Already in 2008, Maryland commissioned a report which projected future climate change vulnerabilities for the state: an annual average temperature increase of about 3°F by mid-century; droughts lasting several weeks during the summer; rains and winds from hurricanes are likely to increase as will precipitation; sea level rise will accelerate causing Maryland to experience considerable shoreline erosion and deterioration of coastal wetlands. If sea level rises by 3 feet, most tidal wetlands would be lost — about 200 square miles of land would be inundated.
Despite being home to the second-largest coal exporting port in the United States, Maryland is among the leaders in a shift away from traditional energy sources. Maryland has no crude oil production and very little natural gas production. Further, the state is gradually transitioning away from coal. Since 2012, coal’s share in electricity generation has been less than 50% and in 2018 it fell to 23%. Alternative renewable energy sources such as solar and clean energy nuclear have been turned to in recent years, with one of Maryland’s nuclear power plants accounting for 34 of the state’s electricity generation in 2018.
According to the Environmental Information Administration (EIA), Maryland consumes five times more energy than it produces and the Maryland economy ranks among the ten least energy intensive states in the U.S., as well as being among the ten lowest in per capita energy consumption. The state’s energy is consumed primarily by the transportation, commercial and residential sectors with each consuming about 30% and the industrial sector accounting for the remaining 10%.
In 2009, Maryland passed the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2009 (GGRA). Since its passage, the bill has been updated (in 2015 and 2019), with each amendment proposing greater energy conservation targets. As of 2019, the goals of the GGRA include a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and a transition to 100% clean electricity by 2040. The realization of Maryland’s proposed goals relies on a synthesis of a number of new and existing public programs and regulations introduced to the state’s private sector.
A member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cooperative of ten states in the Atlantic region with the goal of reducing GHG emissions, Maryland is able to regulate its energy use under the first cap-and-invest program in the nation. This program sets in place a cap on the GHG emissions allowed among the ten-state initiative and allows the private sector to trade for allowances under this cap.
State Governor Larry Hogan (R) has sought out ambitious climate change legislation and has championed Maryland as a leader in the field. In a November of 2019 tweet, Hogan broke from party lines, deriding the Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, asserting that “While Washington continues to address climate change, Maryland continues to lead.”
Further climate legislation has been brought before the Maryland committee as recently as February 3, 2020. The Climate Solutions Act of 2020 aims to increase the state’s GHG emissions reductions target for 2030, requiring the State to achieve net-zero statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. The plan also requires the Maryland Dept. of the Environment to adopt a final plan that reduces statewide GHG emissions by 60% by 2030 and sets Maryland on a path toward achieving net-zero statewide GHG emissions by 2045. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, voting on the bill has been delayed as of April 24, 2020.