Climate change is the biggest threat to our generation — yet we are running out of time to reverse the damages done. We must not only save our planet, but also create new, sustainable and good-paying union jobs.
Here is what my Relief, Recovery, and Reform platform will accomplish to achieve net zero by 2035 and hit a benchmark of 80% by 2030.
We must ensure that, as we fight climate change, we are providing support and opportunity to those that are the most impacted by climate change. This is why I am in strong support of numerous efforts to provide relief to Marylanders already facing the harsh impacts of climate change.
We must take deliberate steps to focus on climate justice. This is why I am strongly in support of reforming the Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities, as well as the Public Service Commission. I would:
- Appoint members who already agree with the very specific details outlined in this memo.
- Ensure both of these Commissions reflects the diversity (and therefore lived experiences) of our state.
- Ensure no members on the Commission worked for — or helped represent — the fossil fuel industry and non-renewable energy sources.
We also need to ensure that these bodies not only have a good mission, but have the oversight to ensure the job gets done. This is why I will also ensure there are more transparency requirements, regular meeting requirements, and annual progress reporting to the Governor’s Office.
Environmental Impact Studies
We must ensure that all legislative bills which could have an impact on our environment (for example, those that focus on transportation, infrastructure or housing), have environmental impact studies conducted before the Governor signs them into law.
This requirement will ensure the public has advanced identification and disclosure of potential harms posed by the legislation on our surrounding environment.
To ensure this requirement is adhered to, we must increase funding for more environmental-policy analysts in our state government.
Protect the Bay
From warmer temperatures wiping out seagrass, to nitrogen pollution from our poultry farms, to phosphorus pollution from our farmlands, to unfiltered waste from stormwater runoff — we have seen how both climate change and human activity have harmed and polluted the Chesapeake Bay.
We can help both our environment and our local communities if we take immediate and practical actions that focus on the short-term, as well as on the long-term.
While I’ve already outlined actions that need to be taken in order to tackle the threat of Climate Change (here in this post), here are some solutions that focus exclusively on the Bay area:
- Increase the frequency of poultry farm inspections
To ensure that we can both sustainably feed our residents and protect the health of our Bay, we should inspect these farms more than just once every five years. This will also cost us less in the long-term as we will spend less on Bay restoration.
2. Limit the use of poultry manure
Farmers on the Eastern Shore have long relied on poultry manure as a low-cost crop fertilizer. Unfortunately, through repeated application over many years, the phosphorus in this manure has built up in many of our fields, resulting in dangerous toxins spilling into our Bay. To remedy this issue, we must limit the amount of poultry manure used in these fields; finance the transport of excess manure to fields that are low in phosphorus; and invest in new technology that could generate energy from this manure.
3. Invest in more Stormwater Detention Systems
To ensure runoff is captured and filtered before entering our Bay, we must invest more in these filtration systems. And while it may cost our state more in the short-term, these are investments which will bring long-term improvements to our local economy and Eastern Shore communities. Furthermore, we should provide tax incentives for farmers who use these systems.
4. Oyster Restoration
Oysters are important in the process of improving water quality in our Bay. But with decades of pollution and overharvesting, neither our local economy or our environment are benefiting.
As such, we need to provide more funding to the University of Maryland’s Horn Point Lab that has been working to recycle used shells from local seafood restaurants to grow new oysters; provide dedicated funding to nonprofits like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation which has various restoration projects, including solar-powered oyster farms; and protect oyster reef sanctuaries within the Bay.
We must take the important step of moving away from fossil fuels. Our state has already made significant strides to ban fracking and deactivate our coal-power plants. Now, we must continue on this progress in a way that is beneficial to both our state as a whole as well as ensuring we are looking out for those that have previously been employed in these power plants. This is why I am proposing three additional steps:
- First, I will mandate the MD Public Service Commission to consider climate impacts when approving any new power plants.
- Second, I would increase the Fossil Fuel fee in our state. Using the pricing structures proposed in a recent MD House bill — we could start at $15/ton CO2 for non-transportation sources and $10/ton CO2 for transportation sources, with an increase of $5/year with no cap until the net emissions from fossil fuels are zero.When we burn coal and natural gas to generate electricity, we don’t pay for the damage these fuels inflict on the climate. This fee would ensure those polluters do and help us tackle the threat of Climate Change.Additionally, this will help us raise around $700 million in new revenue.
- Third, I will invest more in Trade Schools and Job Training Programs so those who face short-term job loss can be supported and trained into the green new jobs of the future.
Improve our state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard
If the objective is to truly and sincerely reduce fossil fuels in our state, then our RPS must also:
- Stop subsidizing trash incinerators
- Stop subsidizing paper mills
- Focus more on brownfield redevelopment
- Invest more in solar, hydro and wind projects
While we are providing relief to our environment and especially to our most at-risk communities, we must build a recovery that sets our state up for long-term success. Our climate crisis is both a massive hurdle we need to overcome, but also an incredible opportunity to reinvest in many parts of our state.
Transportation policy will be a critical element of how we combat climate change. We need to make mass transit more accessible, convenient, and viable to be a proper alternative to private cars to encourage more Marylanders to use public transit over driving for their commutes and other day-to-day needs.
I pledge to make our transportation system safer, more comfortable, and more efficient for Marylanders throughout the state from metro and trains to ferries and buses to ensure that we are building solutions not just for our cities, but for all of Maryland — which I will elaborate on further in my Transportation Policy section.
We need to invest in clean, renewable energy that will create new, safer and high paying jobs that won’t harm our environment nor the communities they neighbor.
That means investing in solar energy across our state. The solar industry has already invested billions in our state, and last year employed nearly 5,000 people. We can create new jobs while making it easier for Marylanders to improve the energy efficiency of the places they live and gather. This will also help us meet the goal of making our buildings net-zero energy!
In order to boost our transition to clean energy, I pledge to:
- Require solar panels on the rooftops of all existing schools and government-owned buildings — starting with the State Capital — as well as encourage and incentivize the development of green roofs.
- Explore installing solar panels in the grassy medians on highways where there is direct sunlight.
- Explore Brownfield Redevelopment — areas of land (e.g. old landfills) that have been identified as already too polluted to support housing, education, recreation or agricultural activities, BUT perfect for solar fields.
- Exempt certain community solar systems from property taxes if they provide at least 50% of the energy they produce to low and moderate income customers.
We must further invest in hydropower and can learn from successes in Portland, Oregon where they utilize “Lucid Energy Pipes”.
These pipes contain turbines that — as water flows through them — convert excess pressure into environmentally friendly renewable energy without disrupting the flow of water (and can operate day or night, rain or shine).
The Lucidpipe system was particularly cost-effective in Portland because it utilizes the existing infrastructure instead of replacing it. The lack of overhaul ensures that the construction does not damage the land, injure animals, or significantly impact the environment.
As such, this is a common-sense step that I promise to take to build up our state’s clean energy stock while investing in more Maryland construction jobs.
We must continue to invest in wind power throughout our state. While the Clean Energy Jobs Act was passed in 2019, which was an important step in achieving our 100% clean energy plan by 2045, we must do more.
We need to invest in offshore wind farms in the Atlantic Ocean and approve the U.S. Wind Project and the Skipjack Offshore Energy Project off the shore of Ocean City. These projects will generate enough electricity to power 100,000 homes and would cut our carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 20,000 tons annually. We would get all that benefit on top of yielding almost $2 billion in increased in-state spending, without any negative impact to the shoreline businesses.
We cannot simply ignore the problem of climate change and claim that “not liking the look of wind farms” in the short-term is enough of an argument to forsake the future of our coastlines — especially when such wind farms would be nineteen miles off the coast already.
Finally, we must set stronger standards for how homes in our state are constructed.
This is why I will propose regulations on home construction to lead to all new homes being “net-zero energy” through boosting standards for insulation (ensuring builders are optimizing insulation thickness), reducing home heating/cooling energy use (via air sealing), and increasing access to renewable sources of power (like solar). We also must ensure as we continue to develop new homes that we limit the destruction of wetlands, forests, and other ecosystems.
Housing is an important part of addressing the climate crisis but is also an integral part of Marylanders’ lives which is why I will be going into more detail on my housing proposals in my Housing Policy Section.
As we move forward, we must also make bold moves to build back to a better Maryland. These include reforms that have been long discussed, such as banning single-use plastic bags, as well as some that are less well known including curbside composting.
Ban single-use plastic bags
Banning single-use plastic bags is an important continuation from Maryland’s leadership in being the first state to ban single-use food and drink containers made from styrofoam. We need to go further and ban single-use plastic to further reduce ocean and bay waste and relieve pressure on landfills and waste management.
In the short term, similar to Montgomery County, we must require businesses that sell food in every county to charge five cents for each carryout plastic bag. Two of those cents should go to local governments and three of those cents should go to our MD Department of the Environment and ensure that all revenue generated through this fee be used strictly for environmental protection projects.
In the long term, we should follow the lead of California, New York, Vermont, and Maine in phasing out all usage of single-use plastic bags at all businesses that sell food — with an exemption for trash bags and bags provided by pharmacies for prescription drugs.
Clean Drinking Water
The issues faced by residents in Flint, Michigan may have generated national attention (rightly so), but are closer to home than we may appreciate.
Maryland was one of the top 5 states with the fewest policies protecting residents from unhealthy levels of nitrate in water from private wells. As such, there have been unhealthy levels of nitrate in drinking water in the Eastern Shore, resulting in some residents facing health problems. Nitrate pollution also disproportionately affects minority, low-income families, demonstrated by the fact that Wicomico and Worcester Counties have higher proportions of people living in poverty than the state average.
Unfortunately, neither boiling nor chemical disinfectants can remove nitrates from drinking water. With most Eastern Shore residents relying on private wells for drinking water, we need to set stricter safe drinking water standards and testing for private wells. Currently, water from Maryland private wells are only required to be tested at the time they are constructed, and the state does not offer financial assistance for well water testing or notify private well owners when there is known contaminated groundwater nearby. In fact, Maryland was one of the top five states with the fewest policies protecting residents from nitrates in private well drinking water. This is unacceptable and must be addressed!
Another key reform will be how we address food waste as a state. When food scraps end up in a landfill, they decompose slower than they do in a compost pile. They also produce more methane as they break down, creating harmful greenhouse gases. Furthermore, it’s a wasted opportunity — we can turn food waste into energy when used as soil, compost improves water retention, root penetration and provides nutrients to plants.
Similar to Howard County, San Francisco, Portland, New York and Vermont, we should set the goal for ourselves to achieve 100% composting by 2030. This can be done by working with county and municipal waste systems to provide separate compost bins and collection of food waste throughout the state. Likewise, we will need to coordinate with schools and other anchor institutions to raise awareness of the composting process and its benefits as the program is rolled out throughout the state.
End state funding of synthetic turf playgrounds
Currently, most of our playgrounds are made of plastic grass filled with shredded tires. These contain a host of toxic chemicals dangerous to our residents, children and the environment. A healthier and more sustainable alternative is natural grass turf. This will also help us manage runoff rainwater and be safer and healthier for our communities.
Agricultural Zoning and Forest Conservation
Similar to what Montgomery County does with our Agricultural Reserve, we need to prevent and strictly limit any development on certain land. Not only will these help us limit over-development, but help protect our environment and possibly reduce traffic in the long-term.