A Year of Victories, Highlights from 2022

A group of volunteers and elected officials gather in front of Sierra Club sign outside

In December of 2021, we reported we had big plans for 2022. We wanted to “go big” and pass “a bold package of climate policies, stop harmful highway boondoggles, revitalize parks and preserve natural places, and elect environmental champions all up and down the ticket!”

We are thrilled to report that the Sierra Club Maryland Chapter did just that! We organized, showed up, worked with partners, held rallies, and were powerful together. Then we pivoted to turn out the vote and help elect environmental champions at every level of government in Maryland. Meanwhile, our local Groups and issue teams educated, organized, and won victories. 

There are too many to share, but here are ten statewide and local highlights from 2022.

1. We filed a lawsuit against the I-495 and I-270 toll lane project! Maryland Sierra Club partnered with NRDC, National Trust, and Friends of Moses Hall to take legal action against this harmful and ill-conceived highway expansion project.The latest big news is that the toll lanes contract will not be advanced to the Board of Public works under the Hogan administration! Over the year we and partners kept up the pressure on the toll lanes project and raised over $100,000 in the Smart Growth Defense Fund to fund this work. We are so thankful to donors for making important and impactful work possible! Maryland Sierra Club worked with our partners in multiple coalitions, including as an executive committee member in Transform Maryland Transportation Coalition, to advocate for improving and funding public transit and electrifying passenger cars, trucks, and school buses.

2. Maryland Sierra Club helped elect environmental champions across the state! Sierra Club efforts helped elect Wes Moore and Aruna Miller as Governor and Lt. Governor, Brooke Lierman as Comptroller, and Anthony Brown as Attorney General. In addition, both houses of the Maryland General Assembly will have majorities of members who were endorsed by the Sierra Club because of their past actions and commitment to the environment. County and city governments often make innovations that become adopted as statewide policy. After this election, Maryland’s seven largest jurisdictions will all have strong environmental leadership. You can find a summary of our impact here.

3. Our Natural Places Team continues to grow, taking on big issues and winning! In 2022, the team focused on strengthening wildlife corridors, protecting streams, and protecting threatened forests. The Stream Protection Workgroup wrote comment letters, fact sheets, and action alerts and is working with state legislators on legislation to promote upland green infrastructure to prevent stormwater damage and destruction of streams. The Native Plant team helped develop and get passed the Native and Invasive Plant bill. The Land Use and Parks Workgroup was a lead advocate for the Great Maryland Outdoors Act parks bill, Old-Growth Forest bill, and an Action Alert “Ask the Girl Scouts to Conserve 633 acres.” The Legislative Workgroup supported the above legislative efforts and testimony or sign ons for over 20 bills, including bills passed to address invasive plant species and protect old growth forests and other irreplaceable natural areas. Our outings program is going strong again this year with ten new outings leaders in training and over 70 wonderful hikes and outdoor experiences enjoyed by all ages.

Group of people gather under a bridge on a sandy hill

4. Our legislative team brought home huge victories on clean energy, transportation, climate, natural places, and more! The landmark victory is the passage of the Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022! The Act sets one of the strongest carbon pollution reduction goals in the country, will help shift buildings away from using fossil fuels for heating, prepare our electric grid for greater use of renewable energy, electrify school buses, and create a climate corps. It sets a statewide 2031 goal of a 60% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 2006 levels and a 2045 goal of zero net emissions. 250 people met with over 120 legislators during the 2022 Lobby Night, and all our teams on transportation, energy, climate, natural places, and zero waste helped develop and advocate for many important bills. We also passed legislation to ensure labor and workforce development as Maryland transitions to electric transit buses and to require the state energy efficiency program to focus more on low-income tenants (that bill was vetoed, but it’s coming back in 2023). The team submitted written testimony on an impressive 120 bills, most drafted by our volunteer leaders. Get involved here!

Volunteers gather under tent on rainy day holding building electrification signs

5. The Chapter developed new climate goals and a new climate and clean energy campaign! After a decade of work, Maryland is poised to transition off coal by 2030. Recognizing this, we took time to ground ourselves and set new goals and strategies to help Maryland reach its ambitious goal of 60% reduction in GHG by 2031. This expansive vision document became the baseline of our new “Clean Energy for Maryland” campaign, which we launched with a fantastic house party featuring Senator Chris Van Hollen, Delegate Brooke Lierman, Staci Hartwell (NAACP), and many others. The chapter also collaborated with outstanding partners to develop  recommendations for the Maryland Commission on Climate Change that were largely adopted in their annual report and will now inform state policy.

6. The Chapter’s Zero Waste Team mobilized local governments around the state to prevent plastic pollution and reduce single-use waste! Working with municipal green teams, environmental commissions, and local partners, the Zero Waste Team promoted “Bring Your Own Bag” ordinances to reduce plastic pollution and incentivize use of reusable bags. With data collection and advocacy by local grassroots organizations, Easton and Salisbury both passed ordinances this fall. Discussion of ordinances is underway in six other municipalities and two counties. In Salisbury (see photo of the evening the ordinance passed, November 28), single-use carryout plastic bags will be banned at point of sale and there will be a mandatory minimum charge of 10 cents for other bags including paper, with the intention of promoting the use of reusable bags.

A dozen people gather in council chambers in front of a table with plastic bags.

7. The Chapter’s Growing for Change Taskforce awarded 11 small grants totalling $10,000 to Sierra Club Groups and partner organizations! The funding was used for environmental justice listening sessions, environmental youth programs, resources to promote accessibility at environmental events, tree plantings, and more. The Taskforce helped direct additional funding from the National Sierra Club for Spanish language interpretation and equity-advancing activities for the Eastern Shore, Southern Maryland, Prince George's Group, and Natural Places Committee. The Taskforce’s equity, justice, and inclusion activities were highlighted by National Sierra Club in September when member Teresa Ball was awarded the Maryland Chapter Strong Award.

8. Montgomery County Sierra Club mobilized and helped pass landmark legislation on building electrification, energy efficiency and smart growth in Maryland’s largest county! Montgomery County passed a landmark comprehensive building decarbonization bill for all-electric building standards for new construction by December 31, 2026. The group also championed with partners legislation the county passed setting minimum energy performance standards for existing buildings. Lastly, with years of strong support from the group, the county enacted Thrive 2050, a 30-year general plan emphasizing smart growth.

9. Prince George’s County Group successfully advocated for adoption of a County Climate Action Plan and a Climate Change Action Plan for the Prince George’s County Public Schools! Then their focus shifted to community engagement for climate action. To put equity and inclusion principles into practice, the Prince George’s Group teamed up with the City of District Heights to host a special community forum, “Environmental Justice and You: Energy and Equity” at the District Heights Municipal Center. Spanish interpretation was provided. Lessons learned from this project will inform planning for future community events that engage the general population in implementation of the Climate Action Plan. The Prince George’s Group also successfully promoted a county bill to reduce single-use waste by requiring food service businesses to provide single-use straws, stirrers, utensils, condiment packets, napkins, and cup sleeves only if requested by the customer.

A few dozen people gather in a gym

10. The Southern Maryland Group planted its 450th tree in Southern Maryland public parks! The Southern Maryland Sierra Club was nominated and won the prestigious ISA Gold Leaf Award for Outstanding Landscape Beautification Activities.Special thanks to the tree planting organizers, Sierra Club outings leaders, volunteers, members, supporters, public officials and candidates who attended! Sierra Club Catoctin Group also planted trees in 2022, collaborating with Stream Link on local tree plantings. The Catoctin Group worked actively in 2022 to elect environmental champions, lobbied for bill passage in Annapolis, and made progress on an effort in Frederick City to ban single-use plastic bags. They also continued their strong tradition of tabling and reaching out to the community at several Green Festivals and events in Frederick and Carroll Counties, including at the well-attended "In the Streets" event in September. 

A few people plant trees on the side of a park

These are just a few of the dozens of accomplishments we made together in 2022.

Please register for Lobby Night 2023 and consider a donation today to help us take advantage of the many new opportunities opening up in Maryland with new leadership in top state offices. 

A heartfelt thank you to staff, volunteers, contributors, community, and partner groups for your support, partnership, ideas, and action on behalf of each other and our Maryland environment. We achieved some major victories in 2022 and were powerful together.

The sky’s the limit for what we can accomplish in 2023!