Correction: Earlier versions of this article misstated the number of Republicans in the Maryland Senate and the number who voted in favor of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2016. There are 14 Republican senators, and six of them voted in favor of the bill. The article has been corrected.
A bill to accelerate Maryland’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions sailed through the state Senate on Tuesday and was hailed by environmentalists as one of the nation’s strongest state requirements for tackling carbon pollution.
The Senate voted 38 to 8 to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 2006 levels by 2030.
The bill reauthorizes and sets new targets for the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act, a landmark bill passed in 2009 that required Maryland to slash greenhouse gas emissions to 25 percent below 2006 levels by 2020. That requirement will end in December if the General Assembly does not pass a new bill.
“This bill is not only important, it’s urgent,” Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Montgomery) said after voting in favor of the measure.
The legislation heads to the House for consideration.
“This vote sends a resounding message that climate action is a bipartisan, economic and health imperative in the state of Maryland,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, which fought for the 2009 bill and worked with lawmakers on this year’s measure.
Environmentalists said Tuesday that California and New York are the only states with stronger emission-cutting requirements. Last year, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed an executive order for the state to act to drop its greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2030.
While there was a contentious battle over the version of the bill that Maryland passed in 2009, Tidwell said, this year’s version was approved with relative ease.
“I believe what you are seeing in Maryland and to a lesser degree in Virginia — two states whose coastlines are being so traumatized by sea-level rise — that it is bringing the business community and, increasingly, Republican leaders to support climate-change solutions that were previously beyond their orthodoxy,” Tidwell said.
He credited Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), a member of a state climate-change panel, and Ben Grumbles, secretary of the state Department of the Environment, with building bipartisan support for the legislation.
The state’s Commission on Climate Change, which Grumbles chaired, was made up of legislators, representatives of labor groups, businesses and environmental organizations. It suggested the new target after reviewing the impact of the 2009 law.
The Department of the Environment said the state is on track to meet its 25 percent goal by 2020 and is likely exceed it. The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, according to the state, is largely the result of increased reliance on natural gas, which burns cleaner than coal, and coordinated efforts to reduce driving by encouraging telecommuting, mass transit and other options.
The department also said the state could create about 30,000 jobs as it works toward the new goal, largely through growth in the renewable-energy sector and by protecting industries that could be harmed by climate change, such as agriculture and tourism.
“This is a job creator,” Sen. James C. Rosapepe (D-Prince George’s) said on the floor on Tuesday.
Six of the Senate’s 14 Republicans voted for the bill, along with 32 Democrats. Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery) did not record a vote. Several of the Republicans who voted against the bill said they were doing so because they oppose mandates.
Pinsky countered that climate change can lead to expensive problems if it goes unchecked, noting that one of the few times the New York City subway system has shut down was during Hurricane Sandy.
“Do we want to pay for this on the back end, or do we do the paying now?” Pinsky asked before the vote was taken. “The commission and the committee felt the time is now.”