Reflections on Passing the Clean Energy Jobs Act

So much has happened in a few short months! Let me start at the beginning — right before this year’s legislative session.

At the beginning of the year, we were ready to ride the green climate wave to victory. Nearly a supermajority of legislators in both houses pledged their support of the Clean Energy Jobs Act during the electoral season prior to the start of session. An omnibus bill, the legislation was to include all of the following:

  • A doubling of our state’s renewable energy requirement to 50% by 2030 and a plan to reach 100% by 2040
  • A $7 million dollar grant fund for veterans, women, small business owners and people of color to enter the green energy economy
  • An additional $8 million in workforce development funds, including $1 million earmarked for investment in high schools
  • An end to incentives for trash incineration as a qualifying renewable source

With so much support behind us, it seemed like session would be smooth sailing. Full speed ahead, we started the first day of session with one of the biggest Annapolis rallies in the history of our organization.

We soon learned that we had extremely stormy weather on the horizon. Following the passage of stricter emission standards for incinerators in Baltimore City and on the heels of County Executive Mark Elrichs’ declaration that he would shut down the BRESCO incinerator, the incinerator lobby came out in force. The provision to remove subsidies from incineration was stripped out of the bill. Yet, with the support of clean energy champions like Delegates Mosby, Llewis, Charkoudian and an unlikely ally in Republican Senator Hough we   worked to introduce two stand-alone bills also removing incineration incentives.

In the weeks to follow, it became clear that the stand alone bills around incineration did not have the votes required to pass, and that the house was heavily divided on the issue. Meanwhile, the session clock kept ticking. But finally, a ray of hope broke through the clouds – the Senate passed their version of the bill with a bipartisan super majority, fully intact. However, due to the heavy delays, the bill ended up in the Rules committee, where many bills meet their end.

And then, more waiting. It felt like years that the fate of our energy future was held in limbo. It was only in the final week – , intense grassroots pressure, and the mounting climate and solar energy crisis on everyone’s mind- that House leadership made the decision to move the bill out of Rules and to the floor for a vote, without including the incineration provision. Finally, at 10 pm on the final day of session and after hours of floor debate, the Clean Energy Jobs Act reached final passage from the General Assembly.

Following our tumultuous session, we had a lot of discussion — with our community, and with ourselves. We knew the bill accomplished many things, but not everything we had worked so hard for. We wrote this summary of our perspective here, where we outlined the good and the bad about the very good but not perfect Clean Energy Jobs Act. Ultimately, we decided that because of the urgency of the climate crisis, and the benefits that the bill did provide, we would move forward with pursuing a signature from the Governor. This presented another challenge, as he had previously vetoed the Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2016.   We were joined in our efforts by the amazing father and son duo, Vinny and Jamie DeMarco, who had previously biked over 400 miles across the state after the last clean energy jobs legislation  was vetoed. They took to their bikes again and this time rode 150 miles, starting in Annapolis and making their first stop in Ellicott City.

After their ride, it was time again for even more waiting. On nearly the last possible day for action, Governor Hogan wrote a letter announcing he would not be vetoing the Clean Energy Jobs Act. We’d reached final safe harbor at last.

I and all of CCAN want to thank all of our supporters who stuck with us through this journey. To do that, we will be celebrating the passage of this bill with a party soon — details TBD. So get ready to celebrate and hang tight for more exciting updates about our next big move!