What about offshore wind? Maryland's prospects nerve-wracking as big Danish firm exits New Jersey project. And Pennsylvania's entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative with Maryland and other neighbor states is still on shaky ground, too. Maryland's enviro community seems to like the state's overall progress against climate change, but a derailment of recycled plastic "nurdles" in Hyattsville shakes up the community. Maine voters may decide to shift from corporate power companies to public ownership. But the US House wants to cut more than a third of the EPA's budget. Good news, bad news -- but all News You Can Use, and much more.
Danish Offshore Wind Titan’s Cancellations Make MD Wind Power Plans Precarious Danish wind giant Ørsted pulled the plug on a pair of projects (Ocean Wind 1 and 2) that were planned off the coast of New Jersey, citing climbing interest rates, inflation and “supply chain bottlenecks.” Ørsted is one of two companies planning offshore wind installations off the coast of Ocean City in Maryland. The company restated its commitment to the Maryland project, known as Skipjack Wind, but said, cryptically, that the company “continues to reconfigure this project and expects to have more clarity on its path forward in the coming months as discussions continue with stakeholders in Maryland.” The same financial headwinds have many U.S. offshore wind developers looking to renegotiate deals as the costs of their projects climb. Maryland Matters.
Moore Is “Disappointed” By PSC’s Decision On Data Center Project: Gov. Wes Moore said he is “disappointed” with a Maryland Public Service Commission decision leading to Aligned Data Centers stopping work on its data center project in Frederick County. Aligned Data Centers recently announced it is pulling the plug on its project after the PSC refused to grant the company an exemption from obtaining a specific certificate. Moore told the Frederick News-Post that he plans to work with the state legislature to address regulatory uncertainty on data centers. Gabrielle Lewis/Frederick News-Post. Via Maryland Reporter
Pennsylvania’s Inclusion in RGGI Remains Uncertain Pennsylvania’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative [Maryland and other neighbor states are members] remains as uncertain as ever after a working group convened by Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro endorsed some form of a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions in the state but disagreed on whether it should be RGGI. Matters were further complicated on Nov. 1, when the Commonwealth Court blocked Pennsylvania from joining RGGI, saying that former Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and state agencies unconstitutionally moved to join since a cap&trade “tax” would be levied on polluters without legislative approval. Bay Journal
Research Group Urges MD’s Local Prosecutors To Be More Transparent: Representatives with a national organization that collects and analyzes data for prosecutors’ offices said Maryland’s transparency is good, but could be better. One recommendation from Prosecutorial Performance Indicators – a group that includes researchers and college and university professors – would be to produce public prosecutorial dashboards, a tool recently released in Montgomery County. Maryland Matters Via Maryland Reporter
Md. Making Progress With Climate Change, Annual Scorecard Finds: Every year, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters releases a scorecard grading each lawmaker for their votes on a series of environmental and climate bills in the most recent General Assembly session. But the scorecard also measures the state’s collective progress in addressing climate change and other environmental challenges. And based on the 2023 evaluation, released this week, the state is making a lot of progress. Maryland Matters Via Maryland Reporter
Morgan Hits Record Enrollment For 3rd Straight Year: Morgan State University experienced its third straight year of record enrollment, moving it closer to its goal of 10,000 students. Enrollment increased 8% overall over the previous year, spurred by a 4% increase in first-time freshmen attending the school. /Baltimore Fishbowl. Via Maryland Reporter
Spill Of Plastic Pellets In Maryland Reveals The Polluting Potential Of ‘Nurdles’ A train that derailed in the Anacostia River watershed on Sept. 23 introduced local officials to a source of pollution no one was quite prepared to handle: nurdles. These tiny plastic pellets, each about the size of a lentil, are transported around the world as the raw materials of plastic production. Sept. 23 a CSX train derailed, spilling an unknown quantity of the pellets from some of its 16 railcars. The spill occurred in the stretch of tracks that crosses alternate U.S. Route 1 (Baltimore Avenue) on the south side of Hyattsville. Bay Journal via Maryland Matters
Washington Co. Legislators Hosting Forum On Monday: The Washington County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly will host a daylong pre-legislative forum on Monday, when the county’s state legislators will meet with various local leaders, elected officials, agencies and businesses to review priorities for the 2024 legislative session. Hagerstown Herald-Mail.
Career, Technical Ed Major Focus Of Education Reform: As Maryland continues to implement a decade-long education reform plan, the focus of multiple state boards and commissions has shifted to a key initiative: ensuring that all students are college and career ready. As the state Board of Education reconsiders how to define “college and career readiness,” other boards and commissions are focused on dramatically expanding apprenticeship opportunities for juniors and seniors in high school. Maryland Matters
STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNANCE
“Navigators” Help Philadelphia’s Poor Access Available Benefits. Philadelphia,: the poorest large city in the country, is seeking to improve its status, in part by addressing the systemic barriers that prevent people from accessing crucial public benefits and tax credits. A notable effort is the Promise’s Family Stability Challenge initiative, which promotes collaboration between community-based organizations that help Philadelphians by providing various personalized assistance to those accessing benefits and tax credits. It’s helping residents overcome the barriers to accessing the public benefits and tax credits they’re entitled to. Stateline Daily
Medicaid Down 10 Million: More than 10 million people have been disenrolled from Medicaid over the last six months after expiration of a pandemic-era requirement that extended coverage. The public health group KFF found 71% of those disenrolled lost coverage for procedural reasons. Federal figures show 18 million people are still on Medicaid. (Stat) via Pluribus
Maine Effort for Public Ownership of Power Companies Goes to Ballot On Tuesday, Question 3 on Maine’s ballot will ask voters to decide whether they want to oust the unpopular CMP and Versant, corporate-owned power companies, and replace them with a nonprofit, publicly owned utility called Pine Tree Power. The proposed utility would buy out the existing utilities’ infrastructure using revenue bonds and be governed by a board made up of elected officials and appointed experts. According to the market research company J.D. Power and Associates, CMP and Versant ranked lowest in customer satisfaction among large and midsize electric utilities, respectively, in the eastern United States last year. While a public takeover of the power grid has happened before at the local level in places like Winter Park, Florida, and Jefferson County, Washington, Maine’s referendum is the largest effort in decades, and the first-ever push for a statewide public power company. Similar efforts are underway in other jurisdictions, including the District of Columbia. Grist via Route Fifty
Supremes To Hear Case About Domestic Violence And Guns: Maryland officials and advocates — fearing a U.S. Supreme Court decision they say could reverse years of precedent around guns and protecting women — will keep a close eye this week on a case that may have wide-ranging implications for victims of domestic violence and the state’s slate of progressive gun laws. The primary question in U.S. v. Rahimi, scheduled for oral arguments, is whether individuals who are the subject of domestic violence protection orders can be forced to surrender their firearms. Baltimore Sun.
US House Proposes 4B Cut in EPA Funding In another sign of states and cities being caught in the middle of the partisan fight in Congress that threatens a government shutdown in two weeks, the Republican House on Friday voted to slash funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by $4 billion or 39%. House Democrats said such a reduction would bring funding for the agency to its lowest level since 1991. The environmental spending measure, which passed in a 213-203 partisan vote, essentially decimates funding for states to improve drinking water and reduce water pollution. Route Fifty
And the weekly roundup from Megan E at People's Action:
Last week the House voted on three censure resolutions. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) forced a vote on to censure Rep. Rachida Tlaib (D-MN) for her comments on the state of Israel’s killing of civilians in Gaza. 23 Republicans joined Democrats in voting no. The vote failed and Taylor Greene said she is revising it and offering it again. Last week’s resolution had language that clearly curtails free speech, which if removed, could garner more votes.
Rep. Becca Balint (D-VT) in turn introduced a resolution censuring Taylor Green for her vile and hateful remarks that “fanned the flames of racism, antisemitism, LGBTQ hate speech, Islamophobia, anti-Asian hate, xenophobia, and other forms of hatred.” She has an oped explaining it here where she notes that Rep. Tlaib is the only Palestinian American Member of Congress and has a right to represent the views of her community.
The next government funding deadline is next Friday and there is yet no bill to keep the government open.
The LA Times reports that the U.S. retirement system scored C+ on an international score card of retirement systems. And Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), a long-term advocate of cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits through changes such as raising the retirement and eligibility ages for the programs, is calling for a “bipartisan debt commission” that inevitably would place them in the deficit-reduction cauldron along with other spending. After becoming speaker, Johnson immediately promised to create this panel.
The Atlantic has an article on private equity buy-ups which we are seeing in housing with the buy-up of single family homes and health care with buy-ups of nursing homes, primary care facilities and even methadone clinics. From the Atlantic: “When a private-equity fund buys a publicly traded company, it takes the company private—hence the name. (If the company has not yet gone public, the acquisition keeps that from happening.) This gives the fund total control, which in theory allows it to find ways to boost profits so that it can sell the company for a big payday a few years later. In practice, going private can have more troubling consequences. The thing about public companies is that they’re, well, public. By law, they have to disclose information about their finances, operations, business risks, and legal liabilities. Taking a company private exempts it from those requirements. That may not have been such a big deal when private equity was a niche industry. Today, however, it’s anything but. In 2000, private-equity firms managed about 4 percent of total U.S. corporate equity. By 2021, that number was closer to 20 percent. In other words, private equity has been growing nearly five times faster than the U.S. economy as a whole.”
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