"We Are Still In"

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County defies the President and vows to adhere to Paris Climate Accords


ROCKVILLE - “We are still in” the Paris Climate Accord despite the president’s decision to withdraw, declared County Executive Leggett, along with more than 1,000 local, state-level and business leaders around the country this week.

The officials and business leaders released the statement June 5 after President Donald J. Trump announced that the United States would leave the greenhouse gas reduction effort four days earlier.

Leggett cited the county’s Fiscal Year 2016 sustainability report, showing that it is well ahead of its own goals for “reducing greenhouse gas emissions from government operations” and installing solar energy atop government buildings. The county recently bought more electric vehicles for its fleets and has seed-funded a new Green Bank helping to finance energy-efficient retrofits in private buildings.

Area businesses and consumers appeared to remain on track for planned energy improvements. Joe Inglisa, who heads sales for Bowie-based SemaConnect, a manufacturer and seller of electric vehicle charging stations, said Trump’s announcement had “no impact” and that the “Trump announcement might even motivate buyers to do their own thing.”

Charging stations are usually installed in office and apartment buildings and parking lots.

Inglisa said, “Our momentum is picking up for several reasons. Many states and cities have their own environmental standards, and there is no sign they are changing anything. Maryland still has strong incentives, and I do not see this changing.”

In fact, unless tax laws are changed, there remain substantial federal tax benefits for both electric vehicles and solar installations.

Inglisa added that electric vehicles’ reputation among consumers “is getting stronger as time goes on, and prices are coming down.” Inglisa’s market area includes Maryland, D.C., Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Ohio.

“Consumers, especially in our area of higher-educated people, are motivated to do their part in contributing to a cleaner environment,” he noted.

Amelia Chasse, deputy communications director in Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) office, noted that Hogan “signed the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act into law in 2016, adopting some of the most aggressive air quality goals in the country — significantly more aggressive than those in the Paris accord.”

Hogan’s 2017 legislative program included programs to “encourage the use of EVs [and added] incentives for renewable energy,” Chasse said. He “remains committed to preserving Maryland’s natural resources for future generations, and Maryland will continue to lead by example,” she added.

Kaymie Owen, communications manager for the Maryland Energy Administration, said that statewide in 2016, the solar industry employed 5,429. As of the end of May, the state had 9,300 electric vehicles, or EVs.

Maryland has 1,260 energy and sustainability businesses, she said. It ranked seventh among the states last year in the square footage per capita of LEED-certified commercial and institutional green buildings. LEED certification is the nation’s primary designation for energy-efficient buildings.

Mark Bryan, communications director for D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council, the main advocate for LEED standards, told the Sentinel, “We do not expect that the Trump administration's decision to withdraw from the Paris Accords will have any immediate effect on LEED or green construction in the D.C. metro area, as local standards and regulations are strongly supportive of building and operating sustainably. Building owners and developers in Montgomery County and other partners in Maryland have been working with local lawmakers to ensure that new construction meets or exceeds some of the strongest standards in the country, and investors are increasingly demanding green building practices before they commit to financing. None of the administration's recent decisions are going to change that.”

One potential cause of a future slowdown in the building efficiency realm, Bryan said, would be action taken by the Trump administration to have the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency cease developing new standards, benchmarking and research. Bryan concluded: “While we're all disappointed by the administration's decisions, the momentum toward building sustainably is unlikely to slow for one simple reason: It's good for business.”

Maryland ranked near the top among states in a scorecard compiled last year by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy for “combined heat and power policy,” Owen added. The scorecard includes requirements that electric companies give solar consumers credit for power they put back into the electric power “grid.”

Practically all the Maryland delegation in Congress responded to Trump’s June 1 decision immediately after his announcement. The response was along party lines, with the lone Republican, Rep. Andy Harris (R-1), saying that former President Barack Obama “made a bad deal” for the U.S. in the Paris accords. He said any new agreement should be run through the Senate as a formal treaty.




Leggett defends bag tax

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County executive says controversial move still needs more time

IkeLeggettCounty Executive Ike Leggett.      FILE PHOTO  

After some members of the County Council said the County 5- cent tax on plastic and paper bags is not working to reduce bags, County Executive Ike Leggett said the fee needs more time

After the fee passed in 2011 to reduce the number of bags that end up littering the County’s streets and streams, the number of bags distributed at stores has actually increased since it became effective in 2012.

According to County statistics, the number of bags distributed at County stores averaged 4,340,438 a month in fiscal year 2012. In fiscal year 2017, the average has increased to 5,532,770 a month. Both averages were taken over five-month periods.

“I think it is having an impact, maybe not the impact we anticipated,” Leggett said of the bag tax.


Council hopeful for Purple Line continuation

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Council member Roger Berliner (D-1) said Leon’s ruling to allow the Federal Transit Administration to decide the significance of Metro ridership brings him new hope.

He said he is confident the end of the Purple Line hiatus is near.

Berliner said he believes there is no turning back after the judge’s order Nov. 22. He ordered the FTA to assess Metro’s ridership and safety issues and determine whether either will harm the Purple Line project. From there, FTA and the Maryland Transit Administration would determine whether they need to write a new environmental impact statement pertaining to Metro’s impact on the project.

“By opening the record and allowing the agencies to show him why they don’t think this Metro issue is relevant, he (Leon) will no longer be able to say they were arbitrary and capricious,” Berliner said. “He can only say, ‘I don’t agree but under the law, I can’t substitute my judgment for the agencies, therefore we’re done here.’”


Soil sampling begins along Purple Line route

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Metro map

Work crews started testing soil in southern Montgomery County along the proposed path of the Purple Line Tuesday, a process expected to continue for several months.

The work began shortly after District of Columbia District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled construction-related work must be stopped until the state of Maryland re-evaluates and updates Metro ridership following recent safety problems. 


Judge sidelines Purple Line for new study

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Metro map


A District Court judge ruled in a federal case that workers cannot continue construction related to the Purple Line until the state of Maryland re-evaluates Metro ridership following recent safety issues.

Richard Leon, District of Columbia District Court judge, said in the case of Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail et al. Vs. Federal Transit Administration et al., the Maryland Transit Administration needs to update Metro ridership measurements because those used to calculate Purple Line ridership projections were collected in 2009, after which Metro ridership decreased.  

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