Environmentalists urge Frederick delegate to switch ‘black liquor’ vote -- Gazette.Net


Despite pressure from a local global-warming group, Del. Galen Clagett of Frederick said he has no intention of changing his vote on a bill to stop financial rewards for paper mills that burn a tar-like substance called “black liquor” to generate power.

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is working feverishly to convince Clagett (D-Dist. 3A) to change his vote before the Maryland General Assembly adjourns its legislative session Monday night.

“There is still time for him to change his mind,” said James McGarry, the network’s policy analyst, at a news conference Wednesday afternoon in Frederick. “I hope he will change his mind.”

Network members, Frederick business owners and students conducted a news conference at Cafe Nola in hopes of convincing Clagett to change his vote. The group targeted him because they said early on he had indicated to them that he would support the bill.

But Clagett said in a phone message Wednesday night that he has no intention of changing his vote because he fears that the end of the subsidies could mean the loss of 870 jobs at the Luke Mill Coal Power Plant, the state’s only paper mill in Allegany County.

“I’m not sure this is the best way to go,” he said. “I have some problems, and I’ve chosen to go by the way of saving jobs. We’ve lost a lot of jobs in this state, especially in Western Maryland. And there is only one of these plants in the whole state.”

Currently, paper mills receive millions of dollars annually in electric ratepayer subsidies to burn black liquor — a tarry byproduct of the paper-making process. Environmentalists argue that burning black liquor is a pollutant, and instead the subsidies should go to new wind and solar projects.

On March 28, the Maryland Senate agreed and passed SB684, that within five years would end the subsidies paper mills receive.

But when a version of the bill — HB1102 — came before the House Economic Matters Committee the next day, Clagett voted in opposition, which stopped the bill from moving out of committee and onto the House.

Seven business owners in Frederick also have sent a letter to Clagett saying they were “disappointed” with his vote.

“I’m disappointed by Delegate Clagett’s vote, but it’s not too late for him to do right by local businesses and our environment,” Matt Triche, general manager of Cafe Nola, a downtown restaurant that is powered by green energy, said in the letter. “I want the subsidy we pay on our electric bill each month to support new clean energy and jobs here in Maryland. That’s only fair for ratepayers and good for business.”

By redirecting the subsidies to wind power clean energy projects, up to 1,400 megawatts of new clean energy would be produced, and an estimated 1,800 new jobs would be created in Maryland, the letter states.

Under Maryland’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard laws is a requirement that renewable sources generate a specific percentage of the state’s electricity supply each year, increasing to 20 percent, including 2 percent for solar power, by 2022, according to the Maryland Department of Legislative Services.