- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Maryland environmental activists are praising President Barack Obama’s new plan to mitigate the impact of climate change, calling it good news for the Chesapeake Bay region.
Obama’s plan, announced June 25, calls for limiting carbon pollution from power plants — for which there are currently no federal standards in place — doubling renewable energy generation by 2020, and setting a variety of new standards for fuel efficiency in vehicles and energy efficiency in homes and businesses.
The regulations Obama supports don’t need congressional approval, allowing him to bypass the gridlock on Capitol Hill.
The Baltimore-based nonprofit Environment Maryland called the plan a “clear victory” for the state, which has a large coastline that makes it particularly vulnerable to the projected impacts of climate change, such as severe storms and rising sea levels.
The plan “finally puts us on a path to protect future generations by addressing global warming,” said Laura Lyon, a field organizer with Environment Maryland. Higher temperatures and droughts can have a devastating effect on Maryland crops, she said.
Mike Tidwell, the director of the Takoma Park-based Chesapeake Climate Action Network, was particularly pleased with Obama’s declaration that the controversial Keystone XL pipeline — which would transport tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to Nebraska — should only be approved if it doesn’t “significantly exacerbate” carbon pollution.
Tidwell said any honest assessments of the pipeline will show that it will contribute to global warming and should be rejected.
The country now waits for the details of Obama’s regulations, which the fossil-fuel industry likely will try to water down, Tidwell said. Activists should prepare to push the president and the Environmental Protection Agency to follow through, he said.
Less impressive to Tidwell was Obama’s praise of natural gas — described in the plan as a “bridge fuel” that can help countries make the transition to cleaner energy. Not only does gas also produce carbon dioxide when burned, but methane, another greenhouse gas, is often released during the drilling and piping of natural gas, Tidwell said.
Lyon said that Environment Maryland will try to push back against further natural gas expansion.
Congressional Republicans pounced on the president’s plan. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement that Obama had declared a “War on Coal” and new regulations would jeopardize the coal industries in states such as his own.
U.S. Rep. Andrew P. Harris (R-Md., 1st) said he was disappointed that Obama would propose steps that would ultimately raise the cost of energy and damage the coal industry when the economy was still weak.
Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) praised the plan, saying in a statement that Maryland has already taken steps to deal with climate change — including advancing wind power and solar energy — that his administration projects will add 37,000 jobs and pump $1.6 billion into the state’s economy.