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eMDE: Ben’s Blog – A September to Remember




Ben's Blog - Thoughts from Secretary Ben Grumbles

A September to Remember

What a month for important environmental, climate, and clean energy developments within and beyond Maryland.

On the biggest stage, the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City from September 22-26, the world was watching and Maryland was participating. No, I didn’t get to meet Greta Thunberg, who is a remarkable and courageous young advocate for our planet, but I did get to represent Maryland and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (which is growing in size and impact) at an important climate forum with the Environmental Defense Fund and China, which has 1,800 fossil fuel plants and a relatively new commitment to design a national emissions trading program.

The gathering in New York not only prompted protests and commitments but also the release of a special report on oceans by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Maryland and other states, joined by the Ocean Conservancy, Climate Advisors, and other organizations, are sharing the findings to raise awareness about sea level rise, warmer water, storm intensification, acidification, dead zones, habitat loss, and other impacts. What could be more important than healthy oceans, bays, and coasts?

On September 10 in Washington, D.C., I was fortunate to participate in a small roundtable discussion with Bill Gates. It was a great opportunity to describe Maryland’s many climate efforts and Governor Larry Hogan’s new clean and renewable energy standard and its 100 percent clean electricity by 2040 goal.

September also saw the 45th auction of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. We celebrated the sale of our one billionth allowance. Maryland’s share of the proceeds was $13.6 million.

On September 26, MDE announced important funding for clean school buses. On the same day, the governor and the Maryland Energy Administration announced our state was the first in the nation to witness the conversion of a gas station to an electric vehicle charging station.

At the Transportation and Climate Initiative meeting September 18 in Vermont, environmental and transportation leaders from a dozen New England and mid-Atlantic states met for continued progress on designing a regional low-carbon transportation program. It’s an important effort that will lead to a more detailed framework (made available October 1 on the Georgetown Climate Center website) with stakeholder and community meetings in Maryland and other states to follow over the next several months.

On September 5, the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council, represented by six governors, the mayor of Washington, and the administrator of EPA, held its annual meeting. Governor Hogan was re-elected as chairman and jurisdictions discussed the historic progress and unprecedented challenges facing the nation’s largest and most productive bay, including implementation of each jurisdiction’s phase 3 watershed implementation plan. And on September 26, EPA announced the awarding of contracts for development, implementation, and funding of the first of its kind, Conowingo watershed implementation plan.

From September 24-26, I participated in the annual meeting of the Environmental Council of States (ECOS), which includes the environmental secretaries of 49 states. We had intense and robust discussions amongst ourselves and with federal EPA leadership on strategies to improve environmental and public health protection, including climate change and toxic air and water pollution.

On the last day of the month, MDE hosted a meeting to hear from the public about Baltimore City’s pilot program to provide expedited reimbursement for sewage backups in basements. That program is required under the modified consent decree that sets deadlines for work by the city to improve its sewer system. MDE and EPA have important oversight and enforcement responsibilities regarding the consent decree.

September, a month to remember, was also an urgent reminder to never forget to “think globally, act locally.” This slogan from the 1970s rings truer than ever as the threat deepens and the costs of inaction escalate. Fortunately, states are stepping up with bipartisan, science-based actions and investments but our region and nation need much more to hit home positively for current and future generations.

Air, Land, Water – Did You Know?

Get in on the 18th Annual Rethink Recycling Sculpture Contest

Are you a high school student? Do you know one? Do you teach high school? Do you know someone who does? If you answered yes to any of these, check out the Maryland Department of the Environment’s Rethink Recycling Sculpture Contest. There’s still time to get in on the contest, but space is limited and school entry forms should be submitted by October 11.
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Our mission is to protect and restore the quality of Maryland’s air, water, and land resources, while fostering smart growth, a thriving and sustainable economy and healthy communities.