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]: FY2022 Accomplishments and FY2023 Plans

Latest updates.

09/2022: Montgomery County has released its first Climate Action Plan Annual Report, a work plan detailing Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) accomplishments and Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) plans to combat climate change. The report highlights 75 accomplishments in the first year since the plan was released in June 2021. See a summary of the highlights here.

05/23/2022: On May 2, County Executive Marc Elrich signed the Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS) legislation (Bill 16-21) into law. The new law expands the number of buildings covered by the County’s existing Benchmarking Law to include additional County-owned, commercial and multifamily buildings and establishes long-term standards for those buildings and requires the use of less energy.

05/23/2022: The County published its third quarter (3Q) 2022 update to its Climate Action Work Plan.  Highlights include the latest to improve clean energy generation, building construction codes, transportation, carbon sequestration, climate adaption (e.g., enhance storm water management), and climate governance.

02/20/2022: The County has published its 2022 Work Plan 2Q Updates.

01/10/2022: The priority actions in the Climate Action Plan are shown beginning on page 97 [page 64 of the pdf format]. According to its Work Plan, the County anticipates taking action on 75 out of 86 CAP actions in FY22. See the list beginning on page 7 of the Work Plan.

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.

Updated 09/27/2022

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 05/23/2022

MCPS Sustainability Plan

School policies.  According to the Bethesda Beat, The Montgomery County school board is considering updating its sustainability policy, with an “extremely aggressive” goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80% in five years. The target would align with the county’s “climate action plan” unveiled in June by County Executive Marc Elrich. 

Updated 01/30/2022

State Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Latest Update:

  • 05/23/2022: In its recently concluded legislative session, the General Assembly passed, and the governor signed the Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022.  The law will require the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent by 2031 and reach net zero emissions by 2045.  It also requires owners of large commercial and apartment buildings to cut their carbon emissions or face fines; provides tax breaks for community solar projects as well as loans to finance large-scale green energy projects; requires transitioning state vehicles and school buses to 100% electric; funds organizations that help underserved and overburdened communities, planting trees, insulating low-income housing, and mitigating air pollution; and provides guidelines for the eventual phase-out of fossil fuels to heat new buildings.
  • 03/20/2022: From Delegate Sara Love Newsletter March 13. SB 528 The Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022 passed with amendments in the Senate on Thursday. The bill establishes two statewide goals: 1) for 2030, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60% of those recorded in 2006, and 2) for 2045, reach net-zero emissions. The bill achieves this, in part, by requiring owners of large buildings to gradually reduce their buildings’ emissions by retrofits — such as insulating windows and installing heat pumps. It now heads to the House.

  • 12/2021: The Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) awarded offshore wind renewable energy credits to the two developers, who collectively have proposed more than 1,600 megawatts of new energy to be built off the coast of Maryland. The PSC set target an operational date of no later than 2026. See this summary article in Maryland Matters.
  • 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.

Updated 05/23/2022

Wind Power

Maryland’s offshore wind portfolio is poised to grow substantially following the PSC decision in December 2021 to award offshore wind renewable energy credits to the two developers, who collectively have proposed more than 1,600 megawatts of new energy to be built off the coast of Maryland. See this report in Maryland Matters.

Updated 01/30/2022

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

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.

Ban on #6 polystryrene products now in effect: Rigid polystyrene products are not recyclable, and are marked with a number 6 in the middle of a triangle. According to the county, number 6 products can include: foam and non-foam/rigid containers; bowls; plates; trays; cartons; and cups. For more see this Bethesda Beat article.

Gas Powered Leaf-Blowers Ban: A ban on gas powered leaf blowers has been introduced in the County Council, but has not yet been enacted. At a hearing in September, Councilmembers heard from proponents who say it’s needed to reduce noise and environmental impacts and from critics who say it will hurt businesses and farming community.

Climate Impact Assessments Required: The County Council passed legislation requiring the county Office of Legislative Oversight to prepare a climate impact assessment for proposed bills starting in January. The bill also calls for the Montgomery County Planning Board and Planning Department to conduct climate assessments for zoning text amendments and master plans beginning March 1.  See Bethesda Beat July 12, 2022.

Flooding Website: Montgomery has developed a new website that provides information about frequently flooded roads, steps residents can take to prepare for potential flooding, and the availability of flood insurance to all properties in the county. Montgomery County is developing a comprehensive flood management plan to better understand the causes and impacts of flooding and potential strategies to eliminate or minimize the risks of flooding. In June, the County announced a new high-tech flood sensor program to provide earlier alerts to residents about potential flooding.See news release here.

information updated 09/27/2022

Other State Environmental Efforts

Ban on PFAS Chemicals:HB 275 Environment – PFAS Chemicals – Prohibitions and Requirements (George “Walter” Taylor Act) passed unanimously (138-0), and is now in the Senate Health, Education & Environmental Affairs Committee. Its cross-file, SB 273, passed unanimously in the Senate on March 1, and is in the House Health & Government Operations Committee.This bill stops the use of toxic, “forever” PFAS in firefighting foam, food packaging, and rugs and carpets.

Updated 03/20/2022