ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A measure to increase Maryland's use of renewable energy advanced in the state Senate Tuesday after senators approved changing the bill to eliminate trash incineration as eligible for subsidies like wind and solar energy.
The Senate voted 34-12 for the amendment before giving the bill preliminary approval. A vote could come later this week on the measure that would increase the state's Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard from 25 percent by 2020 to 50 percent by 2030.
Supporters of ending subsidies for waste-to-energy in the "top tier" of renewable energy said it's wrong to classify trash burning in the same way as wind and solar.
"This is a common sense amendment," said Sen. Michael Hough, a Frederick County Republican who sponsored the amendment. "This doesn't say you can't have trash incineration. It doesn't even regulate them. It just says we shouldn't subsidize them."
The provision was originally part of the bill, but division in the Senate Finance Committee led to its removal.
Opponents to the amendment say while waste-to-energy incineration does emit carbon dioxide, it's not as bad a contributor to climate change as landfills.
"It is true that waste-to-energy does emit CO2," said Sen. Malcolm Augustine, a Prince George's County Democrat who said waste-to-energy facilities can become cleaner with better use of scrubbers. "It does emit some other dangerous things, but the fact of the matter is that this is about climate change, and the fact of the matter is that the comparison is between waste-to-energy and landfills, and the fact of the matter is that in the landfill, when it goes to the landfill, it is actually more detrimental to climate change."
But Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Prince George's County Democrat, said the issue isn't about preferences of handling trash by burning or by landfills.
"The question is, as a policy decision, should we spend our money to underwrite these companies when we have other options," Pinsky said. "Shouldn't we use that money to have expansion of solar, of wind, of hydro? Where is the best investment for the state? So, I might agree with you of the science between those two. It doesn't mean we have to invest our money behind them, and I would prefer to have that money lower the cost of solar and wind and expand truly clean energy."