Supporters of a bill that aims to decarbonize many types of new buildings attend a County Council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 29. Credit: Steve Bohnel

This story was updated at 3:45 p.m. Nov. 29, 2022, to note County Executive Marc Elrich will sign the bill. It was updated at 5:35 p.m. to update the headline to clarify Elrich’s stance.

The County Council passed a bill Tuesday that sets goals of decarbonizing many types of new buildings by later this decade — even as County Executive Marc Elrich objected to many last-minute amendments delaying the legislation’s overall implementation.

The bill will impact many forms of new construction in the county in future years and decades, as developers, utility companies, county government, and other partners work to implement regulations to execute it. Advocates say it’s needed to fight the impacts of climate change.

Council Members unanimously voted 9-0 to approve the bill.

Council President Gabe Albornoz (D-At-large) introduced amendments that essentially delay the implementation timeline by a year, due to the new deadline According to council staff documents, Elrich’s administration “must issue all-electric building standards for new construction as part of the County’s next building code adoption cycle after this Act takes effect but not later than December 31, 2026” under the new law. 

Major renovations to current buildings are now exempt from the legislation, a component that was in the original bill. It also exempts buildings that use a considerable amount of energy in their day-to-day operations. Albornoz also introduced an amendment that exempts gas-powered fireplaces and outdoor grills. 

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Council Member Hans Riemer (D-At-large) , lead sponsor of the bill, also introduced an amendment that exempts residential buildings that are four stories or more in height from the bill’s requirements until 2027. All the amendments passed.

Elrich opposed the amendments delaying the implementation of the bill, stating it would weaken it.

“Electric buildings are being built today in Montgomery County, including the Marriott Headquarters in downtown Bethesda and the Housing Opportunities Commission’s Hillandale Gateway project. There is no economic, technological, or scientific reason to delay implementation or weaken Bill 13-22,” Elrich wrote in a memo to the council.

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Delaying implementation would also make it more difficult for the county to achieve its Climate Action Plan goals, Elrich’s memo stated. The plan aims to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 80% by 2027 and 100% by 2035.

Along with this bill, the county has taken other actions like adopting legislation to improve building energy performance standards, and shifting its buses to run on electricity, not diesel. 

Other amendments would make it more difficult for the Department of Permitting Services to enforce the bill, according to the memo.

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Elrich wrote in a text on Tuesday that he would sign the bill, despite his concerns.