Conserving Maryland’s Natural Resources:
Krish’s Plan to Protect Our Environment
We all know that our state is one of the most beautiful in the country—from the Appalachian Mountains to Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Coast—and I am committed to protecting our state’s most pristine natural resources. But protecting our environment means more than providing adequate funding to our state parks and preserves, it means leading the nation on climate action, fighting the deadly pollution in our cities, and re-engineering Maryland’s infrastructure and planning policies. I want all children, including my daughter, to be able to enjoy our state’s
natural treasures, just as I did as a child growing up in Maryland.
Maryland can no longer afford to stand on the sidelines—we must lead. We must take the necessary actions and make needed investments to protect our environment. As Policy Director for Michelle Obama and as Senior Advisor to Secretary Hillary Clinton and Secretary John Kerry, I saw the power of government to bring people together to address important environmental priorities. I worked with agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Agency for International Development, and U.S. Department of Agriculture, to develop policies on topics from food security and climate change to health and public diplomacy. I intend to leverage my experience in the private sector and at the highest levels of government to enact the most aggressive environmental agenda in Maryland history.
The plan has five big goals:
- Leading U.S. on Climate Change: Achieving 50% Clean Energy by 2026 and 100% by 2035; Creating 80,000 Clean Energy Jobs; Making Maryland More Resilient; and Building a 21st Century Transportation System.
- Saving the Chesapeake Bay and its Tributaries: Investing in Natural Systems; Implementing the Phosphorus Management Tool; Improving Agricultural Practices; Reducing Pollution from Septic Tanks and Seepage Pits; and Addressing Upstream Threats.
- Securing Environmental Justice for Vulnerable Communities: Reducing Air Pollution; Guaranteeing Clean Water; Reducing Lead Poisoning and other Toxic Pollution; Incorporating Climate Justice into Decision-Making; and Increasing Recycling to Reduce Pollution and Create Jobs.
- Conserving Maryland’s Treasured Landscapes: Investing in Historic Downtowns and Support Infill Redevelopment; Reforest Maryland; Elevating Local Voices in Consideration of Energy Projects; Conserving 50% of the Rural Land-base on the Eastern Shore; and Reducing Impacts from Industrial Agricultural Facilities.
- Creating the Strongest Outdoor Economy on the East Coast: Investing in Recreational Access and Conservation; Marketing our Natural Resources and Heritage; and Increasing Wildlife Populations.
These five goals represent more than environmental agenda, they will improve public health, create well-paying jobs, and equip Maryland to thrive in the 21st century.
Growing up, my family did not have a lot of extra income, so we would often take our vacations to Maryland’s parks, refuges, and other protected areas. Whether driving out 70 and 68 to Savage River State Forest, exploring along the Patapsco, or swimming off Sandy Point State Park or Ocean City, Maryland’s unrivalled natural resources instilled in me both a sense of wonder as well as a conservation ethic that I’m working to pay forward to my baby daughter today.
As Governor, the environment will be a top priority for my administration, because it is the issue that affects us all. I will fight to make sure our water and air are clean, our food is safe and sustainable, and our emissions decrease. I want to make clean energy work for Maryland and put us at the forefront of the future of our nation’s economy. Whether you live near the mountains or the city, the shore or the Bay, the suburbs or a farm — everyone has a part to play in helping our state thrive. I want to keep Maryland beautiful, safe, and green for all of our children.
I hope you will join me.
Krish O’Mara Vignarajah
Leading the U.S. on Climate Change
Climate change threatens our entire way of life in Maryland. Passively following other states is simply not good enough. I was proud to be part of the team at the U.S. Department of State that made climate change a top diplomatic priority. I saw firsthand the power of American leadership to fight climate change as Secretary Clinton and Secretary Kerry kept countries, like China, India, and Brazil, at the table during the Copenhagen and Paris Climate Summits. While the Trump administration abdicates our nation’s role as a leader on the world stage, progressive states like Maryland must step up and carry the mantle of leadership on climate action. Governor Hogan’s administration has been characterized by ambivalence and inconsistency. Climate change is by far the most serious threat facing Maryland today. We must dramatically cut our greenhouse gas emissions and secure the clean-energy future that we so desperately need. To do so, Maryland must (1) commit to true 50% clean energy targets by 2026 (end of my second term) and 100% clean energy goal by 2035, (2) create 80,000 clean energy jobs, (3) make Maryland more resilient to climate impacts, and (4) build a 21st Century transportation system. We will also work closely with our neighboring states to strengthen the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and accelerate the Transportation Climate Initiative.
Achieving 50% Clean Energy by 2026 and 100% by 2035
As Governor, I am committed to making Maryland the national leader in clean energy and will join with New Jersey to adopt the goal of 100% clean energy. This rapid transition towards 100% clean energy can be a foundation of a more inclusive economy. Wind, solar, geothermal, and energy efficiency are the future of Maryland’s energy economy. Offshore wind, in particular, represents the greatest opportunity for the massive de-carbonization of Maryland’s energy system with the newest turbines having the capacity to each power 16,000 homes. The actions below, plus my transportation initiatives, will allow Maryland to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by the end of my second term.
To achieve 50% clean energy by 2026 (end of my second term), my administration will be entirely focused on maximizing in-state clean energy generation, including targets of:
- 25%+ from offshore wind: 2,870+ megawatts of offshore wind off the Atlantic coast by 2026 (including 370 MW from the Skipjack and US Wind projects);
- 12.5%+ from solar: 2,750+ megawatts of additional solar covering every possible
rooftop, parking lot, landfill, and undevelopable brownfield;
- 7.5%+ from hydroelectric, biomass, land-based wind (exclude waste incineration);
- And displacing 25%+ of current energy usage through:
- geothermal and solar hot to reduce space heating/cooling and water heating for schools, offices, and homes;
- energy efficiency investments with extra attention to building tightening, insulation, lighting, and efficient appliances.
We will also lead the effort to modernize our electrical grid, pioneer microgrids, and make transmission systems smarter. This will reduce line losses, better integrate clean energy, facilitate storage solutions, improve reliability, and increase security. A smarter grid will provide valuable real time data to both customers and utilities.
Creating 80,000 Clean Energy Jobs
As we’re deploying clean energy, we will work to ensure that we capture the operations, construction, manufacturing, and innovation jobs here in Maryland. By capturing a first mover advantage, we will secure more jobs locally and avoid importing products from other states and abroad. At a time when wages are down for many Marylanders, we can create 45,000 well-paying jobs in the energy efficiency sector and we will work with the building trades and local community colleges to ensure that local workers are prepared to benefit from these opportunities. We will make sure that low-income communities that stand to gain the most from the energy savings and reduced pollution also benefit from the job creation.
Our clean energy economy strategy will play a critical role in our efforts to build a more inclusive economy in Maryland capable of attacking the systemic wealth inequality that plagues America. With strategic training initiatives, hiring incentives, and state supports for minority entrepreneurs, the growth of the renewable energy industry in Maryland could provide well-paying, 21st century jobs to the Maryland residents who need them most, especially in urban centers, Western Maryland, and the Eastern Shore where the jobs are needed the most.
We will also help workers in the fossil fuel industry transition to higher paying jobs. I have already committed to making all workforce development and adult education programs at community colleges completely free for all Maryland residents — and I would make it a priority to help retrain any workers in the various parts of the fossil fuel industry. Further, I’ll fight to ensure that we secure all federal resources possible and will continue to fight against the Administration’s attempts to defund the Appalachian Regional Commission and fight for Congressional passage of the federal RECLAIM Act.
Making Maryland More Resilient
As a low-lying coastal state, Maryland is the third most vulnerable state in the nation to climate impacts, after Alaska and Florida, as local communities and natural resources face threats from extreme weather, sea-level rise, and failing infrastructure that could place millions of Marylanders at risk. Greater levels of precipitation and sea-level rise projects of more than two feet threaten to undo much of the progress towards restoring the Bay as greater levels of precipitation bring torrents of nutrients and sediment into its tributaries. Climate impacts will also fundamentally alter agricultural growing seasons, exacerbate public health threats facing environmental justice communities, and introduce invasive species and disease that could devastate native wildlife and plant populations.
This isn’t some far off projection. It’s happening right now. We’ve lived through more frequent and powerful hurricanes, and we’ve experienced flash flooding in Maryland communities from Salisbury and Baltimore to Ellicott City and Bowling Green. We must take steps immediately to protect communities that are already experiencing climate impacts of climate change.
As Governor, I will lead an unpreceded effort to make Maryland more resilient to all climate impacts—Maryland Strong. I will lead the charge to address extreme weather, sea-level rise, and other impacts already devastating Maryland communities. I would instruct all state agencies to ensure that all projects are designed to be climate resilient by not locating facilities in floodplains, elevating buildings, utility infrastructure, and transportation projects to reduce threats from sea-level rise, and using more storm-resistant building materials. We will also begin an unprecedented investment in natural defenses, including wetlands, forested and vegetated buffers, sand dunes, living shorelines, oyster reefs, and other natural systems. We will ensure that local governments have high-resolution topographic data for coastal counties and updated floodplain maps to make the best land use decisions. We will work with cities to reduce urban heat island effects and ensure sufficient cooling station infrastructure for children and seniors to reduce mortality threats from high heat days. Finally, I would initiate and support efforts to relocate and resettle residents with homes and livelihoods threatened by sea-level rise.
Building a 21st Century Transportation System
Transportation, not power plants, is the largest source of carbon pollution in Maryland and we must reduce our emissions by at least 40% in the next eight years. Some of this will come from more fuel-efficient passenger vehicles and light duty trucks, assuming we defeat President Trump and Scott Pruitt’s attacks on vehicle emission standards. But we must make significant strategic investments in Maryland’s transportation system, which is essential to both our economic vitality and fighting climate change.
The state desperately needs a more reliable, resilient, safe, and cleaner transportation system that ensures that people can get to work and school efficiently. My administration will be committed to ensuring that every Marylander regardless of income or zip code has true access to multiple safe and healthy transportation options. The segregation of housing and jobs—combined with the lack of transportation options to cross that chasm—prevents hundreds of thousands of Marylanders from fulfilling their economic potential and contributes millions of unnecessary carbon pollution. Our 1950s transportation system a root cause of poverty, crime, air pollution, and the lack of opportunity and upward mobility.
Under my administration, equitable transportation solutions will be at the heart of my economic development, public safety, environmental, and public health agendas. I want Maryland to lead the nation in innovative multi-modal transportation solutions, not continue with the stigma of one of the most congested states in the nation. By the end of my first term, I want to ensure that transit, biking, and walking are greater budgetary and policy priorities than passenger vehicles.
We can do so by:
- Completing key transit projects, like the Red Line (rather than cutting corners with inferior substitutes like the BaltimoreLink), as part of a record investment in advanced transportation solutions, including mass transit, electrified bus rapid transit, and bikeways.
- Aggressively encouraging mode shifts to public transit by focusing on improving safety, increasing speed/efficiency of alternatives, enhancing ease of access, and reducing cost. The decision to use transit should not come at the expense of hours of meandering routes and multiple connections.
- Making safe, complete streets the model statewide, including incentivizing the separated bike lanes and reallocating road space for other modes of transportation.
- Connecting more people to transit options through better integration of the system with bikes, buses, or peer-to-peer ride sharing.
- Leading the nation in the deployment of electric vehicles by getting 500,000 EVs on Maryland roads by 2026 and setting the standard for smart, shared, electrified, autonomous vehicle policy.
Saving the Chesapeake Bay and its Tributaries
The Chesapeake Bay is our state’s most precious natural resource and the world’s most important estuary. It is a place of natural beauty, economic importance, family recreation, and ecological diversity. We are seeing some progress in the restoration of the Bay as indicated by improving populations of oysters, blue crabs, and rockfish, as well as returning seagrasses. Unfortunately, Maryland missed some of its 2016 pollution-reduction goals and continues to underinvest in key areas. Further, increasing pollution from headwaters states, especially Pennsylvania, threaten to undo recent progress, which will be exacerbated by greater levels of precipitation flushing more nutrients off the landscape into adjacent waterways.
As Governor, I will do all I can to protect it from pollution and the effects of climate change. We must focus upstream and reduce pollution coming from all of the tributaries—from the Potomac and the Patapsco to the Choptank and the Nanticok—feeding into the Bay. We must also integrate climate change impacts into all projects and programs.
Here are my priorities for the Bay:
- Investing in Natural Systems: I will fully fund programs for oyster restoration, reforestation, revegetating riparian buffers, wetland restoration, and cover crops—all of which improve water quality and improve resilience of the ecosystem.
- Implementing the Phosphorus Management Tool: PMT is an enormous opportunity to change the trajectory of the Bay by focusing our efforts on the places where it will have the greatest impact. I will get implementation back on track.
- Improving Agricultural Practices: In addition to improving analytic tools, we must do a better job leveraging the wide array of federal, state, and local programs designed to reduce nutrient pollution. From improved manure management and cover crops to precision nutrient application and advanced irrigation solutions, there are series of win-win opportunities that reduce costs and pollution.
- Reducing pollution from Septic Tanks and Seepage Pits: We must continue to prioritize water infrastructure projects that reduce pollution by connecting homes with septic systems to central sewer systems and finalizing the septic implementation strategy. And we must continue to encourage green infrastructure solutions that reduces runoff pollution from impervious surfaces, like roads and parking lots.
- Addressing Upstream Threats: As we’re cleaning up our own house, we must push Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, and West Virginia to fulfill their obligations to reduce nutrients, sediment, and toxics. We must especially resolve the growing crisis at the Conowingo Dam, which traps sediment coming from the Bay’s largest tributary, the Susquehanna River, but is reaching capacity and flooding the Bay with sediment during severe storm events. We must require the owner, Exelon, to address downstream water quality and work collaboratively with Governor Wolf to reduce pollution entering Pennsylvania’s waterways.
Securing Environmental Justice for Vulnerable Communities
Like so many other issues under the current administration, Maryland’s low-income communities and communities of color have had little support from the state in their efforts to protect and improve the environment. Baltimore in particular has suffered from this trend, and the cost has been the lives of innocent Marylanders. In addition to investments in mass transportation, I intended to immediately address environmental justice issues in our state during my first year as Governor:
- Reducing Air Pollution: Baltimore has the highest rate of air pollution-related deaths of any large city in the country. Simply put we are importing dirty energy and exporting dollars—it makes no sense. Further, large industrial facilities are a significant source of toxic pollution in Maryland, for example, we must not lose sight of the fact that a large portion of the pollution in the state comes from various small, individual sources (gas stations, dry cleaners, auto repair shops etc.). These sources may cause relatively little pollution individually, but a massive amount collectively, and, when combined with the massive air pollution coming from upwind Midwestern states, are contributing to Maryland having the highest air pollution-related death rate of any state in the country. As Governor, I would enthusiastically direct Maryland’s Department of the Environment to consider cumulative impacts when issuing permits, and would seek additional statutory authority from the General Assembly.
- Guaranteeing Clean Water: The underlying problems of Flint, Michigan’s toxic water crisis also affect too many Maryland communities. We must exceed the standards established under the Safe Water Drinking Act, by investing in quality water and sewage systems, as well as source water protection—all of which are vital to the safety and public health of the people of Maryland.
- Reducing Lead Poisoning and Other Toxic Pollution: No child’s future should be jeopardized because of lead poisoning in homes or our water supply. I support the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative and the Baltimore City Health Department’s efforts to reduce lead poisoning in the most severely affected areas of our state. Through rigorous testing of water supplies and acute focus on house painted before 1978, we can ensure a brighter future for thousands of Maryland children. Further, we must expand the authorities of MDE to regulate and ban unsafe chemicals to the maximum extent allowable under federal law.
- Incorporating Climate Justice into Decision-Making: Too little environmental policymaking focuses on the disproportionate impact of climate change on communities of color. In designing solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change on urban communities, low-income communities, and communities of color, we must first engage communities in an honest assessment of their needs, rather than just imposing top-down solutions. Therefore, one of my environmental priorities will be launch the largest environmental justice and climate justice campaign in the nation by significantly strengthening the Maryland Department of the Environment’s Education, Communication, and Outreach working group to elevate conversations about the impacts of climate change and turn these conversations into high-impact policy changes. I also recognize that in many circumstances the most disadvantaged communities in Maryland are also the most dependent on fossil fuels, so I will work with these communities to prioritize energy efficiency investments that reduce costs and subsidize clean energy projects so the switch to zero-emission energy maximizes the health benefits and does not cause any financial hardships.
- Increasing Recycling to Reduce Pollution and Create Jobs: About 20% of Baltimore’s residential trash is recycled, which is extremely low compared to the 35% national average for cities. In Baltimore, I believe in supporting and replicating social enterprises already operating in the city. These include deconstruction and resale operations such as the Loading Dock, Second Chance and Humanim, which are models for reuse and employment of hundreds of Baltimore residents. I hope to require in-city processing of recyclables and compostables to keep jobs in the city and get better market prices for these materials once processed. I also support reducing the use of hard to recycle products such as Styrofoam containers, plastic bags, and straws that pollute our environment, as well as adopting “pay-as-you throw” systems for charging households for collection based on the amount of garbage set out each week. Under this “unit pricing” garbage collection system, residents are offered recycling collection for free, provided free large, wheeled recycling carts to households, and only pay for trash put out (alternatively incentive based programs like RecycleBank have also proven effective).
Conserving Maryland’s Treasured Landscapes
Maryland’s natural beauty and ecological integrity are threatened by scattershot housing, commercial, and energy development that crisscrosses our state. On the Eastern Shore, for example, I’ve heard from farmers, residents, and conservation groups, who have expressed significant concern over the expansion of residential and commercial areas. My administration will reinvest in partnerships between state and local government to protect our rural areas and strengthen the role of the Maryland Department of Planning. In Western Maryland, fears of energy development decimating communities continue, as the State refuses to exercise any oversight of energy projects. And suburban counties continue to lose ecologically significant forests as development encroaches further and further out.
As Governor, I will lead an effort to work with local governments to prioritize the conservation of our treasured landscapes through smart growth policies that accelerate economic growth without destroying the character of a region. My administration will:
- Investing in Historic Downtowns and Supporting Infill redevelopment: The state should replicate Delaware’s Downtown Development program and target it at historic communities like Salisbury, Easton, Cambridge, Annapolis, Frederick, Hagerstown, Cumberland, and Oakland. By encouraging the redevelopment and infill development within historic cities with existing infrastructure, we can reduce the pressures on suburban sprawl and the deforestation and wetland loss that has characterized the past half century.
- Reforesting Maryland: We continue to lose forest density in all parts of the state. My administration will strengthen the Forest Conservation Act to protect ecologically significant forests, require the planting of native trees in greater numbers than the trees removed, work with developers to minimize impacts through better site design, and facilitate partnerships with nonprofits to accelerate native tree reforestation efforts.
- Elevating Local Voices in Consideration of Energy Projects: From the Potomac Pipeline in Washington County to the Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas facility in Calvert County, we are repeatedly seeing local voices silenced in the decision making process for projects that would fundamentally alter local communities. I will make sure that the state evaluates the cumulative impacts of energy and industrial projects, as well as ensure that local communities have full input into projects.
- Conserving 50% of the Rural Land-base on the Eastern Shore: My administration will fully fund the work of the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation, promote conservation easements to keep working lands working, and work with local governments to ensure strong agricultural zoning in line with the recommendations of leading nonprofits, including the local land conservancies.
- Reducing Impacts from Industrial Agricultural Facilities: We must better understand the air and other health impacts of industrial facilities by requiring greater monitoring and transparency, as proposed in legislation such as the Community Healthy Air Act.
Creating the Strongest Outdoor Economy on the East Coast
Tourism is the second largest sector of Maryland’s economy. From the Appalachian Mountains and inland waterways to the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Coast, we have natural assets that are the envy of other states. We need to continue growing our outdoor economy by making Maryland the best place to go hiking, camping, paddling, biking, birding, fishing, and hunting anywhere east of the Mississippi. More than half of all Marylanders participate in the outdoor economy every year, which sustains more than 100,000 jobs around the state and generates $14 billion in annual economic benefits.
To grow the outdoor economy, my administration will prioritize:
- Investing in Recreational Access and Conservation: We must increase funding for amenities like hiking and biking trails, fishing piers, boat launches, observation blinds, campgrounds, and interpretive signage. We must also align the priorities of our habitat restoration, corridor connectivity, and land preservation strategies programs with our outdoor economy strategy.
- Marketing our Natural Resources and Heritage: There is no reason why Americans mostly think of West Virginia and Colorado when they’re consider outdoor travel destinations. We must integrate these marketing efforts with efforts to promote heritage tourism, which when combined offers a diversity of opportunities that are attractive for longer visits. We simply must stop selling ourselves short and market our assets to drive visits.
- Increasing Wildlife Populations: Part of growing our outdoor economy also means saving our state’s wildlife. From majestic blue crabs and rockfish to soaring osprey and waterfowl, Maryland is blessed with some of the most amazing wildlife in our nation. As Governor, I will lead a statewide initiative to recover the full diversity of Maryland’s fish and wildlife resources by restoring important habitat across Maryland and updating our laws to encourage more collaborative and proactive conservation measures. Right now, more than 600 wildlife species are on our state’s list of “species of greatest conservation need,” as outlined in our State Wildlife Action Plan. I am committed to funding implementation of the state wildlife action plan to ensure that wildlife becomes more common, at-risk species are conserved, and no species become endangered on my watch.