They hope this legislation will pass before the General Assembly adjourns.
Some area business people are not too happy with Frederick County Delegate Galen Clagget's vote on a "black liquor" bill. They signed a letter calling on Clagett to re-think his vote on the legislation.
"We are urging you to reconsider your position and stand with Maryland businesses and the environment instead of out-of-state polluters," the letter reads. It was signed by Tim Reardon of Pitcrew, Inc., Boe Walker of Boe's Strings, Mary Jean Clark of Voila in Frederick, Cindy Weingarten of Cafe Nola, Soren Dodge of The Record Exchange, April Reardon of Velvet Lounge and Pat Latkovski of Alicia L's.
Supporters met on Wednesday at Cafe Nola.
"Black liquor" is a tarry substance which is the byproduct of the paper-making process. Many mills use it, along with waste wood, to power their facilities. Under Maryland law, these plants, most located out of state, receive renewalable energy subsidies when they sell the electricity to power companies in Maryland. Most supporters of "black liquor" legislation say the process of burning this substance generates air pollution. "Maryland's clean energy dollars should be spent on clean energy," says James McGarry of the Chesapeake Climate Action network. "And it shouldn't going to out-of-state paper mills that pollute and would frankly be doing it anyway without the subsidy."
It if passes, a "black liquor" bill would end the practice of subsidizing out-of-state paper mills.
The money for the subsidies comes from a charge on an electric customer's bill.
There are two "black liquor" bills in the Maryland General Assembly. A House version was voted down by the Economic Matters Committee last week, and that means it won't go to the House floor for consideration. Delegate Clagett cast a "no" vote. During that same week, a Senate version passed. McGarry and other supporters of this bill are calling on Clagett to reconsider his vote when the Senate version comes before the House Economic Matters Committee.
"It all comes down to getting one extra vote on the House Economic Matters Committee. You need 12 votes to get out of that committee. We got 11," says McGarry. "So we hope that Delegate Clagett will look at the merits of the bill, look at the protections that it offers for Maryland, and then make the right decisions for Maryland right there for Maryland Businesses."
He says supporters of this bill have tried to contact Delegate Clagett to get him to explain his position, but have not been successful.
With only days to go before the General Assembly adjourns Sine Die on Monday at midnight, McGarry is hopeful a "black liquor" bill can come out of the Legislature. "If not, we're going to be around for the next year, pounding down the doors, trying to get this bill through," says McGarry.
Other attendees at the meeting also wanted to see the practice of subsidizing out-of-state paper mills which burn "black liquor" come to an end. "I just think that the extra money that we pay for our electric should go to something that supports Maryland and local business, creating clean energy and new jobs in Maryland," said Matt Triche, the General Manager of Cafe Nola.
Hood College Senior Rachel O'Keeffe has been involved with this issue, speaking to delegates and senators in Annapolis, as well as local citizens. "Everybody is actually really been surprised that we're subsidizing such a dirty energy source," she says. "They think that we're subsidizing clean energy such as windmills, but it's actually going to dirty energy sources and actually out-of-state paper mills which is even more incredible. Why are subsidizing energy sources that are out of Maryland with Maryland money."
O'Keeffe is majoring in environmental science and policy at Hood College, and she says she plans to be involved in these types of issues after she graduates.
IF the bill passes, Maryland's only paper mill located in Luke in Allegheny County would be exempt.