Maryland must get 50 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar by 2030 under a bill that will become law without Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature.
Only the District and nine states, including California, New Jersey and Hawaii, have renewable standards at 50 percent or higher, according to the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. The Maryland bill allows subsidies for producers of green energy, including some that generate pollutants, like trash incinerators and paper mills.
“This is the strongest bill ever passed in Maryland to fight global warming and now stands as a national example,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the network.
Hogan (R) announced Wednesday that he would allow the legislation to move forward “despite serious concerns” over the cost of the bill and whether it will preserve jobs in the state and have the impact legislators are expecting.
While rejecting the General Assembly’s effort, Hogan said he remains committed to addressing climate change. He pledged to push legislation next year for 100 percent clean energy by 2040.
“This bill is not clean enough, not smart enough, nor does it create the intended jobs within Maryland,” Hogan wrote in a letter to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Calvert).
The decision to allow the bill to become law without his signature is somewhat of a reversal for the popular Republican, who is at the beginning of his second term and weighing a presidential bid.
In 2016, the governor vetoed a bill that required Maryland to get 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, citing concern over increased electricity rates for taxpayers. The Democratic-controlled legislature, which has a veto-proof majority in both chambers, overrode the veto.
In his letter to Miller, Hogan said his plan would include increasing the use of zero- and low-carbon clean and renewable energy, “recognizing the clean and safe aspects of nuclear energy,” and supporting hydropower.
The governor said he will propose a bill next session that aims to “get us to zero carbon emissions, rather than just increasing the quotas for dirty energy and outdated technologies.”
Sen. Brian J. Feldman (D-Montgomery), the sponsor of this year’s bill, said he “appreciates that he has ideas about a bill for next year, but it would have been nice to share them with the General Assembly this year during the legislative session.”
Feldman said it is projected that the new law will create 20,000 solar jobs and 5,000 wind jobs by 2028.
Hogan’s decision prompted a strong rebuke from Senate Minority Whip Steve Hershey (R-Queen Anne’s), who said he was “extremely disappointed” that the governor criticized the bill but allowed it to become law. “I would much rather have seen a veto and then to use that as the incentive to work with the renewable advocates over the interim to produce a more reasonable and well thought-out policy,” he said in a statement.
Hogan has signed hundreds of bills into law since the General Assembly’s legislative session ended April 8. He has until Saturday to take action on any of the more than 300 bills that remain.
On Wednesday, Hogan spokeswoman Shareese Churchill said the governor would not sign any of those bills, but would either veto them or allow them to become law without his signature.
Among the bills awaiting action are legislation to create the nation’s first prescription drug affordability board; a bill to ban foam cups and food containers across the state; and a measure that allows for gender-neutral driver’s licenses.