Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Thursday called on Congress to reject plans to eliminate federal funding for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup, even as dozens of activists rallied to press him to take a stronger stance against the Trump administration’s environmental policies.
The demonstrators gathered near the State House as Hogan accepted the chairmanship of a regional council that guides efforts to improve the bay. They urged the governor to join an alliance of city and state leaders who have pledged to uphold the goals of the Paris climate agreement after President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the compact.
State Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), who has said he plans to seek the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nomination, challenged Hogan to come out forcefully against the pullout, adding his voice to the latest effort by the state Democratic party to tie the governor to Trump, who is deeply unpopular in Maryland.
“We need to make sure we are leading the charge about protecting our environment . . . leading the charge to protect humanity for another generation or two, because that is what is at risk with global climate change,” Madaleno said.
Hogan, whose aides said last week that he was weighing whether to join the state and local climate alliance, suggested Thursday that he does not see much benefit to the move, noting that Maryland approved some of the strictest air-quality requirements in the nation last year.
“We’re not sure what the intent of the group is or what they’re hoping to accomplish, but we’ve already accomplished what most of them need to try to shoot for,” he said.
The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act, which Hogan signed last year, requires the state to slash emissions by 40 percent by 2030, using 2006 levels as a baseline. The Paris agreement, which is nonbinding, calls for the United States to reduce emissions by about 28 percent by 2025 and provides about $100 billion by 2020 to help poorer countries reach their goals.
State Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), vice chair of the Senate Environmental Committee, said Hogan deserves little credit for signing the legislation passed by the Democratic-majority legislature, and should show further support for emissions reduction by joining the multistate alliance.
“We can’t hide behind that act,” he said, referring to the Maryland standards. “We need to pledge our state’s commitment to the Paris accord.”
The alliance includes California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. The District has also joined, along with cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia.
At its meeting Thursday, the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council approved a resolution calling on Congress to maintain funding levels for programs to improve the waterway’s health and ensure that the federal government remains a leader in coordinating such efforts.
Hogan said he stressed the importance of those goals during a recent meeting with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. He said he also told Pruitt that he does not agree with Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris accord.
Ken Wagner, a senior adviser on regional affairs for the EPA, said Trump’s proposed budget is “just a starting point” for determining “the right amount of funding for all the programs that empower states to do the business of environmental protection.”
Hogan touted his environmental record during the council meeting, saying he has invested more than $3 billion in bay initiatives, including replenishing funds for restoration of the massive estuary, and has supported measures to promote electric cars and incentives for using renewable energy.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), who sits with Hogan on the council, said the Maryland governor has been a strong partner on environmental policy, particularly with matters involving the bay.
“We come together on issues that matter to our citizens,” he said. “I’ve had a great relationship with Governor Hogan.”
Hogan critics point to the governor’s veto of a 2016 bill to expand Maryland’s use of renewable energy as proof that the Republican leader has not done enough to protect the environment. The legislature voted overwhelmingly to override the governor’s veto, which he justified on grounds that the new standards would increase electricity rates.
The new law requires Maryland to buy 25 percent of its energy from renewable energy sources. Pinsky said he would like to see the state increase that number to at least 40 percent, even if it requires a carbon tax.
“There’s no time to waste,” he said. “It’s time for the governor to get on board, and he cannot take the path of silence — even if it means standing up to the president.”