Maryland House and Senate Reject Global Warming Measure

Published July 1, 2008

The Maryland General Assembly has rejected the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008, which would have required a statewide 25 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020.

Although the bill had the support of Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and received strong backing from environmental activist groups, it was weakened in the Senate and then defeated in the House.

Priority Among Activists

As first introduced, the bill was the most ambitious environmental proposal in Maryland this year and a top priority for the state’s environmental activist groups. Environment Maryland, an activist group that claims global warming is a crisis, worked especially hard in favor of the bill.

The bill proposed ambitious goals for slashing carbon dioxide emissions but did not specify mechanisms for doing so. The bill had momentum early on but was strongly opposed by labor unions and manufacturers, who feared it would dramatically raise energy costs, causing an economic slowdown and rising unemployment.

The Senate acknowledged the threat to the state’s economy, and it weakened the bill before passing it along to the House.

Original Bill Unrealistic

State Sen. Nancy Jacobs (R-Harford) emerged as a leader in opposition to the original bill, worried it would take too great a toll on the state’s economy. Jacobs helped weaken the bill in the Senate, supporting removal of unrealistic requirements.

As Jacobs said in an interview for this story, “The bill actually started with a mandated 25 percent reduction by 2020 and a mandated 90 percent reduction by 2050.” As the 90 percent reduction would be prohibitively costly and was technologically unrealistic, “the latter reduction was later stricken in committee,” Jacobs said.

Economic Costs Doomed It

Jacobs tried unsuccessfully to make further changes to the bill. “I tried to amend the bill to exclude businesses located in the Sparrows Point area,” she said. “Sparrows Point is where Maryland’s steel industry is located, and this bill would have been a fatal blow to an industry that is already hurting. Unfortunately, [the amendment] failed 21-26.”

Jacobs went on to explain, “I ultimately voted against the bill because it amounts to an indirect tax on the working middle-class families of Maryland. The bill would have inevitably led to substantially high energy rate hikes, and it is my opinion that Marylanders are already overtaxed and overburdened with state and local taxes, energy rates, and a high cost of living.”

Opposition Increased

When the amended Senate bill finally reached the House, it faced opposition from all camps. Consumer advocates and employers believed the bill was still too costly and unbalanced. Environmental activist groups did not like provisions subjecting future reductions to further General Assembly votes. In the end, the House Economic Matters Committee rejected the bill by an 18-2 vote.

Local environmental activists were especially anxious to enact carbon dioxide emission restrictions. Brad Heavner, director of Environment Maryland, said, “The longer we wait to take strong action on global warming, the harder it will be to roll out effective strategies.”

The bill’s defeat on the last day of the Maryland legislative session dealt environmental activists a hard blow. Businesses and consumers throughout the state, by contrast, expressed optimism for a stronger economy.

Ivory Hecker ([email protected]) writes from Minneapolis, Minnesota.