Environment & Energy
Protecting the environment is a top priority for me. We need to ensure that our drinking water stays safe and never runs the risk of contamination. Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, has been blamed for leaking methane and potential cancer causing chemicals into ground water. For this reason, I supported legislation which would ban fracking in Maryland.
During the 2014 legislative session, I introduced legislation that required manufacturers to label raw and packaged foods that are made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Similar requirements exist in 64 other countries, but the FDA has refused to act on this issue despite increasing consumer demand for information. Although this bill did not pass this year, I will continue to work on this important environmental health issue.
As Environmental Health Campaign Director at MomsRising.org, I worked on numerous state and federal environmental policy initiatives. I am a strong voice in Annapolis in support of green space and environmental conservation, climate policy, environmental health, and sustainable agricultural practices. Facilitating a transition to renewable energy sources is my top environmental priority. We must increase incentives for solar and wind energy, and develop strategies for reducing consumption of fossil fuels. I will also work to revive the Chesapeake Bay, which I believe is a national treasure. Maryland can and should be a leader among states on environmental issues.
I have four main environmental goals:
- Ensure adequate funding for environmental programs and enforcement
- Ensure that decisions at all levels of government are consistent with statewide growth, energy, and transportation policies and plans
- Empower citizens and advocates to enforce environmental laws through better access to information and the courts
- Pass environmental legislation that will improve public health and protect and preserve our natural environment
Even as we worry about structural deficits, we cannot lose sight of the structural savings that investments in energy efficiency will yield. This is not the time to be penny wise and pound foolish. If re-elected, I will work to support and advance policies that promote energy efficiency in the state and help ensure we meet and exceed the EmPower Maryland goals, including:
- Restoring funding for clean energy programs from the Strategic Energy Investment Fund, including energy efficiency projects in low- and moderate-income communities.
- Supporting existing and new loan and technical assistance programs to help businesses and homeowners invest in energy efficiency improvements, as well as tax incentive programs to encourage them to do so.
- Setting an example by establishing green building standards for state office buildings.
- Promoting accountability by requiring energy use benchmarking and disclosure for public buildings and enhancing energy use disclosures provided to purchasers and users of private buildings.
The 2009 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act has very ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions by 25% by 2020. This is the most ambitious short-term reduction goal of any state in the country. Our energy future will not be determined by our ambitious goals but by the cumulative impact of countless individual decisions. A Comprehensive Energy Planning process can help ensure that those decisions serve the state’s broader energy strategies and objectives by:
- Giving the Public Service Commission and other policy makers considering proposed energy projects with a comprehensive, independent picture of future energy needs and the full range of means to satisfy them.
- Creating a roadmap for steering state and public utility investments in energy efficiency, transmission and distribution infrastructure, ratepayer assistance, and renewable generation sources.
- Providing a framework for legislative and executive policymakers to identify, debate, and address emerging energy issues.
As with energy efficiency, investments in clean energy provide both environmental and economic returns. If re-elected, I will work to promote an array of measures to accelerate the expansion of clean energy production and use in Maryland, including:
- Providing loans to finance clean energy projects by residential and commercial property owners, such as those proposed in the last legislative session.
- Creating mechanisms for local governments, community associations, and utilities to finance clean energy projects through tax, dues, and bill assessments.
- Requiring utilities to sign long-term power purchase agreements with renewable generation facilities in order to create the stable and predictable incentives required to attract investment in clean energy generation capacity.
- Removing barriers to clean energy projects by encouraging or mandating changes in building, zoning, permitting, utility, and community association codes that unreasonably impede clean energy installations.
- Working with educational institutions, unions, and employers to create a comprehensive workforce development program that identifies and meets clean energy training needs.
Alternative energy has the potential to pay substantial economic as well as environmental dividends. Maryland is especially well-positioned to reap these dividends. We are blessed with substantial wind energy potential both off the Atlantic coast and in the mountains of Western Maryland. While we are no Arizona, we have enough sunshine to enable property owners to generate a meaningful fraction of their own power consumption needs. Our universities and businesses boast extraordinary concentration of scientific and technological expertise – particularly in biotechnology. If we are far-sighted enough to make the right investments now, alternative energy can become both a major source of our electric power and a major engine of our economy.
Protecting the Bay
Among the many important environmental priorities facing the state, protecting and restoring the Bay has special personal resonance for me. When I was very young, my grandparents retired to a cabin in Scientist Cliffs on the Bay’s Western Shore. I spent almost every summer of my childhood at that cabin with my grandparents and my many aunts, uncles, and cousins. I am absolutely committed to keeping this natural treasure of our state healthy and thriving for my children and their children to enjoy.
We must end unsustainable factory farming techniques that harm our environment and our health, while simultaneously encouraging the development of sustainable agriculture to provide our communities with healthy, local alternatives to industrial food. Of course, we must force large poultry producers to take responsibility for changing their business practices by establishing strong standards and funding enforcement mechanisms adequately. But the state must also support local farmers in their efforts to farm responsibly. If re-elected, I will support programs to provide financing and technical assistance to help farmers reduce run-off and transition to more sustainable farming methods.
It is encouraging that the EPA is demonstrating renewed commitment to protecting the Bay. However, state-level action will play a significant role in the details, timing, and effectiveness of new protections. Maryland words and actions should demonstrate its commitment and priorities to the EPA and other affected states. If Maryland lags behind, how can we expect others to be bolder?
Open Space & Farmland Preservation
Maintaining and increasing the state’s quantity of productive farmland helps reduce pollution, control sprawl, and feed the people of the state in a healthy and sustainable way. Maryland has been a leader in preserving agricultural land, but we must maintain our commitment in bad times as well as good.
If re-elected, I would support adequate and consistent funding for programs to support farmers and farmland, such as the Program Open Space and the Rural Legacy Program. I would also work to promote programs that help local farmers develop economically and environmentally sustainable business models and to become part of a healthy local and regional food systems. This support should include financing and insurance programs to facilitate transition to sustainable methods and organic certification, as well as educational and technical assistance programs from state agencies, educational institutions, and agricultural extension services. It should also include a commitment to ensuring that state and local planning, transportation, and tax policies create an economic environment in which sustainable agriculture is the an economically attractive choice for farmers.
Environmental Health & Justice
I am passionate about reducing pollution in our environment. I am proud to have worked on many state and federal initiatives to eliminate toxic chemicals our environment and from many consumer products, from baby bottles to cleaning supplies and cosmetics. You can learn about my work on Environmental Health, and read my Environmental Health blog at MomsRising.org.