General Assembly 2020 Advocacy Priorities
Thanks to your help, lots of great progress was made in committee hearings on our environmental priorities for the 2020 General Assembly session. Unfortunately, in part due to the session ending early because of COVID-19, none of these priorities were able to pass into law. We’ll be back in 2021, and we trust you will, too.
Coal Community Transition
This was a bill to close the last 6 coal-fired power plants in Maryland and provide a just transition for the workers.
Intuitively, we know that coal has no place in the 21st century. The numbers back that up. While Maryland’s last 6 coal plants produce less than 14% of our electricity, they produce over 75% of our climate pollution from in-state electricity generators—the equivalent of over 2 million extra cars on the road. That extra climate pollution contributes to the climate crisis driving flooding in Ellicott City, sea-level rise in Baltimore and Annapolis, and increased summer heat advisories across the state.
For Marylanders with other health concerns, the effects can be even more immediate. Many people of faith are horrified when they realize that their sacred spaces are being lit with an energy source that makes their neighbors sick. It is estimated that 13,000 Americans are killed each year by coal pollution through increased asthma attacks and other respiratory and cardiovascular health problems.
Clearly, it’s time for coal to go. Yet as people of faith, we care for both our neighbor who has asthma and our neighbor who works at the coal plant. That’s why we support a coal community transition, with funding for workers and communities transitioning to a new economy that works for everyone.
Take Action in Your Congregation
In 2020, many of you helped us share the message that 6 coal-fired power plants in Maryland is #6toomany with our photo petition campaign. We were able to share those pictures with legislators during important conversations and committee hearings about the path to closing coal plants in Maryland.
You can download a sign here and take your own photo, whether as a selfie, with your whole congregation, or anything in between! Tag us on social media, or email it to email@example.com We expect to come back in 2021 and pick up where we left off.
Maryland Environmental Rights Amendment
Across Maryland, damaged environments threaten our communities. When pollution makes our neighbors sick, we have failed in our shared responsibility to “keep and tend the Garden,” as the biblical book of Genesis mandates.
Our faith traditions teach that protecting Creation means protecting the life of our human neighbors, the wellbeing of our communities, and the health of our natural places. A damaged environment threatens all life by interfering with the rights of all people to drink pure water, breathe clean air, and live healthfully now and in the future. We are speaking out to explicitly protect the rights of all Marylanders to live in a life-giving environment.
The Environmental Rights Amendment would explicitly protect our right to a healthy environment now and in the future by enshrining it in the state declaration of rights. The Environmental Rights Amendment bill asks our legislators to vote to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot in time for Maryland voters to weigh in on the amendment at the polls in the 2020 election.
Maryland faith communities support the campaign for an Environmental Rights Amendment because:
• Clean air and water are blessings entrusted to us — this amendment supports all other protections for health and the environment. By affirming a right to a healthy environment, we are expressing the calling of all our faiths to protect and steward our home places.
• Ensuring healthy communities expresses our love for our neighbors — this amendment would provide bedrock protections for individual rights and legally-recognizable standing so our neighbors can have access to courts when they are harmed by environmental injustice.
• Ensuring a healthy environment expresses the calls of our faiths to promote a world in which future generations can live and flourish — this amendment establishes the government of Maryland as a trustee of the state’s natural resources for the long term, asserting that the right to a healthy environment is on par with other fundamental rights protected in our constitution.
Why an Environmental Rights Amendment?
Maryland needs to take proactive steps to protect our communities and enable all of our neighbors to be able to defend their right to a healthy environment.
We have the chance to become one of the first states to adopt similar amendments — following Pennsylvania,
Montana, Hawaii, and Illinois — that affirmatively codify our right to a livable future, including protections for:
- our human and non-human communities, whether in cities, rural areas or wilderness
- children and seniors who are most vulnerable to breathing dirty air
- our economic future, wealth generation, and home values
- natural spaces, including coastal wetlands and old-growth forests
Take Action in Your Congregation
• Share this one pager in your congregation and write letters to your legislators. Find their contact information at mdelect.net.
• Invite Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin to speak in your congregation about this important campaign. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule.
Climate Solutions Act
Also called the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act (GGRA), this bill would have created a legal requirement for Maryland to reach net-zero climate pollution by 2045, as well as including a number of specific steps the state must take immediately to reduce climate pollution.
Faith communities across Maryland have already been taking big steps to care for their neighbors by reducing their climate pollution. So many congregations have taken actions like installing solar panels and electric vehicle charging stations, planting trees, and making their houses of worship more energy efficient.
Now we need the state to follow their lead. Unfortunately, the climate plan released by Gov. Hogan in late 2019 offered far too little and came almost a year later than was legally required. The Climate Solutions Act would set new, more ambitious targets for reducing Maryland’s climate pollution and getting the state to net-zero by 2045. It would also make sure that some of the most harmful parts of the Governor’s plan (like expanding our use of fracked gas and counting highway widening as a climate benefit) can’t be used in future plans.
The bill would also increase Maryland’s energy efficiency targets, electrify the state’s vehicle fleet, plant millions of trees, and more. This bill looked like it had the support needed to pass, but with the shortened legislative session, it ran out of time. We know that faithful advocates across the state will keep up their good work cutting climate pollution, and keep calling on the state to do the same.