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TAKOMA PARK — With climate change a growing issue across the nation, state and county, local leaders laid out a climate agenda they plan to pursue in their respective offices.
“You know there’s a climate emergency, [and] I know there’s a climate emergency … we got the county council to declare there’s a climate emergency,” said Councilmember Tom Hucker (District 5). “If that’s your frame … then that’s the first step you need to take to make a whole bunch of other difficult decisions.”
Hucker added he plans to introduce energy-use benchmarking for large commercial buildings, while State Sen. Brian Feldman (D-District 15) said he plans to introduce legislation in the General Assembly to expand wind and solar energy in the state.
Speaking to an audience at Takoma Park Middle School during the Maryland Action on a Global Climate Emergency on Jan. 26, both lawmakers explained the county and state have made progress on energy efficiency and environmental issues in recent years.
Hucker, who sits on the County Council’s Transportation & Environment Committee, explained that in 2018, the council passed two of his bills, which required expanded solar energy use — including community solar farms – and easing the regulatory process for solar-panel installation on commercial buildings.
For the forthcoming session, the current council member and former District 20 delegate said he plans to introduce a benchmarking system to calculate the energy uses of commercial properties, lower the threshold for green-roof eligibility to include small commercial properties, and require solar panels on all new residential homes in the county.
Feldman, who is currently vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee, explained that former Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich signed earliest renewable-energy standards in 2004 for the state to increase reliance on renewable- energy sources.
He added that the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act, set to be introduced during the 2019 legislative session, will create “20,000 new jobs” and reduce emissions to an equivalent to “1.7 million cars being taken off the road.”
During the 2018 legislative session, Feldman introduced a Renewable Energy and Job Development bill that aimed to increase state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) from 25 percent by 2022 to 50 percent by 2030, reduce alternative compliance payments (ACPs), remove specified sources from eligibility, and modify the existing offshore wind process to allow new applications beginning January 1, 2020.
On the local level, Gina Mathias, the sustainability manager for the City of Takoma Park, explained the city will soon undertake a new five-year Sustainable Energy Action Plan to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, following the city’s previous five-year plan in 2014.
The 2014 plan outlined numerous goals for the city, including Expand Carpooling and Car Sharing, Directly Install Efficient Equipment and Offer Free Products, Encourage Multifamily Building Efficiency, Encourage Community Solar Projects and Expand Capital Bike Share Stations.
Mathias said that the city fulfilled most of the goals outlined in the plan and will begin the process for the next five-year Sustainable Energy Action Plan this year.
“What I’m seeing in other cities around the country is, not forgetting about public education [or] … voluntary programs, but moving aggressively towards policies,” she said. “We can encourage people to be energy efficient at home [and] encourage small businesses to be energy efficient but … is there something else we need to look at other than incentives from PEPCO … to really address the emissions of our building stock.”
Other speakers at the event included Mike Tidwell of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Tamara Toles O’Laughlin from Maryland Environmental Health Network and Jordan Williams from Sunrise.