Ninth in a series.
Maryland Matters was experiencing severe storms in late October when Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore met with Maryland Matters. Many Maryland communities experienced near-record flooding. Schools in at least five jurisdictions were also closed because of the extreme weather.
The latter fact especially exasperated Moore — and made the conversation about the ravages of a warming planet anything but theoretical. Moore said that extreme weather will cause more school time to be lost.
“These are real issues. These are serious issues,” Moore said. “And when you consider that we’ve had children who have already had such a complicated period over these previous 16 months, and educational problems. We’ve had kids who have not had a stable academic situation, and we all understand the complications of that, with chronic absences and interruptions of instruction. Now we’re talking about the role the environment has been playing in this as well.”
Since announcing his candidacy for governor earlier this year, Moore has been thinking and talking a lot about education and sketching out what the future for the state’s youngest and most vulnerable residents ought to look like. A best-selling author, military veteran, and former nonprofit CEO, Moore, at age 43, is the second youngest of the nine Democratic gubernatorial candidates, and he — more than most of the other contenders — talks regularly about the need “to make generational change in order to bend the curve we’re on.”
Moore’s view applies to the fight against climate changes and other challenges.
One reason the candidate feels the need to address climate change is because of the disruption to the school year. But it fits with his overall message that — more than other candidates — he is an avatar for change.
Already, in Moore’s view, the impacts of a warming planet are disproportionately felt in the state’s poorest communities, whether it’s the documented high asthma rate in West Baltimore, heat deserts in other parts of the city, or washed-out communities on the Lower Eastern Shore that are especially vulnerable to sea-level rise.
“We have to, as a state, address the damage that’s already been done,” he said.
Moore believes that a growing green energy economy could be a conduit for lifting people out of poverty, particularly young people who have limited opportunities. Moore has proposed a universal year of service for students as part his economic equity agenda. This is modeled on the Civic Works job training program and education program in Baltimore. Here, young people are working in remediating brownfield sites.
“We can use that to address issues within the environment as well as prepare people for college or career” by establishing a climate corps, among other programs, he said. “This is going to inspire a generation of Marylanders actually to get in the trenches on the most pressing issues facing the state. I’m excited about how we can put them to work, installing solar panels on roofs, planting trees, taking the state’s goals and actually having an army that can accomplish them.”
Using ‘an equity lens’ on cap-and-trade
Moore said he isn’t sure whether his administration would need a single individual coordinating climate policy across agencies. He does believe that leaders across state governments must do a better job communicating and collaborating on climate policy.
“This is not a siloed thing and it can’t be,” he said.
Moore said he doesn’t see enough cooperation now between key state departments like the Maryland Energy Administration, the Maryland Department of Agriculture, the Maryland Clean Energy Center, and the Maryland Department of the Environment. He said that a governor who can set ambitious priorities that all agencies work to achieve is the key to keeping them on track and keeping them apart.
“We have all of these pieces. First, we need a governor who takes this seriously and who will use the 2nd level. [of the State House] in Annapolis as a means and a mechanism to set proper targets that we should have…My standards and my benchmarks [on climate goals] are going to be high.”
Moore praised the Clean Energy Jobs Act 2019, which set out renewable energy goals. It called for a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and an all-electric fleet by then. “But we can do better,” he said. “We can push past that and have more ambitious goals. We can strive for more than carbon neutrality. This is a unique opportunity for us to ask, how do we become a net producer of alternative energy?”
Moore said he’d aim to establish a “cap-and-invest” program in the state, using Washington State and California as models, which could tax polluters and provide revenue for clean energy infrastructure and relief for communities of color that have suffered the most environmental degradation.
“If we’re not using an equity lens when we discuss implementing these cap-and-trade programs, we’re going to miss a larger point,” he said.
Moore is also passionate about climate resilience funds. local governmentsMaryland is beginning to establish them. They provide a framework to use bonding authorities that can be used by the state to also fund climate infrastructure projects.
“The issue of resiliency of infrastructure is a very big deal,” Moore said. “There is a framework for the state to be able to take on that type of leadership.”
Direct line to Mayor Pete
Moore said he has thought a lot about how to move people from where they live to where they work — and creating economic opportunity in the process.
Moore expressed outrage, as did most Democratic candidates. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s decision to cancel the Red Line, the proposed East-West transit line in Baltimore, which the governor dubbed a “wasteful boondoggle.” Moore said Hogan was entitled to his reservations, but felt the governor’s reluctance to work with community leaders to discuss possible alternatives was a form of “negligence,” an insult to inner city residents and devalued the importance of their priorities — not to mention their need for better public transit.
“The people who were most clearly affected by the decision [to cancel the project] were clearly seen as an inconvenience and not a priority,” Moore said.
Moore also stated that mass transit expansion in the state is good news for the environment, the workforce and economic development, much like many Democratic candidates. He added that he’d favor establishing regional transit authorities around the state to boost transit usage — not just in Baltimore, where it’s needed most.
Moore is dismissive of Hogan’s plans to widen portions the capital Beltway and Interstate 270 using high-cost toll lanes.
“The idea of having a luxury toll lane the overwhelming majority of Marylanders will not be able to benefit from — I’m not OK with that,” he said.
Moore was particularly critical of Hogan’s vote for the Board of Public Works and Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot, another Democratic candidate to be governor, was also critical. green-light the project despite Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp’s request for further environmental reviews.
“I thought the governor and the comptroller were not listening to a very simple and correct ask by the treasurer, saying, ‘I need more information,’” Moore said.
Moore said he’d support a transit line running alongside to I-270 and would also support the proposed transit line from Prince George’s County to Charles County. He argued that all road and transit proposals must be considered together, as parts of a bigger puzzle — that the state cannot simply consider them piecemeal.
Moore suggested that there were many ways to pay for transportation projects. These include revenue from sports betting and legalized recreational cannabis.
Moore also points out that Pete Buttigieg was one of his classmates as a Rhodes Scholar. He is now the U.S. Transportation secretary.
“I’m excited to be able to sit down with my old buddy of 20 years and tell him about Maryland’s transportation needs,” he said.
Moore’s personal climate hero is…
Asked to name his personal climate hero — a question Maryland Matters posed to all the Democratic contenders for governor — Moore named Baltimore City Councilmember Mark Conway (D), whose professional career has included stops at the Chesapeake Conservancy, the Baltimore Tree Trust, Inc., and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Conway is one of seven Baltimore city council members who have endorsed Moore’s campaign so far.
Moore stated that Conway and he first met and discussed education, housing and redlining. But he said he was especially taken with Conway’s fluency on environmental issues and learned a lot from their conversations.
“One of the first things we talked about was the environment and how the environment impacts his constituents more than any other jurisdiction in the state,” Moore said, recalling that Conway educated him about sewage treatment plants and efforts to clean up Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, among other things.
“He helped to underscore that this is all of our problem but that there’s an opportunity to do something about it,” Moore said. “So it’s crucial that we get it right.”
This is the end of a nine part series in which we interview the Democratic candidates to governor on climate change. Click here for other stories in the Climate Voter’s Guide. Maryland Matters reached out to Republican candidates for governor in order to request interviews about climate change. The series will feature more stories throughout the election season.