Tom knows climate change is THE urgent threat facing our planet and placing our future at risk. It imperils his children, our children and all our grandchildren’s future. Tom also understands how it disproportionately affects our most vulnerable communities. The issue of climate change - or the Climate Crisis if you prefer - is not only a federal issue, but a state, local and individual household issue. Maryland’s climate is changing, with the temperature of much of the state warming about one to two degrees Fahrenheit in the last decade, sea levels now rising about one inch every seven to eight years, increased coastal and inland flooding, disturbed ecosystems and compounded poor personal health outcomes for Marylanders. Even though our younger generations have contributed the least to climate change, they will suffer the most if we do not move aggressively and move NOW. As your Governor, Tom will:
- Embrace President Biden’s national commitment to cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. This will include a historic expansion and enhancement of public transportation options - of all modes - in every part of Maryland.
- Work with the General Assembly to mandate Maryland’s electrical production be 100 percent carbon-free by 2035, with an interim goal of 80 percent by 2030.
- Divest the State Pension Fund from fossil fuel investments. The experience of other states shows robust pension fund growth AFTER similar divestment.
- Accelerate the conversion of the state public transit and vehicle fleet to all electric while rapidly expanding electric vehicle and electric personal transit mode charging infrastructure.
- Commit to specific yearly efficiency gains on natural gas and electric use in Maryland through the Empower Maryland program.
- Aggressively expand Maryland’s existing bike/trail networks linking residential communities, schools and employers.
- Incorporate enhanced sustainability goals into the long-range state capital budgeting process.
Tom knows money spent on public transit supports twice the number of good, family supporting jobs than an equal sum spent on highways and roads, and many of those jobs are held primarily by women and people of color – the same people most disproportionately negatively impacted by the financial impacts of COVID-19.
Tom also understands that local, regional and statewide access to reliable transit is one of the keys for people to successfully move out of poverty. Further, he knows that Maryland will not achieve the world-class educational system it envisions until all of our students have the ability to reliably get to school on time.
Ultimately, Tom knows that when it comes to taking on climate change, we can either invest some now, or invest much, much more later - and he knows the clock is ticking.
Tom lives the idea that health and safety should not be determined by a person’s zip code. All people, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic background, deserve to have equitable protection from man-made pollutants. Simply put, Tom will stand up for those urban, suburban and rural communities that don’t have the money or political influence to assure their voices are heard.
For example, decades after its dangers were revealed, lead paint remains a clear and present danger to the health of thousands of children at home and in schools. This is simply unacceptable in a modern society. As governor, Tom will leverage every federal, state, local and private sector resource he can find to inspect, test and remediate indoor lead painted surfaces in every part of our state.
In that vein, as your governor he will protect our most at-risk communities by prioritizing the enforcement of existing environmental law - while at the same time opening the data banks of our environmental agencies to public scrutiny to the fullest extent possible. Every community in Maryland has the right to know what potential or existing air, land and water contamination issues exist where they live and are raising a family.
Climate change is also having disparate effects on at-risk communities. Higher temperatures can lead to heat stroke, dehydration, can affect one’s cardiovascular or nervous system, and can also create ground-level ozone and smog which could have long term effects on our respiratory systems. Communities already plagued by health disparities and higher rates of chronic disease will be disproportionately affected by rising temperatures. The EPA predicted recently that a three-degree increase in overall average temperature could have detrimental effects to communities such as Baltimore City, by increasing their annual heat-related death toll to 130, a 50 percent increase.
We cannot leave anybody behind when it comes to combating climate change and protecting our environment, as the health and safety of all Marylanders is far too important. Tom is committed to building a new, strong, equitable, and thriving economy, based on competitive clean energy and protecting the environment, an economy that leaves no one behind. The climate crisis is a top priority for Tom, and he will work to ensure that every zip code in Maryland is part of the solution.
Chesapeake Bay and Tributaries:
Tom understands the Chesapeake Bay is central to the identity of our great state and appreciates how the Bay and its waterways offer beauty, wonder, retreat, adventure, and bountiful seafood to Marylanders and visitors. The largest estuary in the United States serves an integral role in Maryland’s economy and environment, and even after decades of sustained local, state and federal action to restore the Bay and its watershed, Tom sees climate change as an immediate threat to those who make their livelihood off the Bay, and those who enjoy its bounty recreationally.
With the rising number and intensity of severe and heavy storms, soil erosion is increasing, as well as overflow from urban sewers, resulting in polluted runoff, which all bring contaminants that create dead zones - literally large parts of the Bay devoid of dissolved oxygen - and repeated algal blooms as well. Tom is committed to helping localities find the resources to maintain and expand existing wastewater treatment facilities, and will not hesitate to hold other Chesapeake watershed states accountable for their actions - or lack thereof - as well. Tom will also work collaboratively with every interest in Maryland’s agricultural, fishery and environmental communities on both macro and micro issues affecting the health of the Bay, understanding that their individual interests are far from mutually exclusive, they are in fact mutually dependent.
The U.S. Geological Survey has determined that average feeder stream temperatures have increased by about 1.1 degrees over the past 60 years, showing that there is little time to waste on substantive action. Tom is a firm believer in science-based natural resource policies, and he is a firm believer in lending a helping hand to Bay dependent industries (and individuals) when necessary. Tom also sees new opportunities for growth and enhancement of Bay-based aquaculture - particularly the slowly resurgent oyster industry - and in non-traditional but economically lucrative areas such as eco-tourism.
The effects of climate change on the Chesapeake Bay are a daily fact of life for those that live or work along the Bay. Previously inhabited islands, such as Sharps Island and Holland Island, are now completely underwater, and time is running short to save cultural and economic treasures like Smith Island, Hooper Island and the other rural Bay-dependent communities on both the Eastern and Western Shores.
Rising sea levels and increased tidal and non-tidal flooding continue to threaten Maryland’s property values, and it is estimated that these effects have impeded Maryland’s market growth so much the state has lost nearly half a billion dollars in property values as a result. A 2018 report by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science found that some of Maryland’s current shorelines will be faced with daily flooding by the year 2100, regardless of any human action.
Finally, Tom knows more than 4,000 commercial fishermen work throughout the state and generate over $600 million a year for our economy. If the effects of climate change continue to push these hard working Marylanders away from their livelihoods, we will lose not only an important piece of our economy, but an irreplaceable piece of our identity as Marylanders as well.
Tom knows it is way past time that Maryland got serious about a holistic approach to the development of a homegrown renewable energy industry, in order to meet our state goals and play our part in meeting President Biden’s national greenhouse gas reduction goals. In Tom’s view, there is a one-word, effective policy approach; Jobs.
Solar and wind technologies are now more cost effective - and profit generating - than traditional fossil sources so both the climate and economic incentives are in place.
Therefore, under Tom’s leadership our work to develop a renewable energy industrial base in Maryland will be built on high paying jobs that are open to unionization - and the family supporting wages that come with it - bolstered by individual, large scale renewable energy projects built around Project Labor Agreements. Tom wants to bring to an end the 50-year era of suppressed wages and non-existent family benefits forced upon our state and nation under the umbrella of failed supply-side economics that only supports the ultra-wealthy.
The expansion of our commitment to renewable energy and the new industrial base built around it is only part of the challenge. Another important part of our challenge is the “where” in Maryland we will build out solar infrastructure, while at the same time protecting the agricultural lands, open spaces and rural heritage landscapes that define our beautiful state. Tom is dedicated to changing the existing state regulatory structure that currently makes building on agricultural land and wooded tracts the path of least resistance for solar development. With that, he will work with the General Assembly and local governments to increase solar tax credits for low and moderate income residents, expand existing community solar programs that utilize existing rooftops and increase economic incentives and liability protections for solar expansion into existing brownfields and unproductive urban space.
Once a national leader in offshore wind, Maryland now plays in the Minor Leagues while our neighbors play in the Majors. Strong leadership at the executive level would recognize the fact that the largest and most efficient offshore turbines are not made in the USA, which creates a golden opportunity for Maryland. With substantive investments in our community college system, our union workforce, and our existing – and expandable – port, rail and manufacturing infrastructure both in the Baltimore area and on the Eastern Shore, we could become a unionized leader in manufacturing offshore turbines.
A bold, unwavering commitment to offshore wind is a win, win- win - for workers, businesses and the environment. While we have fallen behind other states in this area, the good news is that we can catch up. Time is of the essence. Governors in other key states see the urgency of now: Tom knows it is imperative Maryland do the same.
As mentioned above, more frequent and more intense rain events are one of the many effects of our dangerously warming planet. With these events, stormwater management at the ground level is especially important so that massive amounts of water entering wastewater treatment plants in a short period of time does not continue to overwhelm their capacity to clean. Worse still, a lack of adequate stormwater management infrastructure to this day allows millions and millions of gallons of untreated sewage to flow into the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries during these rain events. Tom understands stormwater management is a key tool in facing our climate challenges and sees solutions right here in Maryland.
Prince George’s County is a national model for effective stormwater management. Utilizing public-private partnerships, Prince George’s has enhanced its ability to harness and hold large amounts of stormwater until treatment plants are able to accept the load. Building these retention facilities - some with recreational parkland built around them - created hundreds of local, well paying jobs and the experience gained from this has led to the construction of scores of smaller, community level stormwater retention projects that Tom intends to replicate statewide. Tom has also seen that this type of solution is not just urban-based. Carroll County, with its mix of suburban and rural lands, has developed an enormously effective stormwater retention program built around its own unique geography. For Tom, no potential solution is too big or too small in the fight for our planet.