Each year, G.S. Proctor & Associates compiles for our clients a detailed report analyzing key developments in the legislative process affecting the issues and industries that matter most in the state of Maryland.
Here is a breakdown of this year’s key developments related to the state budget. Select a link below to see additional areas of interest or download a PDF of the full report here.
The 2021 Session was not a particularly energy-focused session as compared to some recent years. While there was heightened interest in dealing with climate change, ultimately the Session’s biggest bill dealing with the issue, Senate Bill 414 / House Bill 583 known as the Climate Solutions Now Act, did not pass. The spread between the House amended bill and the Senate version was too great a divide and the bill died without an agreement on the amendments.
The biggest industry-supported utility bill this year was the Stride bill, House Bill 890. Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BG&E) led the effort with the support of Washington Gas Light (WGL) and other smaller gas utilities. After passage in the House, the bill was met with stiff resistance and supporters of the bill indicated they had the votes to pass the bill in committee, but ultimately the bill did not come to a vote. It’s expected to be introduced again in 2022.
Other bills of impact to utilities included:
- Senate Bill 496 / House Bill 612 The RELIEF Act (Passed): This bill provided direct monies from the state to utility companies to assist with paying arrearages on customer’s accounts caused by the pandemic.
- House Bill 30 Office of the People’s Counsel (OPC) Environmental Reform Act (Passed): This bill requires the OPC, in determining whether the interests of residential and noncommercial users are affected. It considers public safety, economic welfare, and environmental interests of the State and its residents, including the State’s progress in meeting its greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. With the bill, OPC must hire at least one assistant people’s counsel who will focus on environmental issues. OPC is also now included in the Maryland Commission on Climate Change and the Maryland Zero Emission Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Council.
- House Bill 298 / Senate Bill 83 Utility Regulation-Consideration of Climate & Labor (Passed): Despite unified opposition from utilities, the bill passed. Utilities raised concerns that requiring the Commission to consider undefined metrics for global climate warming would be difficult to equitably implement.
- House Bill 606 / Senate Bill 392 Electricity and Gas – Limited-Income Mechanisms and Assistance (Passed): Support was mixed among utilities, but turned quickly into opposition once language of the bill was amended to remove its optional participation and make it a requirement. A proposal for a limited-income mechanism must be submitted either in a rate case or as a separate application and must include five outlined components in the bill.
- House Bill 174 / Senate Bill 95 Public Utilities – Investor-Owned Utilities – Prevailing Wage (Passed): This bill requires investor-owned gas and/or electric utilities to require contractors and subcontractors on specified underground projects to pay their employees at least the applicable prevailing wage rate.
- Senate Bill 506 Public Utilities – Regulatory Assets – Prohibition (Died): This bill would have prohibited a public service company, in its utility operations, from demanding or collecting a rate of return on a regulatory asset created as a result of conditions addressed by a state of emergency as declared by the Governor.