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Maryland Gov. Wes Moore unveils $90M for environmental initiatives

Denise Koch has your Friday evening news update (2/16/2024)
Denise Koch has your Friday evening news update (2/16/2024) 01:41

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland Gov. Wes Moore highlighted $90 million on Friday as a down payment to help reach the state's ambitious goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to fight climate change.

The money is set aside for three distinct initiatives, including $17 million to buy and lease electric school buses, $23 million to install electric vehicle charging infrastructure and $50 million for the electrification of schools and multifamily homes to cut emissions.

"We think this is an important statement to show that this is a commitment that we plan on keeping," Moore, a Democrat, said. "We know this will take time, but it's time that we are planning on moving with a sense of urgency on, and we believe that this $90 million down payment shows not just a measure of sincerity, but also a measure of aggression in the way we're hoping to address this issue."

The money was described as a start in how the state will reach the ambitious goals to reduce climate change that was charted in legislation approved two years ago known as the Climate Action Now Act. The law aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60% of 2006 levels by 2031.

The administration also aims to achieve 100% clean energy by 2035 and reach net-zero emissions by 2045. That means at least as much carbon would be removed from the atmosphere as what is being emitted.

"I know that $90 million is not going to solve the climate crisis in the state of Maryland. But I also want to be clear, by working with the General Assembly, we can make a critical down payment now on a more sustainable future," Moore said. Such a future includes clean air and "a future where power is drawn from nature instead of power being at conflict with nature," he said.

Serena McIlwain, who is the secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment, said the money will help "jump-start Maryland's green economy."

McIlwain pointed out that Maryland is seeing communities at risk in Baltimore, where residents are enduring extreme heat. She also pointed to communities on the Eastern Shore, where sea level rise is resulting in the loss of farmland because of saltwater intrusion.

In December, McIlwain's department released a plan that calls for an estimated $1 billion a year in new state spending to transition to clean energy and fight climate change.

"We don't have time to play around and waste time," the secretary said at a news conference with Moore. "We have to do what we need to do to move forward. Climate change is here."

The governor emphasized that the funding outlined Friday will be steered to underserved communities that are being affected by climate change to a greater extent. For example, he said extreme heat is increasing asthma cases from bad air quality in some communities more than in others.

Under his proposal, a minimum of 50% of the investments must go to communities that have been "historically undervalued, historically underseen and historically underestimated."

"It's not hitting every community the same way, so therefore the way that we are addressing it means that we have to be intentional about making 'Leave No One Behind' mean something, that those who oftentimes were last, they come first," Moore said.

The $90 million is previously unallocated funding from the state's Strategic Energy Investment Fund, the administration said. It will be put into the governor's budget proposal as one-time funding to advance implementation of the Climate Solutions Now Act and the Maryland Department of Environment's Climate Plan.

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