Advancing Maryland’s Climate Goals: The Role of Legislative Leadership

Maryland has been moving forward as a leader among the states in climate goals. With the passage of the 2022 Climate Solutions Now Act and the recently released Climate Pollution Reduction Plan for Maryland, we recognize the need for investments to make these plans come to fruition. Investment in these plans is key to their success, and to the economic return on investment that will be realized through reduced health care costs, improved water and air quality, job creation and increased resiliency.

Role of the Legislature 

To access and utilize federal funding, state legislatures can provide the leadership that can coordinate and accelerate access to the federal funds available now.

(1) Agency Guidance

State legislatures can provide agency guidance for pursuing federal funds in alignment with state policy. 

Two examples of climate policy set by state legislatures that align with current federal funding opportunities: 

  1. In Colorado the 2021 legislature passed SB 21-260, requiring their Department of Transportation to determine the total pollution and greenhouse gas emissions effect that would result from transportation projects and take the steps necessary to ensure those emissions would not exceed reduction levels set by the state. 

Federal funds are being pursued to cover the costs of ensuring transportation emissions were limited. 

  1. Also in 2021, Maine’s legislature passed LD 1682, a law requiring the Public Utilities Commission to take climate and equity impacts into consideration when reviewing projects. This initiative is consistent with Maine’s climate goals and their state’s focus on environmental equity and justice. 

The federal funds associated with deploying clean energy to LMI neighborhoods are in alignment with this proposal. 

(2) Funding for state matches

Many available federal grants are competitive grant programs for which states are required to provide a percentage of matching funds. This means, to take full advantage of the grant funding available, and have the most competitive applications, Maryland will need leaders to ensure funds are available for these match requirements – remembering, of course, that these investments will be just that, investments with the likelihood of significant returns. 

Here are two examples of states that have implemented funding sources to fund climate goals and also ensure matching funds are available to leverage the federal dollars available:

  1. In Minnesota, this past spring, the Governor signed into law HF 1656, a bill with the sole purpose of “enhanc[ing] the competitiveness of Minnesota entities in obtaining federal funding.” The bill appropriated money to fund a grant program specifically for clean energy and climate projects and serve as the matching funds for federal grant applications. 
  2. To fund their climate efforts, New York State is taking a path similar to what MDE has proposed for Maryland. New York is creating an economy-wide cap-and-invest program, which will provide a consistent funding source for climate and clean energy programs in the state. 

There are a number of significant initiatives in Maryland that would benefit greatly from a coordinated and aggressive effort to access federal funds including, funding for charging infrastructure for not only EVs but also electric school buses, building electrification and energy efficiency programs especially in LMI neighborhoods, community solar deployment again focused in LMI neighborhoods, public transportation projects, and nature-based resiliency.