Our Environment

Issue: Both Montgomery and the State of Maryland have each set ambitious goals and drafted plans for addressing climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The key questions are how to achieve these goals, by when, and at what costs?

County Climate Action Plan [CAP] and 2021-2022 Work Plan

Latest update.

09/28/2021: County Council [see staff report] approved the Executive’s regulation adopting the International Green Construction Code that governs all new buildings over 5,000 square feet.

06/23/2021: County Executive [CE] Elrich released the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) Climate Work Plan, which anticipates action on 75 of 86 recommendations in the Climate Action Plan in FY22.  See the list beginning in the middle of the CE’s press release.

See also Earlier Updates below after the section on Background.

Background:  The county’s goal is an 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions [GGE] by 2027 and 100% by 2035.  See County’s Climate Home Page here

To achieve this goal, the County Executive established a working group of citizens and organizations to create a Climate Action Plan.  The Plan covers changes in:

  • Buildings
  • Transportation
  • Clean energy generation
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Adaptation
  • Governance
  • Public engagement

Earlier updates

  • 04/12/2021: State passes bill that enables County to conduct community choice energy pilot program that would allow the County to pool the electricity demand of residents and purchase electricity on their behalf from sustainable sources.
  • 04/12/2021: County Executive criticized by some for slowness in introducing climate legislation
  • 04/01/2021: County Executive introduces bill to require all commercial or multifamily residential buildings larger than 25,000 square feet to meet government-set energy efficiency standards over the course of 15 years, starting in 2022. According to county data, such buildings account for 50 percent of the county’s greenhouse gas emissions.
  • 02/28/2021: Public comments on the working group’s draft plan closed 28 Feb. See detailed comments submitted by the Climate Mobilization Coalition of Montgomery County and by the Montgomery County chapter of the Sierra Club.
  • 02/24/2021: Presentation via Zoom by the County on the draft CAP

More Information

Updated 10/04/2021


Latest Update:

  • 04/12/2021: The House and Senate failed to reach agreement on its major climate initiative bill called Climate Solutions Now Act. However, it did enact bills that called for planting 5,000,000 trees and that requires the MDOT to purchase more electric buses. The legislature also passed a bill that that would require the Public Service Commission — which regulates the state’s gas, electric and water utilities and signs off on new power plant construction — to consider climate impacts in its decisions.

Background:  In December 2020, the Maryland Department of the Environment [MDE] updated its greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan; it now calls for a 50% reduction of GGE by 2030.  According to MDE, the plan also will produce better air quality by reducing emissions that contribute to ground-level ozone and fine particle pollution. And it will improve water quality through reductions in nitrogen pollution to the state’s waterways, including the Chesapeake Bay.

More information: 

  • See this article in Maryland Matters regarding environmental legislation in the 2021 session.

information added 04/21/2021

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions-Global efforts

Issue: Are greenhouse gas emissions being reduced globally?

Latest Update: According to the 2020 UN Report on Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions, the answer is no. This link includes a link to the full text of the report and links to the reports of previous years.

Quoting from the report,

“As in previous years, this report assesses the gap between estimated future global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions if countries implement their climate mitigation pledges and the global emission levels from least-cost pathways that are aligned with achieving the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement. This difference between “where we are likely to be and where we need to be” is known as the ‘emissions gap’.

“Are we on track to bridging the gap? Absolutely not.”

More Information:

For somewhat more optimistic [but still realistic] opinion, see this op-ed piece by former Vice President Al Gore.

information added 01/03//2021

Wind Power

Latest update: The Public Service Commission will take written testimony on the proposals by the two wind companies’ bids to build wind turbines off the coast of Ocean City until Nov. 19. The agency has promised to make a decision on the bids by Dec. 18. See this article in Maryland Matters for more information.

Solar Power in the Agricultural Reserve

Issue: To increase the use of renewable energy and decrease greenhouse gas emissions, the County Council is considering a zoning text amendment [ZTA20-01]to allow solar power panels to be built in the county’s Agricultural Reserve [Ag Res].  At issue is the environmental benefit that will come from increased solar power generation versus the potential harm to the Ag Res.

Background: There are strong opinions about this proposal on both sides of the issue. The County Council held a town hall meeting to hear from citizens and it formed a Farm Solar Stakeholder Workgroup consisting of representatives of the various stakeholder groups to assist the Council in its deliberations on the proposed ZTA.

Latest Update

More Information

information added 02/06/2021

Other County Environmental Efforts

Plastic Straw Ban: The Montgomery County Council has approved a bill phasing out the use of plastic straws at local restaurants beginning in May 2021. For more information see this article from the Bethesda Beat, December 2020.

information updated 01/03/2021