On Friday, Gov. Larry Hogan, R-Md., vetoed the Clean Energy Jobs Act, a bill that would have expanded Maryland’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS). Before the 2016 Maryland legislative session adjourned in April, state lawmakers had finalized the bill and sent it to Hogan for consideration.
Specifically, the legislation would have boosted the current RPS from 20% by 2022 (with a 2% solar carve-out) to 25% by 2020 (with a 2.5% solar carve-out). According to estimations from the Maryland Climate Coalition, the accelerated target would have resulted in approximately 1.3 GW more of clean energy and hundreds of new jobs. Among other provisions, the bill also would have established a working group to explore ways to help with clean energy job training.
In his veto letter, Hogan writes, “This legislation is a tax increase that will be levied upon every single electricity ratepayer in Maryland, and for that reason alone, I cannot allow it to become law.” He charges that the bill would have led to a rise in taxes of between $49 million and $196 million by 2020.
Unsurprisingly, the solar industry and environmental groups have denounced Hogan’s veto, as RPS policies, which require state utilities to procure a certain amount of renewable energy, are key incentives for clean energy development.
MDV-SEIA, an organization representing solar stakeholders in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia, says it is “deeply disappointed” by the governor’s “shortsighted decision.”
“Honestly, we’re confused,” remarks Omar Terrie, the groups’ policy director, in a statement. “Governor Hogan ran his campaign on supporting Maryland jobs. That’s what our industry brings. This veto puts thousands of solar jobs and hundreds of local companies at risk. Moreover, this veto endangers the livelihood of thousands of Marylanders and will stall millions in economic investment.”
Although Hogan writes in his letter that “Maryland retains its status as a national leader” under its existing 20% by 2022 renewables mandate, MDV-SEIA argues that the veto “leaves the state with a lackluster RPS that is far from the leaderboard.”
In the conclusion to his veto letter, Hogan also refers specifically to solar: “While I appreciate the economic benefit of Maryland’s growing solar industry, there is also a corresponding cost which is borne by all citizens [under the proposed legislation]. I believe the state should not add to this burden.”
Josh Tulkin, director of the Maryland Sierra Club, calls Hogan’s veto “deeply flawed.”
“The Clean Energy Jobs Act was a win-win-win for Maryland because it had the support of businesses and environmentalists, grew the clean energy workforce in our state and deployed over a gigawatt of new renewable energy,” says Tulkin in a statement.
He adds, “The governor has stifled clean energy job growth in Maryland through this veto and walked back on his own promise in the new Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act to fight climate change while growing jobs.”
However, the governor’s veto does not necessarily mean the end of the bill: Because both chambers of the state legislature passed it with a veto-proof majority, lawmakers are slated to take an override vote in an upcoming session. Unless they choose to hold a special session, though, the override will be discussed in the next regular session, which starts in January 2017.
“Given the overwhelming support for this bill in the General Assembly and the general public, we are confident in a veto override next year,” states Tulkin. “Marylanders want clean energy, and they want to lead the clean energy economy.”
Earlier this year, a survey released by the Maryland Climate Coalition found that nearly three-quarters (71%) of Maryland voters supported the expansion of the state’s RPS, even if it would add up to 50 cents per month to their electric bill.