March 25, 2010

Senate OKs green purchasing push

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By Nick DiMarco
Nick@MarylandReporter.com

A bill requiring state facilities to make “greener” decisions when purchasing materials won unanimous Senate approval Wednesday. Lawmakers promised to monitor the effect on manufacturers who claimed the measure would cost jobs.

The Green Maryland Act increases the purchase of recycled paper, enforces composting where available and establishes a committee that would monitor the bill’s effect on business.

“We amended it to make clear that there’s a committee, which will consider all of these choices and to make sure that we’re moving to green practices with dispatch but in a way that doesn’t adversely affect people’s jobs,” said Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, the bill’s lead sponsor.

On March 11, the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee heard complaints from Solo Cup Co., among others, who suggested that banning particular products from government operations set a bad precedent. They argued that the measure would cause plants to cut jobs or shut down.

Solo operates one distribution and two manufacturing buildings in the state, with close to 1,300 employees. Solo officials did not respond to requests for comment after the bill’s passage.

Sen. Raskin said Solo’s concerns were unfounded.

“There was a misperception that this banned particular products in the state which clearly it doesn’t,” Raskin said. “It just says that we should be making every possible effort to move to the most environmentally sound products and consumption.”

Representatives from Gov. Martin O’Malley’s office testified in favor of the bill, claiming that it would help the environment.

The Maryland Green Purchasing committee would be composed of nine members from different departments within the executive branch.

The bill now moves to the House of Delegates, where a hearing on an identical bill was held last week. Raskin said he likes the bill’s chances.

“We’ve got to take our environmental impact as seriously as businesses, corporations or schools do. We have to ask, are we contributing to environmental problems? Or are we contributing to environmental solutions?”