BY STEPHEN NEUKAM
ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland House of Delegates passed an amended version of landmark climate legislation Tuesday, setting legislators scrambling to get the bill to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan by Friday to allow time for a possible veto override.
The changes to the bill, originally introduced and passed in the Senate as the Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022, include moving the date for the state to reach a 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2030 to 2031, dropping a provision requiring the construction of schools with net zero emissions and jettisoning enhanced monitoring and regulation of methane emissions from landfills.
The House kept the bill’s goal to reach statewide net zero emissions by 2045.
The bill mandates that large existing buildings reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2030 and net zero by 2040. House lawmakers, however, increased the size of buildings covered by the rule, from the Senate’s threshold of buildings over 25,000 square feet to buildings 35,000 square feet and over, and exempted additional types of buildings from this requirement.
Under the House version, single family homes, historic properties, manufacturing buildings and agricultural buildings would be excluded from the new standards.
The bill now heads back to the Senate, with lawmakers faced with reconciling the two versions and getting a final bill to Hogan’s desk by the end of the week, which would allow time to override a possible veto.
Senate President Bill Ferguson, D-Baltimore, said during a press conference Tuesday he is hopeful that the sides will come to a compromise by the end of the week to get the bill to the governor.
Ferguson said he had not seen the specifics of the changes made by the House, but that the Senate would be “in conversations today and tomorrow to see if those changes are things that we can accept or whether it has to go to conference and (be) agreed upon before the end of the week.”
It is likely the Senate will accept the amendments made by the House, according to Ian Ullman, chief of staff for Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George’s, the lead Senate bill sponsor.
Ullman said putting the bill through a conference committee composed of senators and delegates would make it hard to get the bill to the governor by the end of the week.
A similar effort by lawmakers to pass climate change legislation failed last year after Democrats could not agree on the bill.
The bill could face a floor vote in the Senate as early as Wednesday.