By Rianne Nickerson
In July, Vice President Kamala Harris visited Coppin State University in Baltimore to announce a $20 billion competition to advance a clean energy financing network, with the aim to substantially reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions nationwide. She spoke of underserved communities, a term that holds weight in Maryland having been defined and enshrined into law in the Climate Solutions Now Act. At the federal level, the Biden-Harris administration has taken action to prioritize environmental justice and create opportunities, directing funding and resources to those communities long burdened by environmental inequities. New policies are being adopted and grant programs are emerging to address injustice and put us on a path to a clean energy transition that is inclusive and equitable.
Under the Justice40 Initiative and the Inflation Reduction Act, the Federal Government and federal agencies have created several grant opportunities that local governments, organizations, communities, and tribes can take advantage of to create Environmental Justice programs or initiatives that help overburdened, underserved, and disadvantaged communities. The Environmental Protection Agency has created the Climate and Environmental Justice Block Grants to provide $3 billion in competitive, 3-year grants to states, tribes, municipalities, and community-based nonprofit organizations for financial and technical assistance to address clean air and climate pollution in disadvantaged communities.
The EPA has also created the Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Grantmaking Program. This program is a competition to select Grantmakers to reduce the barriers to the federal grant application process that communities face and to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the awards process for environmental justice grants. Alongside the Grantmaking Program, the EPA has created the Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers Program. This program establishes technical assistance centers providing technical assistance, training, and related support to communities with environmental justice concerns. These technical assistance centers will ensure that deserving projects receive funding and project outcomes are successful for local communities.
These initiatives by federal entities are an important step in the fight for environmental justice. By understanding what options are available, Maryland’s local governments and community organizations can use these programs to directly address climate and pollution challenges, benefiting communities across the state. To that end, Maryland LCV Education Fund met with state and local government officials in August alongside the Maryland Association of Counties annual conference to share this packet of information about these environmental justice grant opportunities and how they fit into the efforts to map and understand environmental justice needs in Maryland: check it out here.
Discover how Community Solar can open the door for everyone to reap the benefits of solar energy, even those who can’t install panels on their rooftops!
This webinar covered:
- What Community Solar is and how it works
- Various types of Community Solar projects
- Benefits you can expect as a consumer
- The sign-up process
- The future landscape of Community Solar
Community Solar is like a shared garden, where instead of sowing seeds and harvesting crops, you receive a portion of electricity from a local solar farm. This opportunity allows you to power your home with renewable energy and cut your electricity bill by 5-30%. And the best part? There are no solar panels required on your property, no costs for joining or canceling, and your utility company remains the same.
This is an excellent opportunity for the 75% of Maryland households that can’t accommodate rooftop solar due to a variety of constraints. Watch the webinar to learn how you can get involved in community solar programs right here in Maryland. Together, we can harness the power of the sun for a brighter, cleaner, and more sustainable future!
For more information and to see Community Solar providers near you, go to www.marylandconservation.org/community-solar
In late June, Maryland LCV Education Fund’s Chispa Maryland program celebrated its first-ever class of grassroots leaders, or promotores, from Baltimore County and Baltimore City. The 18 graduates are now trained to work with their community to promote key environmental issues, including advocating for clean, electric school buses that protect the health of their children and the air we all breathe.
Since beginning its promotores training program in 2016, Chispa Maryland has graduated 143 grassroot community leaders. The recently graduated promotores from Baltimore City and Baltimore County attended six weeks of classes with Morena Zelaya, the organizing manager for Chispa Maryland, and Eliseo Magos Gonzalez, Chispa’s community organizer. Their weekly sessions focused on the basics of climate justice, civic engagement, advocacy, and community organizing.
“Our lessons were really about our rights,” said Morena. “Our right to clean air, clean water, and a safe climate for us and our children. And now these incredible volunteers have the tools to advocate for the environmental rights that are so important to our communities.”
Morena and Eliseo will continue to work with the promotores to create comités (committees) in both Baltimore County and Baltimore City to facilitate their long-term organizing and broader community participation.
“It is so inspiring to see the enthusiasm and leadership displayed by these new promotores,” said Eliseo. “And it’s wonderful to know that we’re not just training 18 promotores, but also helping create a new generation of Latino community advocates who will work for climate justice.”
If you would like to support the Chispa Maryland program and help train grassroots leaders throughout our state, please donate at https://www.marylandconservation.org/donate
About Maryland League of Conservation Voters:
We use political action and education to fight for clean water, healthy air, and climate resilient communities for everyone in Maryland. Our programs strengthen and build the power of the environmental community, and they expand, deepen, and activate a base of conservation-minded voters around the state.
About Chispa Maryland of Maryland League of Conservation Voters Education Fund:
Chispa Maryland is a key program of Maryland League of Conservation Voters Education Fund that works to ensure Maryland Latino families and community leaders are a powerful voice in protecting our air, land, water, public health, and communities.
We envision a Maryland where all residents and regions have a strong voice and opportunities to make the state a national leader in implementing effective environmental protections and achieving meaningful environmental justice.
Here’s how we’ll achieve that vision:
- Increase Voter Turnout. Through non-partisan education, volunteer engagement, digital organizing, and coalition building, we will register new voters and get out the vote. We will train, empower, and activate Marylanders in targeted priority regions to use their vote and political voice to elect pro-conservation leaders that advance equitable access to clean air and water and safe and healthy communities.
- Broaden the Conservation Voter Movement. Maryland LCV Education Fund will continue its leading role in educating and activating potential voters from underrepresented communities. Our Chispa Maryland program’s power-building efforts will include launching a new online leadership training program.
- Hold Leaders Accountable. Our accountability work demonstrates to elected officials that their votes on key issues impact how their constituents view them. We will strategically leverage our relationships and programs – and create opportunities to deploy our growing advocate base – to ensure elected officials are aggressively advancing our policies and acting on the issues that our communities care about, including fair transportation systems, equitable voter access, and clean air and water.
Although Maryland successfully passed a landmark climate bill in 2022, the implementation of the legislation will require challenging adjustments to state agencies and budgets. Maryland League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (Maryland LCVEF) is positioned to play a key role in ensuring these transitions are effective and strategic, making our work more urgent than ever.
Stay tuned for more opportunities to get involved.
Kim Coble, Executive Director
Press release from Maryland League of Conservation Voters
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 11, 2022
Contact: Kristen Harbison, 410.952.8100 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
“Best in Nation” Climate Bill Highlights 2022 Legislative Session’s Many Environmental Achievements
Annapolis, MD – After struggling for several years to reach consensus on a comprehensive bill to address climate change in Maryland, the 2022 Legislative Session closed tonight with passage of the Climate Solutions Now Act. The momentous bill commits the state to net-zero climate emissions by 2045 and requires a 60 percent carbon reduction goal by 2031, the strongest near-term goal in the country.
The Climate Solutions Now Act passed the General Assembly on March 31 and became law when Gov. Hogan chose not to veto the bill.
“The Climate Solutions Now Act is a huge step toward a brighter future for our public health, budgets, and communities,” said Maryland LCV Executive Director Kim Coble. “It is major news that Maryland is leading the fight against climate change. We are enormously grateful the Maryland General Assembly had the courage and vision to vote for a healthy future for Marylanders, and that the Governor chose not to stand in the way of progress.”
The Climate Solutions Now Act also incorporated many provisions that traditionally would have been included in stand-alone bills.
The Act requires emissions reductions from large buildings and creates a 15-month study to determine steps needed to electrify new buildings.
The bill also includes an electric school bus pilot program in which utilities partner with school boards to purchase electric buses and use them for electricity grid storage. It creates the first in the nation mandate that school buses purchased after 2024 be zero-emission and requires all state passenger and light-duty vehicles to be zero-emission by 2031 and 2036 respectively.
Coble also celebrated environmental justice advancements in the bill.
It codifies the definition of “overburdened” and “underserved” to ensure equitable treatment of communities and sets goals for state clean energy investments in overburdened communities. And it will make the benefits of solar energy more accessible to low- and moderate-income (LMI) households by exempting solar on rooftops, parking garages, and brownfields from property taxes if it provides more than 50% of the energy to these households.
“Along with our community partners, we are still pushing Maryland to create a comprehensive policy framework to achieve environmental justice in the state, based on community-driven solutions,” said Coble. “Although the state still falls short of that paradigm shift, the 2022 legislative session delivered significant equity advances to communities that are disproportionately harmed by environmental and public health problems.”
Several bills supported by the environmental community did not pass, including the FUTURE Act, which would have mandated a transition to zero-emissions for Maryland’s State University System, and the Clean Truck Rule, which would have signed Maryland onto the Advanced Clean Truck Rule to drive electrification of medium- and heavy-duty trucks. A grant program for medium and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicles within the Clean Cars Act (HB1039), however, does take positive steps in this area.
“On the whole, the successes of the 2022 legislative session provide a valuable reminder that to achieve meaningful, lasting environmental victories, we need to elect conservation-minded candidates,” said Coble. “We are enormously grateful to our legislative leaders who delivered for Maryland’s environment and communities this session. It’s crucial that Maryland’s next governor builds on the victories of this legislative session to advance the state towards 100 percent clean energy and truly equitable environmental policies.”
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Tune in via ZOOM on Tuesday, April 12 at noon for a candid rundown of the key environmental bills that made it and those that didn’t in the 2022 General Assembly.
Executive Director Kim Coble will provide updates and insights into the why’s and why-not’s, and how the outcomes will impact us all as we work to combat climate change and environmental inequities.
Fresh from a face-to-face meeting with the Hogan administration, Kim will also shed light on what’s ahead as we wait to see which bills the governor signs into law and which he vetos.
You do not want to miss this insider view into the state of some of the most critical climate legislation in the nation. REGISTER NOW
By 2021 Spring Intern, Shivani Sidh
This spring, I had the opportunity to do an internship at Maryland League of Conservation Voters. I chose to work with the organization because I’m interested in climate justice: resolving the environmental, ethical, and equity issues created by climate change.
Addressing the complex issue of environmental justice can seem challenging, especially for high school students who want to get involved in the fight for climate change. However, one opportunity for involvement is closer and simpler than expected. High schoolers can use their position as students to create change by working for school bus electrification, a campaign that aims to transition fleets from diesel to electric school buses.
While school buses are an efficient method of transport, most are powered by diesel, which has adverse effects on children and the atmosphere. Each day, countless children travel on diesel buses to attend school. In comparison to someone riding in a car, a child in a diesel school bus may be exposed to as much as four times the level of toxins. Diesel emits carcinogens and particulate matter, which can exacerbate common breathing conditions such as asthma. It’s significant to note that minority children have higher asthma rates in comparison to their white counterparts. Diesel emissions also cause an increased risk for a multitude of illnesses ranging from cancer to heart disease.
Diesel holds an additional risk to the environment, as in addition to the toxins, it releases a variety of pollutants (such as CO2 and nitrogen oxides). The health and well being of children and the environment should not be compromised by something as common as a school bus.
Students can encourage the transition to cleaner transportation by educating themselves on the severity of climate change, signing petitions, and reaching out to elected officials. Students can also work with teams, possibly joining organizations like Maryland LCV and participating in their efforts, creating environmental clubs, and reaching out to the transportation department for their respective schools.
There are currently a number of avenues for school districts to start transitioning their fleets from diesel to electric that range from from federal grant programs and loans to utility investment, financing strategies and vehicle-to-grid technology. Maryland LCV’s Chispa program supported a state bill that intended to launch a pilot project to electrify school bus fleets in Maryland districts. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass through the Senate, but Maryland LCV and its partners intend to re-address the issue in the next legislative session.
Some Maryland school districts are creating their own solutions to begin the deployment of electric school buses and practice sustainability. Montgomery County recently approved a contract to lease 326 electric buses, a model that can be used to eventually electrify the entire bus fleet. Additionally, in March of 2021, Prince George’s County Public Schools became the first to commit to a Net Zero Emissions plan. They vowed that by 2040 their transportation would be “fully clean”.
Hopefully, with student help, the efforts of environmental groups, and the work of legislators, all Maryland diesel school buses will be replaced by 2030.
If you are a high school student interested in advocating for electric buses at your school, please let us know. We would love to help you in your efforts! Email us at email@example.com
A recent poll — conducted for the Maryland League of Conservation Voters (LCV) by Nexus Polling and the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication — finds strong support for policies to improve transportation and address climate change in the state. The representative survey of 553 registered Maryland voters was conducted January 27-February 4, 2021, and has a margin of error of +/- 4.5%
Voters want the MTA to ensure Marylanders can get to work safely, reduce traffic congestion, reduce pollution, and increase transportation.
Nearly all (96%) Maryland voters say ensuring Marylanders, including essential workers, can get to work safely and on time is an important objective, including more than seven in 10 (72%) who say it is a very important objective. About six in 10 Maryland voters say reducing traffic congestion (61%), reducing the harmful pollution that lowers air quality and contributes to asthma and lung disease (60%), and ensuring low-income communities and communities of color have increased access to public transportation (59%) are very important objectives for MTA. Roughly half say lowering costs for Marylanders (49%) or adding new bus routes and train lines to reach rural communities (48%) are very important objectives as well.
Maryland voters support transit infrastructure spending now.
Nearly two-thirds (66%) of Maryland voters say Maryland should increase spending on transit infrastructure now to ensure Maryland residents, including essential workers, can get around the state safely, while also providing emergency relief to families, businesses, and public services. Majorities of Maryland voters also support a variety of transportation investments, including:
- Investing in repairing and maintaining current transportation infrastructure (86%)
- Adding new bus routes and train lines to reach communities that don’t currently have access to public transportation (83%)
- Providing tax credits or rebates to individuals/households that purchase an electric vehicle (70%)
- Adding bike lanes to existing roads and bridges (70%)
- Investing state tax dollars in installing electric vehicle charging stations in rural, urban, suburban areas (68%)
- Establishing zero-emission zones in cities (52%)
Maryland voters also support a wide array of climate policies, including:
- Planting 4.5 million new trees over the next nine years to help remove carbon pollution from the air (86%)
- Requiring oil and gas companies in the state to pay some of the costs related to adapting to climate change, including investments in transportation infrastructure and sea level rise (76%)
- Requiring fossil fuel companies to pay a fee on their carbon pollution (74%)
- Requiring new constructed buildings with at least 20,000 square feet to install rooftop solar panels (74%)
- Requiring utility companies in Maryland to generate 100% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030 (72%)
- Replacing state-owned gas- and diesel-powered vehicles with electric or hybrid vehicles (67%)
- Requiring newly constructed homes and buildings to be emissions-free (66%)
Coronavirus response, infrastructure funding and climate action are seen as top priorities for Maryland this year.
More than eight in 10 Maryland voters say passing economic stimulus legislation (83%) and public health legislation (81%) in response to the coronavirus pandemic are important priorities for the Maryland state government this year, including more than six in 10 (61% and 61%, respectively) who say they should be top priorities. Transportation infrastructure is also seen as a high priority by voters in the state: About eight in 10 also say investing more in transportation infrastructure such as roads and bridges (83%) and passing an infrastructure spending bill to update and modernize Maryland’s infrastructure (78%) should be priorities. Roughly seven in 10 see addressing racism (73%) and passing a comprehensive bill to address climate change (69%) as important priorities for the state this year. And 72% of respondents said they support requiring utility companies in Maryland to generate 100% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
Not only do Maryland voters support climate policies, but they want their elected representatives to support them as well.
At least seven in 10 say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate for Maryland political office who backs investing state dollars to upgrade the electric grid and expand the production of renewable energy (73%), requiring fossil fuel companies to pay a tax on their carbon pollution (71%), and reducing greenhouse gas emissions 60% from 2006 levels by 2030 (70%).