Amended Bill For Emissions Cuts Approved

By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 21, 2008

The Maryland Senate gave preliminary approval yesterday to an ambitious set of controls on carbon dioxide emissions that are believed to contribute to global warming.

With passage likely in the House of Delegates and backing from Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), the Global Warming Solutions Act would make Maryland one of four states to pass laws that mandate caps on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, cars, trucks and other energy consumers.

The bill would require carbon emissions to be reduced 25 percent statewide by 2020. It originally would have mandated a 90 percent reduction by 2050 but was amended to make that figure a "goal."

Supporters say much of the requirement could be met through already enacted environmental laws, including new regulations for power plant emissions and cleaner-burning cars, and pending proposals to increase energy conservation by businesses and homes. Proponents also say the bill would bring jobs to Maryland by luring "green-collar" companies that design technology to reduce

power-plant emissions and enhance energy conservation.

But opponents, who expressed fears that factories would be put out of business and electricity prices would be forced up, succeeded in weakening the bill on the Senate floor.

Before advancing the measure for final passage today or Monday, senators approved an amendment that would give the General Assembly more power to reject strategies recommended by the Maryland Department of the Environment for how each industry would meet the targets.

Sen. Nathaniel Exum (D-Prince George's), who proposed the amendment, said lawmakers need to be more involved in carrying out such a major policy change. He compared the global warming bill to the 1999 vote to deregulate the electricity market -- a change many in the legislature regret because they gave up so much authority over the energy companies.

But Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George's), the bill's lead Senate sponsor, said the change would "emasculate" the state's environmental experts and "not allow them to function in protecting the air and the environment.''

He predicted that lobbyists would pressure lawmakers to resist the government's proposals to meet the emissions targets.

"If you thought there were a lot of lobbyists during the deregulation debate, there will be three times as many down here now," Pinsky said.

The Senate also approved a change to allow the governor to block the carbon cuts if he or she determines that the costs to power companies would push up electricity rates.

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