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Maryland General Assembly Gets Failing Grades for Transportation, Climate in 2020 Environmental Scorecard
Major steps also needed to address threats to vulnerable communities
Annapolis, MD — The Maryland General Assembly failed in 2020 to address transportation and climate change legislation crucial to the state’s long-term health and to the protection of communities of color and low-income communities, according to the Maryland League of Conservation Voters (Maryland LCV). The nonprofit watchdog group gave the General Assembly failing grades for two out of five legislative areas in its 2020 Environmental Scorecard, released today.
“Delegates, Senators, and their staffs showed leadership in helping Maryland respond to COVID-19 and national concerns about racial injustice,” said Maryland LCV Executive Director Kim Coble. “But climate and transportation are the areas where progress is most urgently needed, and all Marylanders should be disappointed that the General Assembly passed no legislation in these crucial sectors. These bills would have made Maryland more resilient to climate change impacts that we are already facing and to future calamities.”
According to Coble, the group graded the General Assembly on a curve because of the tremendous challenges of the pandemic, which led to the Assembly adjourning early for the first time since the Civil War. Maryland LCV gave the Assembly passing grades in the categories dealing with water, agriculture, and resiliency legislation. However, the group called the legislature’s decisions not to advance climate and transportation bills the most consequential failings of the 2020 General Assembly.
“To make real progress in 2021, the General Assembly has to take meaningful steps to address climate change and transportation fixes,” said Coble. “Fortunately, as these bills better position Maryland to address present and future environmental challenges, they will simultaneously address pollution and other environmental burdens that disproportionately affect Maryland’s communities of color and low-income communities.”
Specifically, said Coble, the General Assembly must pass a comprehensive bill to aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions, advance energy efficiency, and reduce methane leakages. She added that the General Assembly also needs to pass key transportation bills, including transit funding to address backlogs and ensuring that revenue from the regional Transportation and Climate Initiative is spent on programs that reduce greenhouse gases and co-pollutants.
The state must also consider environmental legislation to advance equity and racial justice. Coble specifically called for the state to pass “cumulative impact” legislation, which would require that all permits issued by the state include an assessment of all potential impacts on all communities, regardless of demographics or socioeconomic status.
“Too many Maryland communities are overburdened by environmental hazards and locally unwanted land uses,” said Dr. Sacoby Wilson, associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. “They have inequitable access to natural resources or differential risks from climate change because of skin color or economic standing. We must pass legislation that prevents agencies from adding new polluters in communities that are already overburdened and requires that environmental justice screening tools be used in environmental decision-making.”
“We also need to revamp the Maryland Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities and improve air quality in communities with more than their fair share of air pollution sources,” adds Wilson. “And it is imperative that we invest in overburdened and under-resourced communities so they can become more sustainable, climate resilient, and benefit from a just transition from fossil fuels to renewables.”
Maryland LCV’s 2020 Environmental Scorecard summary data:
Number of bills passed (of those prioritized by MD LCV)
General Assembly Grade
2 of 3
1 of 1
2 of 5
0 of 3
0 of 3
Maryland League of Conservation Voters is a state-wide, nonpartisan organization that uses political action and education to protect our land, air, water and communities. The organization is known for educating lawmakers and holding them accountable for their leadership and votes on key environmental issues. Maryland LCV’s annual scorecard, along with their other reports, help inform voters about their legislators’ records.