Maryland Dept. of Environment's Kinsey, Georgetown's Arroyo talk sustainability action

As countries gear up for next month's Rio+20 sustainability meeting, what role will states and regions play in the discussions? During today's OnPoint, Kathy Kinsey, deputy secretary of regulatory programs and operations at the Maryland Department of the Environment, and Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center and a visiting professor at Georgetown Law, discuss the effectiveness of subnational programs for climate and sustainability. They also weigh in on how U.S. EPA's action on air regulations affects states' willingness to move forward with their own climate policies.


Monica Trauzzi: Hello and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today are Kathy Kinsey, deputy secretary of Regulatory Programs and Operations at the Maryland Department of Environment, and Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center and visiting professor at Georgetown Law. Ladies, thank you both for joining me today.

Kathy Kinsey: Thank you for having us.

Vicki Arroyo: Our pleasure.

Monica Trauzzi: Vicki, heading into next month's Rio+20 meeting, are we beginning to see a shift in the game away from the idea of sort of a broad international approach to climate and sustainability and more of a focus on subnational efforts, regional efforts? Talk a bit about that.

Kathy Kinsey: I think that's true. We just came from an event where we talked about this with people from provinces and states, because, really, that's where a lot of the action is when it comes to building clean jobs, cleaner communities, sustainable economic development and also being on the front lines for adapting to the impacts of climate change, building resilience. These are all themes that Rio has issue papers on, but many of these really are homegrown. They begin at home at the state and local level.

Monica Trauzzi: So Kathy, are there things that the states can bring to a meeting like this, examples that the states can show as what's working and what is Maryland doing specifically?

Kathy Kinsey: Sure, well, Maryland is a leadership state on climate change. It's very high priority for Governor O'Malley. And Maryland has just issued a draft climate change action plan and we are in the process of seeking stakeholder input right now, but the plan is very comprehensive. We have 65 separate strategies in the plan that, you know, run from our involvement in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative for power plant greenhouse gas emissions to buying local weatherization programs. So, it runs the full gamut and a very important and a very significant part of our plan is also our adaptation plan. So, we have a number of very important initiatives across the state to address the effects of climate change, not just the mitigation aspect of it, as well. So we are refining that plan and we expect to adopt that plan at the end of December.

Monica Trauzzi: So, is federal action, or lack thereof, frustrating to a state like yours?

Kathy Kinsey: In some respects, yes. I mean I think we would all -- I think all of the states would welcome a strong federal energy policy and a strong federal climate action plan, but that has not stopped us from moving forward. And, you know, the states are really laboratories for innovation and so we have a lot to contribute to this process of establishing a robust climate action plan in this country. And so there are many states, Maryland is just one of many states that are moving forward now with robust plans. And I think that the federal government will benefit from those plans in the end, as will other states who are looking to follow.

Monica Trauzzi: Vicki, are the states doing an effective job at sort of engaging and advancing the discussion on climate?

Vicki Arroyo: Well, like anything else, there are leaders states and Maryland is certainly one of them and there are many of them that we're really delighted to work with at our center. But there are some states there really aren't at the table and so I think that's why we need a federal policy. You know, we have a history in this country of having environmental laws that have a strong federal floor, if you will, but then the states can go beyond that. And so I think that's the kind of role that we envision the federal government should have, allow the states who want to be leaders to continue to lead, but make sure that everybody is doing their share.

Monica Trauzzi: Kathy, I want to sort of talk about two things that are happening in your state and how they're playing into the climate and environment goals that you have. The first being LNG export facilities. Dominion's Cove Point facility, it's facing some environmental backlash. There is suing happening on either side. When we talk about something like LNG exports, can that happen in an environmentally sound way and can a state like yours have facilities like those while you're also still trying to advance these aggressive climate goals?

Kathy Kinsey: Absolutely, absolutely. We have very strong regulatory programs in our state on the environmental and on the energy side and it's absolutely possible to have a safely operated, environmentally responsible operation. And we will have permits. If this facility moves forward, we will have permit applications that come before the agency and we will process those permits and they will be reviewed in accordance with the existing environmental requirements. And I feel that our programs are very robust and environmentally protective.

Monica Trauzzi: The future of fracking and its impacts on the environment is also a big discussion Maryland, as well as many other states around the country. Your state has proceeded a bit differently than others in terms of how you're addressing this. Why have you taken the approach that you've taken?

Kathy Kinsey: Because of some of the experiences that the other states have had and we want to ensure that when drilling and production does go forward in Maryland, we will be doing it in the most environmentally protective way that we can. And that is why we are taking a very cautious approach to it and we are looking at all of these environmental issues that are associated with impacts of fracking and natural gas production. And so, you know, one day when we do issue permits, we will be doing it in an environmentally protective way.

Monica Trauzzi: So Vicki, in the background of all of this state action we have EPA moving forward with certain air regulations. Are the two compatible? Are state regulations and state action compatible with EPA regs?

Vicki Arroyo: Absolutely, because, as I said, there's a long history in this country of cooperative federalism if you will, where EPA sets, you know, broad goals, broad national goals and the states actually are the leading implementers of environmental goals and standards in this country. So there's a long history of that and I think that we can start to do that successfully under the existing Clean Air Act authority until we, hopefully, ultimately get some more comprehensive climate and energy legislation through.

Monica Trauzzi: How do you think EPA's action on air regulations might impact certain states willingness or ability to join into programs like RGGI?

Vicki Arroyo: Well, I mean I think, like I said, you know, you have leadership states and then you have states that would not necessarily sign onto something, but given that EPA is moving forward, they realize that they actually have to figure out what to do with existing sources of, you know, fossil fuel burning for example, whether it be utility plants or refineries. And so I do think the fact that EPA is going to move forward first with a new source performance standard for new sources, but, ultimately, we expect a new source performance standard for existing sources. I think that is getting the states attention, not even just the leadership states, but all states to look at their own policies and figure out how that might fit within an EPA regime.

Monica Trauzzi: All right, we're going to end it there. Thank you both for coming on the show.

Vicki Arroyo: Thank you.

Kathy Kinsey: Thank you.

Monica Trauzzi: Thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

[End of Audio]



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