In Maryland, a Win for the Democrats on Renewable Energy

Maryland state senators voted overwhelmingly on February 2 to override Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of the Clean Energy Jobs bill (SB-921/HB-1106), 32 to 13, after the House voted 85 to 51 on January 31 to countermand the measure.

The bill, also known as Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard Revisions, became law when the Democratic-controlled General Assembly voted to reverse the decision of the Republican governor, The Baltimore Sun reported on February 3.

Under the terms of the new law, utility companies in Maryland will be required to buy more energy from renewable sources such as wind turbines, solar panels and hydroelectric dams.

Hogan and GOP lawmakers objected to the cost to consumers. Indeed, in a letter written last May to Speaker of the House Michael E. Busch (D- District 30A), Governor Hogan stated, “This legislation is a tax increase that will be levied upon every single electricity ratepayer in Maryland and, for that reason alone, I cannot allow it to become law. Specifically, House Bill 1106 will impose a tax increase of between $49 million [and] $196 million by 2020 in order to fund the proposed increase in the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) compliance.”

Hogan, his Change Maryland organization, and the Maryland Republican Party launched an aggressive – if unsuccessful – campaign to sustain the veto.

On the other hand, Democrats argued that the requirement would boost the renewable energy industry, create high-paying jobs, reduce air pollution, and combat climate change – all at a relatively small cost to consumers, according to The Baltimore Sun.

There’s an economic argument, we’ve got an environmental argument, and then there are some health benefits as well,” State Senator Brian Feldman, a Montgomery County Democrat, told the local news outlet. “All three of these put together far, far exceed whatever possible small incremental residential rate impacts we have.”

The law requires that one-quarter of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2020. That’s more energy, and sooner, than the prior requirement of 20 percent by 2022. Nonpartisan legislative analysts estimated it might raise residential electricity bills by 48 cents to $1.45 per month, the Sun said.

After the vote, Hogan posted a list of the senators who voted for the override on his Facebook page and warned that the new requirement will “place yet another burden on ratepayers and taxpayers.”

“It will be an additional charge on your energy bill each month to pay for overly expensive solar and wind energy credits, the majority of which are created by companies outside of Maryland,” the governor wrote.

A spokesperson for the governor said Hogan supports “sensible efforts,” including the old standards, to promote renewable energy, according to the local news outlet. The old standards were set in 2004.

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