Maryland's Renewable Portfolio Standard Needs a Refresh and so Does our Air!

We urge you to email the Maryland State Senators in the Education, Energy and the Environment Committee and Delegates in the Environment and Transportation Committee to support the Reclaim Renewable Energy Act (RRE) (HB718/SB590).

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The RRE would eliminate three problematic polluters from Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS):

  1. Trash incineration.
  2. Factory farm methane.
  3. Woody biomass.

Since 2008, Maryland ratepayers have spent over $200 million on Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) from dirty sources misclassified as “renewable.”

Trash incineration was added to Tier 1 of the RPS in 2011. Before then, it had been in Tier 2, and would therefore have been removed from the RPS in 2019. In the original design of the RPS, trash incineration would no longer be eligible for subsidies by now. Incinerating trash creates greenhouse gas emissions as well as harmful local air pollution, and disincentivizes superior alternatives: reducing, reusing, recycling, and composting.

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Factory farm methane gas, otherwise known as anaerobic digestion or “biogas,” produces methane. No matter the source, methane is methane. Whether drilled out of the ground or manufactured from waste, methane produces CO2 when burned for energy. Methane also leaks, and when it does, it is an even more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. As with trash incineration, subsidizing factory farm waste management with “renewable” energy subsidies skews the markets in favor of more pollution. Digesters would not solve nutrient runoff problems from farm waste; they would exacerbate it. There are no such facilities in Maryland now, but developers are proposing to build them across the Delmarva region. It is time to remove factory farm gas from the RPS.

Woody biomass subsidies mostly go to out-of-state sawmills and paper mills burning their own products to power their own operations. These facilities harm the health of nearby communities, and harm the climate. A recent Harvard School of Public Health Study found that biomass and wood have the fastest-growing share of early deaths in the major energy-consuming sectors; burning wood for electricity produces as much or more pollution than fossil fuels, including coal. Let’s stop wasting our “renewable energy” money on these out-of-state facilities.

Two years ago, the legislature wisely eliminated black liquor, a polluting paper mill byproduct, from the RPS. That action freed up the money that was being wasted to support real renewable energy instead. For all of the good reasons the legislature eliminated black liquor from the RPS, we hope you will help pass the Reclaim Renewable Energy Act (HB718/SB590) in 2023.

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