CUMBERLAND — Bills which would by law create a 22-member commission to advise the governor and legislators on climate change issues is advancing in both houses of the General Assembly. Senate Bill 258 was approved by a vote of 32-14 March 10 and has received a favorable report by the House Environment and Transportation Committee, which will be official Monday. A companion bill passed the House on March 17 by a vote of 94-45.

Former Gov. Martin O’Malley expanded an existing climate change commission by executive order in 2014, but the bill would authorize the commission and its duties under state law as a part of the Department of the Environment. The bill also requires the commission to convene working groups and develop required actions for each group to study or undertake. State agencies would review existing programs and recommend regulatory or other changes to support greenhouse gas reduction efforts, according to a fiscal and policy note prepared by the Department of Legislative Services.

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science would be required to develop sea level rise projections to assist in preparing to deal with higher water levels in the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean caused by global warming.

“These sea level projections must include maps made available on the Internet that indicate the areas of the state that may be most affected by storm surges, flooding and extreme weather events,” according to the fiscal and policy note.

The study is expected to cost $50,000, according to the fiscal and policy note.

“Transportation Trust Fund expenditures increase by about $40,000 in FY 2017 and by about $25,000 annually thereafter for the Maryland Department of Transportation to implement the bill,” according to the fiscal and policy note.

While the executive order set a goal of reducing state greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050, the bill does not.

The bill also includes the following:

• A requirement for the commission to prioritize an assessment of the impact that climate change has on agriculture in the state.

• The creation of an education, communication and outreach working group.

• Required reporting by certain agencies of annual greenhouse gas emissions reduction information.

• Ten state agencies must include in their annual reports greenhouse gas emissions reduction data, by program, for the prior calendar year. 

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