Over the last decade, Maryland’s political establishment repeatedly expanded corporate gambling in our state, promising the tax proceeds would swell funding for public education. In fact, the reverse happened, and the new tax revenue was used to offset steep cuts to K-12 education from the general fund budget.
A similar proposal was floated recently regarding taxing the fossil fuel industry, which could create a perverse incentive to maintain or even expand an industry wreaking havoc on our climate at a time when we must place a definitive sunset date on using dangerous energy sources altogether. While market-based proposals like a carbon tax or cap-and-trade might be an intermediate step in Maryland’s green transition, these policies have been shown to be insufficient to the scale of the crisis we face; now is not a time for professional environmental incrementalism.
Instead of an isolated policy taxing major carbon emitters like the fossil fuel industry, which threaten the very livability of our communities, we must implement a Maryland Green New Deal (MDGND) based on four guiding values: 100% renewable energy by 2032, an end to corporate influence over our environmental policies, a curtailment of the U.S. military’s enormous carbon footprint in our state, and a just transition for working class folks, people of color, and other marginalized communities.
Instead of merely repackaging the status quo, the MDGND will begin to take us off a collision course with climate disaster and put us on track to leave Maryland to future generations in better shape than we inherited it.
The first essential principle of the Maryland Green New Deal is a commitment to 100% renewable energy by 2032. The science is clear that kicking the can down the road is a collective death sentence, so we cannot afford to wait on the implementation of half solutions to play out. This commitment to clean energy must be accompanied by reparations to those most negatively affected by climate change caused by environmental racism and oppression, communities like Baltimore, Brandywine, and Cove Point.
To ensure the success of this transition, and to fund it, Maryland must make it clear to fossil fuel polluters that it will use eminent domain to protect the public interest to acquire and sell off all non-carbon intensive industry assets that have not been converted to clean energy by 2032. We owe nothing less to our children and grandchildren’s generations.
The second principle of the MDGND, without which all other components face longer odds, is to remove the undue influence of corporate climate deniers and destroyers on Maryland’s democracy.
During the 2018 elections, the fossil fuel and other major carbon emitting industries poured big money into the campaigns of Republicans and Democrats alike. While the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling may prohibit an outright ban on these contributions on the state level, Maryland can enact a warning on all campaign literature funded in part by the fossil fuel industry, similar to those found on cigarettes. We must also create more robust public financing programs for all elections, ban former elected officials from professional lobbying, and end the structure of pay to play that made “Healthy Holly” possible in order to awaken our democracy.
The third principle of the MDGND would convert our state’s sprawling weapons industry into green spaces and green jobs. Doing so will protect public health in two areas: reducing Per and Poly Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) contamination of our precious water resources and reducing dangerous contamination associated with firing ranges and weapons testing sites.
Recognizing the vacuum at the federal level, Maryland must establish maximum contaminant levels for PFAS in drinking water, groundwater, surface water, and sewer sludge. These levels must follow the lead of legislatures in California, New Jersey and Vermont with stringent guidelines. Ending tax breaks for corporate weapons dealers will provide another funding stream for the MDGND.
Finally, the MDGND will ensure a just transition to a green future by restoring communities harmed by the state and fossil fuel industries. It will do so both by additional direct investment in targeted communities as well as by employing workers to build the clean energy future as staff of a newly formed Maryland Environmental Neighborhood Defense (MEND) Corps.
Reparations mean repaying communities for harm caused by the state and providing the autonomy for these communities to build the just, green future they choose. Specifically, the MEND Corps would remediate all lead paint in homes in Baltimore’s Black Butterfly neighborhoods and beyond, as well as remediating brownfield sites across the state while incubating democratically-owned green businesses.
True bottom-up climate resilience mobilizes everyone, from transitioning carbon intensive industry jobs to the green economy, to rapidly increasing the size of the green jobs sector, to instituting neighborhood-based disaster preparedness and inclusive participatory policy creation.
The MDGND would implement 100% renewable energy by 2032, awaken our democracy by reducing the influence of climate deniers and destroyers, move Maryland’s war economy toward a green economy, and ensure a just transition to a green future for people of color, working class people, and other marginalized communities. We need to fund equity in Maryland— including in public education pre-K through graduate school — by holding climate deniers and destroyers accountable for the damage they have done, not simply by taxing their unabated growth.
In short, we need a Maryland Green New Deal, not another casino bait and switch. We invite Marylanders across the state to the table to plan our green future together, guided by the four principles outlined above, and in ways that best meet the needs of your local communities.
— OWEN SILVERMAN ANDREWS
The writer is co-chair of the Baltimore City Green Party.
A Green New Deal for MD: The New Path Forward
Framework Plank 1 of 4: Grassroots Democracy
Without a healthier electoral system, all subsequent planks for the MDGND face much longer odds. The poverty of our politics impedes using the U.S.’s great wealth to fund an equitable green transition. We need to establish a truer democracy.
2020 Vision for Grassroots Democracy
- Add a warning label to all campaign materials funded by the fossil fuel industry and other major climate-destroyer industries.
- Fund equitable public financing for state elections.
- Curtail and end pay-to-play politics.
2030 Vision for Grassroots Democracy
- A thriving multi-party democracy where working class folks have a true voice.
Framework Plank 2 of 4: Social and Racial Justice
The failure of many suburban middle-class White environmentalists to center social, racial, class, gender, and other intersections of justice in their work has set the climate justice movement back decades. Climate justice demands reparations.
2020 Vision for Social and Racial Justice
- Initiate Maryland Environmental Neighborhood Defense Corps to remediate all lead paint in Baltimore’s Black Butterfly and brownfield sites across Maryland.
- Build bottom-up climate resiliency.
2030 Vision for Social and Racial Justice
- Empowerment of marginalized communities and a democratic economy.
Framework Plank 3 of 4: Nonviolence
Climate apartheid and injustice is a major root cause of violence in Baltimore and across the state. Climate justice demands demilitarization and investment in community-controlled public safety.
2020 Vision for Nonviolence
- Enact strict controls per and poly fluoroalkyl contamination.
- Divert funding from enforcement and incarceration to mediation and peace building.
- End tax breaks for corporate arms dealers.
2030 Vision for Nonviolence
- Grassroots peacekeeping from individuals up and across Maryland’s society.
Framework Plank 4 of 4: Ecological Wisdom
The planet’s resources are finite. We must increase community wealth through greater equity, not unsustainable growth.
- Mandate 100% truly renewable energy.
- Set a moratorium on all new fossil fuel infrastructure.
- Begin the just transition to a green future now by the means necessary.
- An economy powered not by not endless growth, but by boundless equity.
How We Get There: Understanding Electoral Change
The path to a livable green future leads through structural changes to our politics.
Structural change in U.S. history has almost always come through building power outside the two elite-dominated parties. It’s on us to move forward with that project in the ‘20s.
Additions contributed by Margaret Flowers:
Lower barriers for third parties to get on the ballot
Ballot qualified parties included in the primary
Establish a participatory democratic structure for communities to decide how to allocate funds provided by the state and generated through publicly-owned entities
Specify what clean energy is and isn’t – doesn’t include fossil fuels, nuclear or incineration
Public ownership of energy,
Decentralized production and feed-in tariffs so energy producers offset the costs of energy use and earn money for excess energy fed into the system (prioritizing poor and low income for this)
Expansion of electric-powered public transportation without fares (Kansas City just moved to ending fares)
Publicly-owned fleet of electric vehicles for public use (some sort of consumer coop)
Expansion of bike lanes and pedestrian areas without cars (like many major cities in Europe)
Development that is pedestrian-friendly
Ban on all new fossil fuel infrastructure
Public works program to do wetland restoration and buffering of rising waters
Incentives for regenerative agriculture
Mandate green roofs (or solar/wind roofs for all new construction)
Protection of forests and expansion of green spaces
All workers displaced by the Green New Deal will be provided with income and job retraining
A living wage and pensions for all workers
Job training for all who want it to be hired into Green New Deal businesses/projects
Public investment in converting existing manufacturing to be carbon neutral
Development of green industry in Maryland (producing electric rail, windmills, etc)
Universal and affordable childcare
Construction of social housing in Baltimore that is Leed certified
Incentives for green housing materials for homeowners/landlords who repair/upgrade their properties
Bans on pesticides, herbicides and GMOs
Investment in urban food production
Statewide network to facilitate distribution of locally-produced food
Facilities such as canneries to preserve food that is not sold
Expansion of farmers markets (especially in food deserts)
Restructuring of the education system at all levels to include instruction in sustainable systems and practices
Investment in research to mitigate or adapt to the climate crisis
Local schools that are walkable/bikable for students
Move to zero waste
Clean up of toxic sites and moratorium on creating new ones
Ban production of chemical and biological weapons in Maryland
Public-ownership of water provided to all at a reasonable cost
Ban on water shutoffs
Public works programs to clean up waterways including the Bay
Creation of public banks to finance the above
Apply a racial equity lens to all new projects and programs
Prioritization of education, hiring, and siting of new projects in poor and low-income communities