimore City and the other in Montgomery County – would no longer receive financial benefits and these resources would instead go to renewable energy expansion. The House version of the bill does not include language to remove the incineration subsidies, but advocates are hopeful it will be included in the final legislation.
The BRESCO incineration facility is in Westport, one of Baltimore’s poorer communities, and is the city’s biggest industrial source of asthma-triggering pollution – emitting dioxins as well as lead, mercury and other toxic substances into the air.
“Communities of color breathe in 40 percent more polluted air and poor white Americans endure 27 percent heavier pollution than wealthy white Americans,” says Phyllis Alexis, a nurse and member of 1199 SEIU. “What a child looks like, where they live, and how much their parents make should not determine if they live.”
Members from these organizations and student allies also expressed their approval of the Maryland Healthy Green Amendment (HB472), which would add the right to a healthy, clean environment to the state constitution as a defense against the looming threat of climate change.
“It is truly inspiring that more and more young people are standing up for the environment,” says Olivia Fey, a senior at Severna Park High School. “We are tired of feeling powerless in the face of our future. I am so happy to see so many students find their voice and work together to save the planet. We only get one chance to protect it.”