Find out how Candidates for Governor will vote on Climate- thanks to Maryland Leads on Climate

 MLC Gubernatorial Candidate Questionnaire Results
Which candidates will help Maryland lead on climate?

Maryland Leads on Climate, a coalition of grassroots activist groups that represents over 7000 Marylanders, has spent the last six months meeting with gubernatorial candidates and getting to know their positions on clean energy and climate change.  This spring, we asked the candidates to fill out an extensive questionnaire. All six completed questionnaires are now available to the public as PDFs in our MLC Voter Resource Drive, along with a spreadsheet offering at-a-glance summaries organized by candidate and by question and a report summarizing the areas of trends and divergence.  The information in the summaries and report comes mainly from the questionnaire but has been supplemented by information from the candidates’ websites and public statements. A summary of trends and areas of divergence among the candidates is below.

Our findings are generally consistent with the overview presented in the Baltimore Sun’s opinion piece, “Which Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate is Best on the Environment?” and’s “2018 Voter Guide” on climate change, both published last week, but with some updates and a lot more detail. We have also incorporated the positions of Ian Schlakman, Green Party candidate. Governor Hogan did not respond to our inquiries, so our information about his positions comes only from his record.  Libertarian candidate Shawn Quinn, Democratic candidate James Jones, and perennial candidate Ralph Jaffe also did not respond to inquiries.  Responses from the Jealous campaigns are still pending.
Summary of Trends and Areas of Divergence
The field is strong: The vast majority of responses indicated an understanding of the gravity and urgency of the climate emergency as well as the economic opportunities provided by the transition to clean energy.  All respondents set far more ambitious clean energy targets than those implied by the records of Governor Hogan or even, notably, most Democratic state legislators to date. All respondents committed to removing trash incineration and black liquor from the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), with most committing to removing all dirty sources of energy. All support strengthening RGGI and, more notably, all support putting a price on carbon and other GHG pollution in sectors not covered by RGGI. All support investing in adaptation and resilience, passing new safety standards to protect works from heat stress, and financing research and development into new methods for sequestering carbon. Many support moving to zero waste, accelerating GHG emissions reductions, and requiring county planning departments to incorporate utility-scale solar into zoning and planning decisions. Read on for more highlights and details.

    Transitioning to 100% clean energy
  • All respondents support a rapid transition to 100% clean energy for Maryland, with several supporting a 50% interim goal. Of these, Schlakman aims to attain the 100% goal soonest (by 2030 or sooner), closely followed by Vignarajah, Madaleno, and Baker (2035) and Ross (2040).  At a forum in February, in response to a question from an MLC member, Shea and Jealous joined Vignarajah, Madaleno, and Ross in publicly expressing  support for the goal of 100% clean energy by 2035, a reference to the 100% Clean Renewable Energy and Equity Act proposed in 2018.  In stark contrast, Governor Hogan vetoed the Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2017, which called for just 25% renewable energy by 2020.  (His veto was overridden by the legislature.)
  • All respondents indicated that they would eliminate trash incineration and black liquor from the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), and all except Shea added the elimination of all other dirty sources, including biomass and poultry incineration.    
  • When asked abut how to transition to 100% clean energy, all respondents supported investing in job training, investing in clean energy infrastructure, and reducing technical and regulatory barriers to clean energy.  Baker, Madaleno, Schlakman, and Vignarajah also support requiring county planning departments to incorporate utility-scale solar into land-use planning and zoning decisions.  
  • When asked how to fund this transition, all respondents except Baker supported using Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) permit auction revenue, tax-free bond issues, and privately-raised capital to fund a Green Bank.  Madaleno further noted that he would explore Power Purchase Agreements and carbon fee and dividend systems to support a fund.   Baker did not answer the question about how to fund the transition, instead using the comment section to write: “Create legislation that ends the use of coal to generate electricity in Maryland, providing for electricity reliability through clean energy, energy storage, and energy conservation, and providing protection (e.g., retraining) for coal plant workers.”

Reducing Emissions
  • All respondents expressed strong support for rapid emissions reductions, with the most aggressive targets set by Shlakman (100% by the end of his first term) and Vignarajah (50% reduction by the end of her second term in 2026).  Ross endorsed the US Climate Alliance target of a 26% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2025, while Madaleno and Shea expressed support for the existing targets set in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2016, which calls for a 40% reduction over 2006 levels by 2030.  Baker expressed strong support for rapid emissions reduction but did not specify a GHG reduction target; however, eleven days later in a statement for, he said that his administration “will work to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80 percent, below 2008 levels by 2050.”  
  • All respondents indicated support for reducing vehicle emissions through the Clean Cars program, transit-oriented development, walkable mixed-use development, bike infrastructure, funding EV charging stations, and prioritizing public transit over highways.   
  • All respondents have publicly expressed their opposition to all new pipelines and most other forms of fossil fuel infrastructure. (Both Madaleno and Baker note that some of the options on the list are not within the scope of state government because of federal interstate commerce laws.)  This generalized opposition again provides a contrast to Governor Hogan. Hogan has opposed the federal push for offshore drilling off Maryland’s coasts, but his surprise change of heart on fracking came after it became clear that the legislature was mustering a veto-proof majority, and his administration has recently supported new pipelines that would carry fracked gas through Maryland despite concerns about public health and safety.
  • All respondents committed to appointing a Secretary of the Environment who would negotiate to strengthen RGGI by lowering the regional emissions cap.  Hogan joined other RGGI governors in lowering the the cap during the last round of negotiations in August 2017, although he did not appear to take a leadership role.  Unlike other governors of RGGI states, Hogan made no public statements about his intentions for the negotiations until after the new agreement had been made public.

Pricing Carbon and Other Greenhouse Gas Pollution
  • All respondents except Shea expressed unqualified support for pricing greenhouse gas pollution in the form of a fee placed on fossil fuel importers and distributors.  Shea said that he would consider such a fee if needed to fund green infrastructure or reduce energy costs.
  • As for the sometimes thorny question of what to do with the revenue from such a fee, all respondents indicated openness to using some of the revenue in a Green Infrastructure Fund.  Ross also supported a rebate to all taxpayers to offset incremental costs, while Vignarajah also supported a progressive rebate tilted toward those most sensitive to increased energy costs, such as low-income households and energy-intensive businesses.  Madaleno supported all three options plus adaptation projects in vulnerable areas. Baker indicated openness to all three proposals but was unwilling to commit to any specific proposal at this time.

The Path To Zero Waste
  • Baker, Vignarajah, and Madaleno all expressed explicit support for the move toward zero waste.
  • Schlakman joined Baker, Vignarajah, and Madaleno in identifying composting as an important part of the solution.  
  • Baker emphasized his Zero Waste Plan including statewide recycling and composting systems (a promise supported by his record in PG County).

Adaptation & Resilience

Sequestration, Drawdown, & Climate Restoration
  • All respondents committed to advance known methods of carbon sequestration by increasing funding for healthy soils initiatives and supporting forest conservation and coastal marsh restoration.
  • All respondents supported at least one of the policy options provided for financing research into and implementation of new methods of carbon sequestration, with Baker, Madaleno, Ross, and Vignarajah supporting most or all of the options.

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