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Lawmakers in the Maryland Senate voted 32-13 Thursday to expand the state's renewable energy target restoring the Clean Energy Jobs Act and overriding Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's veto of the measure in May of last year. The bill is now in effect.
The bill increases requirements to use energy sources like wind and solar power to 25 percent by 2020, increased from 20 percent by 2022. The renewable portfolio standard (RPS), according to the Maryland Climate Coalition, will result in an additional 250 megawatts of solar energy in the state and more than 1,000 megawatts of additional renewable energy in the region.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said this bill is a big win for Maryland's economy. Wind power relies on a robust American supply chain that consists of 500 factories across 43 states, the wind energy organization touts, with wind energy already providing $380 million of capital investment in Maryland, and wind turbine lease payments generating up to $1 million a year in the state.
"Making the Clean Energy Jobs Act law is the right decision for Maryland. Renewable energy legislation is pro-growth, pro-business, and means access to more jobs in Maryland," AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan said. "From the Free State's population-hubs to majestic shores, this ensures more low-cost, homegrown American wind power reaches homeowners and businesses."
This bill will also benefit the solar energy industry. Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said the bill will pave "the way for increased renewable energy in communities across the state. The Clean Energy Jobs Act is named that for a reason. Today, the solar industry employs thousands of Marylanders who know firsthand that when you expand clean energy, you increase the number of well-paying local jobs."
Gov. Hogan criticized the veto of his bill and said it will raise electricity costs. He called it a "sunshine and wind tax." However, as AWEA pointed out in a blog post, meeting renewable energy goals created up to $4.9 billion in reduced consumer energy prices and added 200,000 American jobs, and $20 billion to annual GDP through 2013.
Maryland is not alone in wanting to grow its economy via renewable energy generation. States representing roughly a quarter of the U.S. population—California, Oregon, New York, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island and DC—have increased their renewable energy goals in the past year.
According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and National Renewable Energy Laboratory, state renewable portfolio standards have created $7.5 billion in annual environmental benefits from reduced air emissions, 27 billion gallons in reduced yearly water consumption and $1.3 billion to $4.9 billion in reduced consumer energy prices, including 200,000 American jobs and $20 billion in annual GDP.
"In the current face of fear, uncertainty, and at times outright denial of environmental problems at the federal level, the Clean Energy Jobs Act proves that states like Maryland will not remain quiet on our country's toughest challenges like climate change," David Smedick, Maryland Beyond Coal Campaign and policy representative for the Sierra Club, said.
People in California's Central Valley could be drinking water tainted by cancer-causing chemicals used in oilfields, and current water-testing procedures would not detect these substances, according to a scientific report released Tuesday by researchers at PSE Healthy Energy, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the University of California and the University of the Pacific.
More than 100 farms in the Central Valley use oil wastewater for irrigation.
The report identified dozens of hazardous chemicals used in oilfields that supply waste fluid used to irrigate food crops and recharge underground water supplies in California. Researchers note that produced fluid from these oilfields is recharging regional aquifers used for agriculture that "can also be used for domestic water supply (including drinking water)."
"Many of the chemicals used on oil fields do not have standard analytical protocols for their detection in water, so current water quality monitoring programs are mainly focused on naturally occurring contaminants," the report noted.
"Given these shocking findings, California regulators should immediately halt the use of oil-waste fluid in any procedure that could contaminate the water we drink or the food we eat," said John Fleming, a staff scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity and member of the Protect California Food coalition and Californians Against Fracking. "It's absolutely unacceptable that people in the Central Valley could be drinking dangerous oil-industry chemicals right now without even knowing it."
Oilfield wastewater has been used to irrigate food crops in the Cawelo Water District since the mid-1990s, the report noted. The practice recently spread to the North Kern Water Storage District, and state officials have said they hope to further expand it. But there has been little evaluation of risks posed by the threat of chemicals in such fluid.
Researchers noted that many chemicals used in these oilfields cannot be evaluated for hazards because oil companies have withheld key information. But more than 40 percent of those substances that can be identified can be classified as potential threats to human health or the environment.
"This report shines an important light on a troubling reality—the state of California is allowing the oil industry to experiment on consumers of our food products and the agricultural workers that grow them," said Madeline Stano, a staff attorney with the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment. "The report demonstrates that the use of oil wastewater adds serious risks to both consumers and agricultural workers' health and safety. The state should stop this practice immediately."
Ten of the oilfield chemicals evaluated by this research team have been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as either carcinogenic or possibly carcinogenic in humans.
More than 100 farms in the Central Valley use oil wastewater for irrigation. Some of the U.S. most popular brands grow food in the Cawelo and North Kern water districts, including Trinchero Family Estates (makers of Sutter Home wines) and Halos Mandarins (formerly known as Cuties).