Annapolis, MD-- Green For All, Free Your Voice, GreenLatinos, Maryland Environmental Health Network, Chispa Maryland of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, Dr. Sacoby Wilson and the Sierra Club delivered a letter to Maryland's Department of the Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles, Maryland Public Service Commission Chairman Kevin Hughes and Maryland Energy Administration Director Beth Tung today requesting an environmental justice (EJ) analysis of the pollution reduction and economic development impacts of the RGGI program.
The groups are asking for the report to build upon the work of established climate and justice bodies in the state such as the Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities and Maryland Commission on Climate Change to determine, with communities and key stakeholders, a clear definition of a 'frontline community' along with key metrics that identify where these communities are located within the state. Additionally, the letter requests an examination into the equitable distribution of RGGI funds to various programs throughout the state and a clear outline of which communities those programs serve.
The following organizations provided the below statements on the letter:
'RGGI is an important initiative that addresses carbon dioxide from the power sector. Maryland's participation has provided much needed benefits beyond those of in- state generation. Unfortunately, this foresight has not yet been extended to all Marylanders,' said Tamara Toles O'Laughlin, Executive Director of the Maryland Environmental Health Network. 'Today, we are asking for further analysis of the potential for equity in distribution of funds and environmental justice review of related siting and development. This type of analysis would bring the compounded harms affecting vulnerable communities into sharp relief and empower decision makers to mitigate additional pollution burdens across the state.'
'RGGI has been instrumental in reducing dangerous climate pollution in Maryland while driving critical job creation in green industries and creating sustained revenue streams to the state,' Josh Tulkin , Director of the Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club said. 'But as a state that chronically suffers from poor air quality, it's important to understand where RGGI funds and jobs are going and how the program can help the communities who face the brunt of pollution emitted from fossil fuels. With the data coming out of this analysis, and the participation of community members in the process, we can start making better decisions about investing in historically overburdened communities.'
'Maryland needs to be a leader on addressing environmental inequity issues,'Ramon Palencia-Calvo, Program Director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voter's Chispa Maryland program said. 'RGGI is lowering pollution and providing money to the state to be invested back into communities, but the question is whether the benefits are being equitably distributed across the state. Latino communities historically suffer from unjust pollution levels and we need to be sure that state programs funded by RGGI are investing in these communities and providing services that families can take advantage of. If the state performs this kind of analysis, it will be a vital tool in informing future policy decisions that can address these environmental justice issues.'
'Maryland can move to the head of the pack on climate change solutions by creating a clean energy future for all,' Josh Lynch, Director of Field Strategy, Green For All said. 'Doing an environmental justice analysis will empower state leaders to make data driven decisions to bring clean energy jobs and good health where it is still lacking -- ensuring prosperity for everyone.'
'We need to make sure that communities that host fossil fuel plants receive resources to mitigate the impacts of these facilities such as Brandywine, MD. This energy injustice is a problem that demands more attention,' Dr. Sacoby Wilson, University of Maryland-College Park said. 'This analysis and the recommendations that follow are a first step in achieving energy equity in the state of Maryland and making frontline and overburdened communities more resilient to climate change related impacts.'
Read full press release here.