Maryland senator calls greenhouse gas plan 'truly vague'

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A draft plan from Gov. Larry Hogan's administration to cut Maryland greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030 is “truly vague,” a leading state senator said Thursday over the administration's assertions that the plan was on track to meeting its goal.

Sen. Paul Pinsky, who chairs the Senate's Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, said he was not confident the plan “with all its vagaries and lack of quantifiable reductions” would reach the target set into law by the General Assembly.

He said he was concerned the challenge would be left to the next administration during a gathering with Hogan's top environmental officer. Ben Grumbles, a member of the Republican governor's Cabinet and the secretary of the Department of Environment, disagreed.

“I don’t have the confidence from reading this or some of your answers on the components that I’m going to sleep better tonight knowing that we’re on a trajectory to actually do this,” Pinsky told Grumbles.

But Grumbles took issue with Pinsky's criticism.

“I would respectfully say that I don’t agree with your characterization in any way, shape or form," Grumbles said.

Pinsky, a Prince George's County Democrat, said he expected to see strategies in the draft with quantifiable reductions in the state's greenhouse gas emissions, so lawmakers would be able to see how the state is progressing over the next decade. Instead, he spotted projections he found hard to believe.

For example, Pinsky said the plan projects that the state will have 600,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030. Now, he said, Maryland only has about 20,000. He asked Grumbles if he still maintained the state would reach that goal.

“My understanding is that this plan, with the bold provisions in it, can get us to over 40% — even if we fall short on one or two specific areas, but we’re hoping that we’re not," Grumbles said. "It’s too early to give up.”

Pinsky also took issue with the draft plan for attributing further greenhouse gas reduction to a proposal to add lanes on the beltway near the nation's capital and Interstate 270.

“Now, I know there’s been one paid consultant who came up with that assertion," Pinsky said. "I can probably show you 30 others that say that’s bogus, and that when you build more lanes it means more cars will come and it won’t be a reduction. In fact, it will be an increase in emissions.”

But Grumbles said the greenhouse gas reductions would come from less idling of vehicles in traffic jams. The secretary also said the administration will continue listening to lawmakers and members of the public as work continues on the plan.

“I just would say that there are a lot of details in this plan," Grumbles said. "It’s bold. It’s real, and it will benefit from your input.”