- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 20, 2008

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — A proposal to address climate change by adopting the nation’s most ambitious plan to reduce greenhouse gases went before Maryland lawmakers yesterday.

The bill would require Maryland to slash emissions of carbon-based greenhouse gases 25 percent by 2020 and 90 percent by 2050. If adopted, the carbon reductions would be the nation’s steepest.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, backed the proposal, saying Maryland is particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise because of its more than 3,000 miles of shoreline.

“We know that we are facing a crisis, and the only way to get out of that crisis is to set goals and put them in legislation,” Mr. O’Malley said yesterday.

The governor’s support, offered after a meeting with environmental activists at the State House, was a major boost to the bill’s chances. But as a Senate committee began work an hour later combing through the proposal, it became clear the measure faces serious opposition.

Even administration officials behind the bill conceded that they don’t know whether it’s possible to achieve the 90 percent reduction without the invention of new technology. And they also told senators it would be better if the whole nation, or all nations, took similar measures.

“We’re hearing a lot of questions about whether these goals are realistic,” said Environment Secretary Shari Wilson, talking to senators about the proposal. She concluded the 90 percent goal is “very realistic” because new technologies will be invented.

Lawmakers heard a short primer on global warming and listened to state scientists predicting drought, famine and the loss of Maryland real estate if climate change is not addressed.

“Early action, not a year from now, not two years from now, not 10 years from now, needs to be taken,” said Don Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

Critics, though, pointed out that it’s not clear how much it would cost to meet the goals. And they questioned why Maryland should adopt carbon caps without similar action from the federal government.

“The goals may be laudable, but they have consequences,” said Sen. Allan H. Kittleman of Howard County, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican. “If it’s something of a global nature, why are we going to ask the citizens to pay for it?”

Supporters, including Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, Prince George’s Democrat who sponsored the measure, argued that action by the states would cumulatively pressure federal authorities to act on carbon caps. New Jersey and California already have agreed to carbon reduction goals, though not 90 percent goals.

“Until there is a federal policy, we need to continue to seek state action,” Mr. Pinsky testified.

“There are a thousand reasons to do nothing and wait for others to act,” said House Democratic Leader Kumar P. Barve, Montgomery Democrat, who sponsored a version in that chamber.

Mr. O’Malley concluded, “We don’t really have a choice.”

•••

A measure to increase penalties for people who attend dogfights moved forward in the Maryland Senate after a couple of significant amendments.

As first proposed, the measure would have made it a felony for someone to knowingly attend a dogfight or cockfight, but the Senate gave preliminary approval to keeping the crime a misdemeanor.

Another amendment also reduces the proposed maximum penalty from three years in prison to one year and a $2,500 fine.

A separate animal fighting bill was rejected by a House committee.

•••

Maryland would become the 10th state to allow the sale of unpasteurized milk under a bill up for debate yesterday in a committee of the House of Delegates.

The bill would allow so-called “raw milk” to be sold directly to consumers. Some think that pasteurization changes milk’s flavor as it kills germs, and that people should be allowed to buy milk directly from the cow if they prefer.

Current law does not allow the sale of unpasteurized milk. One farm on the Eastern Shore has a limited permit to sell unpasteurized cheese, but not milk.

•••

A measure calling for tougher penalties for people who assault fellow passengers on public transit was rejected by the House.

A House committee voted down four bills proposed by Delegate Melvin L. Stukes, Baltimore Democrat, to set mandatory minimum penalties for certain crimes on buses. He said bus violence led to his proposals, but delegates’ dislike of mandatory minimums sank his plan.

The bills were a response to a beating last year on a Baltimore bus, where a woman, her boyfriend and the bus driver were attacked. Several teens accused in that case await trial.

A separate bill related to bus violence but not including mandatory minimums is pending in the House.


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