Developers object to climate change legislation’s costs

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The renewed effort by Maryland Democrats to push sweeping climate legislation through the General Assembly has hit one of its first major challenges, with commercial real estate representatives balking at the bill’s major alterations to building efficiency standards and questioning the affordability of the proposed changes.

The Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022, the Senate version of a cross-chamber environmental legislation push, would prohibit newly-constructed buildings beginning in 2024 from using fossil fuels for heating and hot water and existing buildings over 25,000 square feet to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2040.

Representatives for the commercial real estate industry argue the new standards would be too costly for developers and that the changes are unrealistic to be accomplished on the timeline lawmakers have set.

The debate is expected to continue at a hearing Friday before the House Environment and Transportation Committee for a bill, HB831, sponsored by Del. Dana Stein, D-Baltimore County, which features many of the same building efficiency provisions.

The developers’ objections illustrate the tension between what many agree is a need to act on climate change and the cost of taking aggressive action to combat building emissions. Commercial real estate representatives argue the bill does not do enough to incentivize owners to make buildings more energy efficient.

The Senate bill, SB528, establishes a task force to provide recommendations for financial incentives for building owners to achieve incremental emission reductions.

Real estate representatives and some lawmakers say that is not good enough. They note the bill already has penalties for building owners if they do not meet the new environmental standards, but does not offer specific financial incentives to help them transition to lower carbon emissions.

Michael Powell of NAIOP Maryland, which lobbies on behalf of the commercial real estate industry, said in an interview with Capital News Service that the Senate bill should have concrete incentives for owners to reduce building emissions instead of a working group to study potential incentives.

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