Maryland’s House of Delegates voted 88 to 51 on Tuesday to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a bill calling for stronger renewable-energy standards, leaving the Democratic-majority legislature one key vote away from enacting the legislation without approval from the Republican chief executive.
The Senate, which passed the bill last year with a veto-proof majority, is expected to vote on overriding the veto on Thursday.
The legislation, sponsored by Del. C. William Frick (D-Montgomery), would require Maryland to buy 25 percent of its energy from renewable-energy sources, such as wind and solar, by 2020, accelerating existing standards that call for 20 percent renewableenergy by 2022.
House Democrats argued Tuesday that the measure would help combat air pollution and climate change while creating green jobs and protecting public health.
Republicans said they support those goals, but they raised concerns that the new standards would increase energy rates. They also noted that Maryland already has higher clean energy standards than neighboring states, and must deal with air-pollution from those states as well as from within its own borders.
Hogan said in his veto letter last year that the new standards would amount to a “tax increase that will be levied upon every single electricity ratepayer in Maryland.” His office blasted House Democrats for Tuesday’s override vote.
“Make no mistake, certain out-of-touch members of the House just voted to increase energy rates on their own neighbors,” Hogan spokeswoman Amelia Chasse said. “For years, Marylanders have made it clear that they are sick and tired of these kinds of rate increases. Hopefully our good senators won’t turn a deaf ear to their calls like their colleagues in the House just did.”
Legislative analysts estimated that the annual compliance costs for energy companies would average between $28 million and $111 million from 2017 through 2025. Those costs would be passed onto consumers, the governor’s office said.
Frick defended his bill, saying during a debate on the House floor that the measure is “a jobs bill,” not a tax hike.
“It’s a simple, meaningful, modest attempt at addressing the profoundly damaging effects of pollution on Maryland environment,” he said.
David Smedick, of from the Sierra Club’s Maryland chapter, applauded the override vote, saying the House “showed its commitment to fighting climate change and growing Maryland’s clean-energy economy.”
Only one Democrat, Del. Ned Carey (Anne Arundel), voted against the override.
The Senate, where Democrats control 33 out of 47 seats, needs 29 votes to overturn the veto. The House, where Democrats control 91 out of 141 seats, needed 85 votes. Two Democratically-held seats are vacant.