Republican Governor Vetoes Clean Energy Bill Killing Thousands of Jobs and Billions in Growth

* The following is an opinion column by R Muse *

Anyone remotely familiar with how Republicans operate is aware that if there is a successful government program that works well, people like  and one that is beneficial economically, conservatives of all stripes work to kill it. It doesn’t matter what program or agency it is, whether Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, healthcare insurance reform, or environmental protections, Republicans want them eliminated to benefit their corporate donors.

No matter what Republicans or their Koch masters claim, renewable energy is beneficial to all Americans in providing clean power, clean air and water, improved health, economic benefits and jobs. This is something that Maryland’s Democratic-controlled legislature fully appreciates and they recently passed legislation increasing the “renewable portfolio standard” (RPS) to create thousands of new jobs, fill the state’s coffers, grow Maryland’s economy, and combat anthropogenic climate change, a serious threat to the state.

However, despite being owners of a highly successful 12-year program that requires utility companies to use more renewable energy that has created thousands of jobs, and created billions of dollars in economic activity, Maryland’s Republican governor wants to take the state in a different direction. It is a direction that, no surprise here,  the Koch brothers’ American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is hailing as “the right one” and deserving of hearty congratulations for helping the fossil fuel industry thwart state Democrats’ attempt to create more jobs, grow the economy, and protect the environment.

Governor Larry Hogan vetoed the latest bill to increase the RPS after signing the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act last month and despite his own Department of Environment telling him the current RPS had already created thousands of jobs and added billions of dollars in economic activity. The new bill’s augmented “standard” would have increased all the economic and environmental benefits the state is currently experiencing and guaranteed that Maryland would reach its greenhouse emissions goals ahead of schedule. It is another sign that Republicans love their greenhouse gas emissions nearly as much as they love their fossil fuel donors.

The Maryland legislator who sponsored the “Clean Energy Jobs” bill, Bill Frick said that Hogan’s veto “was infuriating.” The bill would have increased the RPS from 20 percent by 2022 to 25 percent by 2020 and in spite of clean energy being touted as “remarkably popular” among voters, Hogan won’t have it.  In fact, a poll conducted last month revealed that nearly three-quarters of Maryland voters supported the “Clean Energy Jobs” bill despite it might eventually add an average of about 50-cents a month to their utility bill.

Mr. Frick said that “Maryland is a state that is particularly susceptible to the effects of sea level rise. It’s a state that understands the risk of climate change, and it’s a state that is seeing the benefits of clean jobs.” Setting aside the global risk of climate change, Maryland voters have seen the economic benefits of producing power that also gives them cleaner air and water and addresses the real threat of climate change.

Even though renewable energy, including solar, wind and hydro only accounted for 7 percent of the state’s electricity generation in 2014, the growth in solar power generation has been “remarkably noteworthy.” According to the national Solar Energy Industries Association, “there are 4,300 people working in solar in Maryland, which was 11th in installed capacity in 2015.” The expanded RPS would have increased those numbers significantly and put the state in line to surpass its greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.

Advocates for clean energy warned that the governor’s veto would hurt the solar industry and send a “loud message” to investors that Maryland is not committed to solar, or any kind of renewable, energy. The Policy Director of the group MDV-SEIA, Omar Terrie, said

This veto puts thousands of solar jobs and hundreds of local companies at risk. Moreover, this veto endangers the livelihood of thousands of Marylanders and will stall millions in economic investment.”

Despite endangering thousands of Marylanders’ livelihoods and health, as well as crushing economic investment and growth, the Koch brothers’ ALEC congratulated the Republican governor for doing the right thing for his constituents.

The legislation’s sponsor Frick said the governor’s veto “was about partisanship and pointing fingers, which is the only thing Larry Hogan knows how to do. The guy has no vision, no leadership. It’s just attack Democrats, retreat, and repeat. And that’s all he does.” Except in this case, Hogan attacked Maryland resident’s health and safety, economic growth and thousands of jobs, and he came up with an excuse that belies common sense as well as the will of the voters.

Hogan said in a letter to the legislature that in his conservative mind RPS is a tax and he will not allow it; he is an anti-tax Republican.  The typically-Republican governor wrote, “This legislation is a tax increase that will be levied upon every single electricity ratepayer in Maryland and, for that reason alone, I cannot allow it to become law.” According to Frick, Hogan never engaged with the legislature about the bill “being a tax hike” and in fact “ he just came with the veto pen and after-the-fact criticism.”

As far as RPS being a tax, the Executive Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Mike Tidwell, said “That’s absurd.” Mr. Tidwell pointed out that the first RPS legislation was enacted by a Republican governor twelve years ago and rhetorically asked, “Did Hogan think (Republican governor) Bob Ehrlich unleashed a tax on Maryland?”

The Regional Economic Studies Institute did an analysis on the RPS that Hogan’s own administration regularly cites and said Maryland’s version will support at least 3,500 new jobs within four years and contribute $6.5 billion in new economic output in addition to the current benefits, jobs, and economic growth. And the new bill would have added about 8 cents a month to electricity bills in 2017, or about 96-cents a year. It would eventually level off to “somewhere around $1/month at the most from 2022 onward” – that amounts to $12 dollars annually. Tidwell continued that, “We have 12 years of data on how well the RPS works.” Because it works so well is exactly why no Republican alive today will allow the program to go forward: the people love it, it helps the economy, combats climate change, protects the environment and people’s health, and it creates thousands of sustainable jobs.

It was little surprise that a Republican governor vetoed legislation expanding RPS, or that the American Legislative Exchange Council celebrated an act killing jobs and economic growth. In every Republican-controlled state, and many that are not, the Koch brothers tasked ALEC and Heritage Action to stop them in their tracks and abolish those already in place as part of their substantial war on clean and renewable energy, the environment, jobs, and economic growth that is not enriching the fossil fuel industry. Governor Hogan’s excuse that he vetoed the Clean Energy Jobs bill because it is a “tax” is sheer bovine excrement and a filthy lie.

Apparently the Maryland legislature’s bill garnered enough support to overturn the governor’s veto, but because the legislature will not be in session until early 2017, the bill will languish for at least seven months. Subsequently, the thousands of new jobs and billions in economic activity and growth will have to wait until then. However, clean energy advocates should beware that the Koch brothers will not rest easy with what might be a temporary veto victory and are likely working diligently to find a way to abolish Maryland’s RPS completely because it protects the people, creates jobs, grows the economy, and combats climate change; but most of all they will attempt to eliminate it because it is a success and the people love it.

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