2021 Legislative Session Falls Short on Significant Climate Action but Brings Noteworthy Environmental Advances, says Maryland LCV

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 13, 2021                                                            

2021 Legislative Session Falls Short on Significant Climate Action but Brings Noteworthy Environmental Advances, says Maryland LCV

Annapolis, MD – Significant victories for Maryland’s environment were achieved during the 2021 Legislative Session, including advances in transit funding, a reformed Environmental Justice Commission, and a commitment to transition the state’s bus fleet to zero-emission vehicles, according to the state’s leading environmental watchdog group, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. The legislature failed to address the urgency of climate change, however, by allowing the Climate Solutions Now Act to languish in the bureaucratic process.

“The session was unprecedented in many ways because of the coronavirus, but Marylanders on the whole should be proud of the breakthroughs that were made on important environmental issues,” said Kim Coble, Maryland LCV’s executive director. “The transit funding bill will mean safer, and more equitable transit options for Marylanders, with the associated benefit of providing family-sustaining jobs. A reformed Environmental Justice Commission similarly sets us on a path for a more equitable Maryland, with fairer representation of more community members. And transitioning the state’s bus fleet to zero-emissions buses will be a win-win for budgets, communities, and our public health.

Coble expressed disappointment that the two chambers could not reach agreement and pass the Climate Solutions Now bill. 

“This bill would have taken steps in the right direction, particularly with regards to setting a definitive goal of net-zero emissions by 2045,” said Coble. “Science tells us we need stronger, faster emissions reductions to meaningfully address the urgency of the climate crisis, and statewide polling tells us that’s what Maryland voters want. It is disappointing that for the second year in a row, legislators were not able to pass a comprehensive bill that would adequately address the climate crisis.

The Environmental Justice Commission Reform bill took steps forward to start to address environmental justice in Maryland. The Commission’s work will be critical if the state is to take the strong actions that are needed. “In the big picture, we still lack a comprehensive framework that advances equitable and just environmental policies in Maryland,” said Ramón Palencia-Calvo, Maryland LCV deputy executive director and director of Chispa Maryland. “We look forward to working with the reformed Commission to not only stop harmful pollution, but also support solutions that are community driven and geared toward creating social and economic opportunities in impacted communities.” 

“Marylanders should feel proud that we came together during this difficult legislative session to achieve progress on key environmental legislation,” said Coble. “And those of us working in the trenches also greatly appreciate the hard work and dedication of our legislators over the past three months, especially under uniquely difficult conditions. We applaud the members and staff of the Maryland General Assembly and the Department of General Services for their diligence and leadership and look forward to working with them to take even bolder steps to address the climate crisis in the very near future.”

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Maryland LCV is known for educating lawmakers and holding them accountable for their leadership and votes on key environmental issues. Their annual scorecard, along with other reports, help inform voters about their legislators’ records.

Broad Coalition Celebrates Passage of the Maryland Transit Safety & Investment Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 8th, 2021

Broad Coalition Celebrates Passage of the Maryland Transit Safety & Investment Act
Group applauds passage of landmark bill to address longtime transit maintenance backlog, improve safety, reliability, equity and access; cautions that it’s a first step in a long process to shore up system

Annapolis, MD – A broad statewide coalition hailed final passage of the Transit Safety & Investment Act (HB 114), a critical measure to improve public transportation across the state. The bi-partisan bill, championed by Sens. Cory McCray and Craig Zucker and Del. Brooke Lierman, mandates minimum funding levels in MTA’s six year capital budget to begin to close the $2 billion gap in the Maryland Transit Administration’s (MTA’s) maintenance backlog. 

The coalition brought together supporters from a wide array of organizations: environmental, transportation, business, labor, disability rights, civil rights, education, workforce development, faith, healthcare, and community.

“For too long, our transportation system has been underinvested, affecting job security and the economy. This ends today, as the Act ensures that Maryland makes investments that meet capital needs so that we may have a safe and reliable transit system,” said Senator Cory McCray, representing Baltimore City’s district 45. “As a native of Baltimore City, in middle school and high school I had to take two buses to and from school. And that’s what this is really all about: making sure our children can get to school, our seniors can pick-up prescriptions, and that those who find public transit a necessity can depend on it.” 

The legislation mandates an average minimum amount of $451 million annually for MTA capital needs for the next six years, plus a minimum of $319 million in a seventh year, fiscal year 2029. The mandate ensures that the MTA will get close to the $462 million it needs to chip away at its backlog of deferred state of good repair needs. It will help maintain safety systems, bus shelters, buses, light rail, subway and MARC tracks and switches, and more.

“In infrastructure, you get what you pay for – and for the past six years, the Hogan Administration has refused to adequately fund our transit system. That has meant poor service, broken buses, unsafe rail, and aging infrastructure,” said Delegate Brooke Lierman, representing Baltimore City’s district 46. “By passing the Transit Safety & Investment Act, the General Assembly has declared that Marylanders deserve safe and reliable transit to get them to work, to school, to the doctor and to other destinations. MTA has done the work of identifying the projects it needs to complete to have a robust and on-time system, and with this guaranteed funding over the next several years they will be able to undertake those important projects, helping to transform our region and building more prosperous families.”

“We are finally making sure the money hits the road with this strong investment  in our transportation infrastructure. I applaud all those who worked so hard to make this reality.”
Senator Craig Zucker, representing Montgomery County’s district 14. 

Maryland’s metro subway, light rail, bus and commuter rail system is ranked among the worst states in the country for breakdowns and delays and its paratransit service is failing. The new funding will improve service and reliability and ensure the system’s trains, buses and facilities are safe. The bill also passed with an amendment sponsored by Senator Corderman that would require the Maryland Department of Transportation to study the cost and feasibility of expanding MARC service to Western Maryland.

The coalition is calling on Governor Hogan to sign the measure or allow it to pass into law when it reaches his desk. The group also stressed that while this legislation is an important step to improving public transit in Maryland, a lot remains to be done to modernize and expand the system so that it works for everyone.

Advocates from around the state weighed in on the legislation: 

“Essential workers who rely on MTA service have made an incalculable contribution to the public’s health and well-being throughout the pandemic; they deserve a first class transit system, not one riddled with delays and long-neglected repairs. The road to recovery is long but, thanks to the passage of the Transit Safety and Investment Act, we have taken an important first step toward building a safe, reliable transit system for our essential workers and riders.”
Elizabeth Bunn, Maryland State Director, Labor Network for Sustainability

“We are elated that the Maryland General Assembly has taken this crucial first step to improve the public transit system in Maryland.  Maryland LCV’s own polling found that 76% of Maryland voters said that increasing the availability and quality of public transportation options should be a priority. It is great to see that legislators listened to their constituents. We can now begin to ensure Marylanders will have access to a reliable and safe transit system over individual transport, which is the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in Maryland.”
-Kim Coble, Executive Director, Maryland League of Conservation Voters

“The passage of the Transit Safety and Investments Act puts urgent funding for an equitable, safe, and reliable public transportation system for Maryland in the hands of the people and their legislators – just where the future of transit belongs!”
Samuel Jordan, President, Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition 

“This funding will help MTA fix their backlog of repairs. We hear complaints from transit riders about breakdowns, no-show buses, and riders in wheelchairs getting passed up by buses because bus wheelchair ramps are broken. It’s my hope that this funding will help improve the quality of service transit riders in Maryland receive for years to come.”
– Brian O’Malley, President & CEO, Central Maryland Transportation Alliance

“We are thrilled that the Transit Safety & Investment Act passed the General Assembly. This bill is a priority for the Sierra Club and the Maryland environmental community. All Marylanders deserve a safe and reliable transit system that reduces climate pollution and improves mobility.”
Josh Tulkin, Director, Maryland Sierra Club

By |2021-04-08T15:08:54-04:00April 8th, 2021|Categories: Blog, Policy, Press|0 Comments

Montgomery County Public Schools to Transition Their Diesel School Bus Fleet to Zero-Emission Clean School Buses for Healthy Kids

 Maryland League of Conservation Voters Applauds the Decision of Maryland League of Conservation Voters Applauds the Decision of Montgomery County Public Schools to Transition Their Diesel School Bus Fleet to Zero-Emission Clean School Buses for Healthy Kids

February 25, 2021

ANNAPOLIS, MD. – This week, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) approved a contract to lease 326 electric school buses as part of a pan to electrify its entire school bus fleet. 

“Chispa Maryland applauds MCPS for taking this unprecedented step in protecting the health of children and beginning this transition to a clean ride for kids,” said Ramón Palencia-Calvo, Deputy Executive Director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and Director of Chispa Maryland, a community organizing program of Maryland LCV.  “This contract demonstrates that school systems can transition their diesel bus fleets to zero-emission clean electric buses while keeping their transportation budgets neutral. We hope other school systems in Maryland can adopt one of the several financial solutions available to bypass the initial costs to transition their diesel fleets to zero-emission school buses.”

Diesel emissions are the most harmful type of transportation emissions. Diesel school buses not only pollute our air and harm our children’s lungs and developing organs, but they also contribute to the greenhouse gas emissions worsening the effects of climate change. Initial costs of electric school buses is still a barrier for school systems to transition their diesel fleets to zero-emission electric school fleets. There are several strategies that school systems and other stakeholders can employ to offset the upfront cost.

In this legislative session, Chispa Maryland and Maryland LCV are supporting House Bill 832, Public Utilities-Electric School Bus Pilot Program, which would deploy electric school buses with vehicle-to-grid-technology, and the Zero-Emission Bus Transition Act of 2021 (HB0334/SB0137), which would mandate beginning in 2023 all contracts for state-purchased buses need to be for zero-emission vehicles, leading to a complete transition of the fleet. 

Chispa, an organizing program of the League of Conservation Voters, launched its Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign in 2015 to push state governments to use Volkswagen settlement funds to purchase zero-emission electric school buses. In 2017 Chispa Maryland, a program of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, launched the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign in Maryland. 

 

By |2021-03-24T13:46:56-04:00February 25th, 2021|Categories: Blog, DEIJ, Partner, Policy, Press|Tags: , , |0 Comments

What the elections mean for Maryland’s environment

What the elections mean for Maryland’s environment

A Note from Executive Director, Kim Coble

It’s been an incredibly stressful couple of weeks in an even more difficult year, and I’m sure that you, like me, are suffering from a bit of whiplash from constant barrage of election news.  

Free and fair elections are the bedrock of our democracy. In any election, every vote must be counted, without interference or intimidation. Because voter suppression persists, we especially need to ensure all voices are recognized, particularly those from poor and marginalized communities. We are encouraged that, in Maryland, the election went smoothly and with record turnout.

The wheels that power our democracy never stopped turning. Workers in polling places across the country kept counting ballots, one by one, until the job was done. In the end, American voters were heard and elected Joe Biden as our next President. We look forward to working with the new administration to advance equitable policies, to fight climate change, and to put Maryland and the country on a path to a more sustainable environmental future. 

These past few months, Maryland LCV has reached over 250,000 Marylanders through a comprehensive civic engagement campaign to ensure that voters – and particularly those from underrepresented communities — knew how to use their vote to advocate for smart and equitable environmental policies. 

As you know, much of our work happens at the state and local level. We are already strategically focused on the upcoming legislative session and will continue to push for more sustainable and equitable environmental solutions. 

The U.S. and Maryland need to take dramatic and immediate action to address the climate crisis and put the country on a more sustainable environmental path. 

We at Maryland LCV will need your support as we focus on several key pieces of legislation with strong environment and equity components: 

  • A Cumulative Impacts bill that will require the government to publish and maintain a list of overburdened communities in the State; applications for permits for new or expanded industrial facilities in those areas will have to undergo a review that examines environmental and public health factors already present in the community and those that will be added by the new permit.
  • A Climate Omnibus package that will increase Maryland’s greenhouse gas reduction requirements to 60% below 2006 levels by 2030 and net neutral by 2045 along with specific programs to reach those ambitious but achievable goals, including reinvigorating an existing work group on equity and inclusion.
  • A Transit Equity Recovery package that will ensure adequate funding for safe and effective public transit and transitioning the state to electric buses. 

The coming weeks and months will no doubt be difficult for all of us, but better days are ahead. It will take hard work, cooperation, and creativity to get there, but together we can put Maryland and the country on a more stable environmental and equity course. 

With climate change bearing down, we have the work of a lifetime ahead of us. It won’t be easy. But our movement here in Maryland is stronger than ever, and we must keep faith that brighter days are ahead.

Stay well and stay healthy,

Head shot of Kim Coble

Kim Coble, Maryland LCV

Executive Director

By |2020-11-19T12:26:59-05:00November 19th, 2020|Categories: Blog, Electoral|Tags: , |0 Comments

Statement from Kim Coble, executive director of Maryland LCV, on the General Election

November 4, 2020 Contact: Dannielle Lipinski, dlipinski@mdlcv.org

Statement from Kim Coble, executive director of Maryland LCV, on the General Election

 Free and fair elections are the bedrock of our democracy, and we all need to be patient and have faith in the electoral process. Every vote must be counted, without interference or intimidation. Because voter suppression persists, we especially need to ensure all voices are recognized, particularly those from poor and marginalized communities.

This election season, Maryland LCV reached more than 250,000 Marylanders through a comprehensive civic engagement campaign to ensure that voters – and particularly those from underrepresented communities — knew how to use their vote to advocate for smart and equitable environmental policies. Our staff also has been engaged in election protection and extensive Get Out the Vote activities.

Much of Maryland LCV’s work happens at the state and local level. We are already strategically focused on the upcoming legislative session and will continue to push for more sustainable and equitable environmental solutions regardless of the outcome of the election.

# # #

Maryland LCV is known for educating lawmakers and holding them accountable for their leadership and votes on key environmental issues. Their annual scorecard, along with other reports, help inform voters about their legislators’ records.

www.mdlcv.org

By |2020-11-04T08:32:17-05:00November 4th, 2020|Categories: Blog, Electoral, Press|Tags: |0 Comments

2020 Legislative Champions

Environmental Champions and Leaders

Maryland LCV honors those legislators who were sponsors and leaders on our 2020 legislative priorities:

Agriculture

  • Chlorpyrifos Ban: Del. Dana Stein and Sen. Clarence Lam
Chlorpyrifos, a pesticide known to be toxic and linked to significant, adverse health impacts in children. Although prohibited for commercial or residential use for years, it is still permitted for use on crops and golf courses. This bill would ban all uses of chlorpyrifos.

Resiliency

  • Environmental Accountability and Transparency:  Del. Brooke Lierman and Sen. Sarah Elfreth
Increasing transparency of the inspection and enforcement data by state agencies would dramatically help community groups and non-profit monitoring organizations enforce environmental laws. The bill also would have created an ombudsman position in the Office of the Attorney General to facilitate coordination between agencies and citizens.
Water
  • Plastic Bag Ban: Del. Brooke Lierman and Sen. Malcolm Augustine
Banning plastic bags from point-of-sale throughout the state would reduce water pollution, diminish Maryland’s reliance on petroleum products and fossil fuels, and clean our air and waterways.

Transportation

  • Transit Funding: Del. Brooke Lierman and Sen. Craig Zucker
According to a Capital Needs Assessment released by the Department of Transportation, Maryland’s public transit system has a $2 billion shortfall over the next 10 years. The transportation sector is the single greatest contributor to Maryland’s greenhouse gas emissions and provides critical services to low-income communities. Public transit system improvements are essential to substantively tackling climate change and environmental justice.
  • State Fleet Bus Electrification: Del. Marc Korman and Sen. Craig Zucker
Diesel emissions cause climate pollution and threaten the respiratory health of passengers, drivers, and especially low-income communities that are frequently located near major roadways.This bill would require a gradual transition of all buses purchased by the state to zero-emission vehicles.
  • Transportation Carbon Fund Act (TCI): Del. Marc Korman
This bill creates a special fund to finance projects related to the Transportation Climate Initiative, a multi-state effort to improve transportation, develop the clean energy economy, and reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector throughout the mid-Atlantic region.
  • School Bus Electrification: Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo
Diesel emissions from school buses disproportionately affect the health of low-income students and students of color. This bill would require a gradual transition of all buses purchased by county boards of elections — or independent contractors hired to serve public schools — to zero-emission vehicles.

Climate

  • Coal Transition: Del. Kumar Barve and Sen. Chris West
Coal plants are a leading contributor to smog-forming nitrous oxide pollution.  More than 85% of Marylanders — and 90% of African American and Hispanic communities — live in counties with air quality below federal standards. This bill would set a timeline for the retirement of Maryland’s remaining coal-fired power plants, with a transition plan that invests in communities, workers and counties with coal plants.
Maryland LCV also recognizes members who sponsored additional environmental community priority legislation:
  • Sustainable Buildings Act: Del. Terri Hill and Sens. Guy Guzzone and Clarence Lam
  • Removing Incineration Subsidies: Del. Nick Mosby and Sen. Michael Hough
  • Oyster Fisheries Override: Del Kumar Barve and Sen. Sarah Elfreth
  • Oyster Corrective Bill: Del. Jim Gilchrist and Sen. Sarah Elfreth
We applaud these legislators for sponsoring legislation on climate policy
  • Climate Solutions Act: Del. Dana Stein and Sen. Paul Pinsky
  • PSC Climate Bill: Del. Lorig Charkoudian and Sen. Ben Kramer
  • Carbon Pricing: Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo and Sen. Ben Kramer
  • Community Choice Energy: Del. Lorig Charkoudian and Sen. Pam Beidle
We applaud these legislators for sponsoring legislation on water policy
  • Conowingo Dam Emergency Legislation: Del. Jay Jacobs and Sen. Steve Hershey
  • County Resilience Authority: Del. Courtney Watson and Sen. Sarah Elfreth
  • BRF for Resilience Funding: Del. Courtney Watson and Sen. Katie Fry Hester

An Insider’s View on the Elections

An Insider’s View on the Elections

On October 6th, our Executive Director, Kim Coble was joined by the national League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski for a behind-the-scenes look at the general election and what it could mean for our environment.

Candace Dodson-Reed is our VIP moderator. Candace is the host of the popular Elevate Maryland podcast. She’s also the chief of staff and executive director of the Office of Equity and Inclusion at UMBC and on the board of Maryland LCV.

Check out the recording below

 

By |2021-03-24T13:48:03-04:00October 6th, 2020|Categories: Blog, DEIJ, Donor, Electoral, Partner, Policy, Successes|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

Civic Engagement Toolkit

Civic Engagement Toolkit

Your Vote: Our Future is a campaign designed by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters Education Fund that encourages all  Marylanders to register to vote and cast their ballot in a safe and effective manner. Help us reach as many Marylanders as possible by creating a 1 minute video in which you tell your own story about why you vote. Then post your video and inspire others to vote!

Civic Engagement Toolkit