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O’Malley rallies for offshore wind as likelihood of passage wanes


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Published on: Thursday, March 24, 2011

By Kerry Davis, Capital News Service

Gov. Martin O’Malley rallied about 40 supporters of offshore wind energy Wednesday, urging them to join him in one last chant that they hope will reach the ears of key committee legislators in Annapolis — “Pass the Bill!”

Environmentalists, steelworkers, lobbyists and others stood on the City Dock to make their final plea for passage of the offshore wind energy bill. The bill would contractually obligate utility companies to purchase some energy from offshore wind production companies for 25 years, once wind turbines are built. The turbines would be located about 12 miles offshore of Ocean City.

But the bill has been held up in Senate and House committees because of concerns over potential costs to the state and consumers.

“As drafted, it would be very tough to get that bill passed, but hopefully we can bring stakeholders together, work on amendments and so forth and see what we can do,” said Delegate Dereck Davis, D-Prince George’s.

Davis chairs the House Economic Matters Committee and hopes to schedule a public utilities subcommittee meeting for the bill next week. That leaves less than two weeks before the end of the legislative session to get the bill through the House and Senate.

O’Malley addressed the cost to consumers concern by announcing an amendment that would cap rate increases at $2 per month. Another amendment would require wind energy developers to pass along savings from federal tax incentives to ratepayers, according to an O’Malley press release.

Sen. Paul Pinsky, one of the bill’s sponsors, believes the next 72 hours will be critical to determining whether it will pass this year or be deferred and studied this summer instead.

“I’m optimistic, but I think it could go either way,” said Pinsky, a Prince George’s Democrat.

But some opponents believe the bill is too cumbersome to pass this session.

“I’m surprised by how expensive it is and how little it actually does to help the environment,” said Delegate Herbert McMillian, R-Anne Arundel.

Even supporters are cautious.

“I think there are a whole lot of obstacles to the passage of it,” said Sen. Thomas Middleton, D-Charles, and chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “The lobbyists are really lining up, there’s a lot of money being spent in Annapolis because they have some real concerns and every time you put a rate increase on the rate payers, then the rate payers get angry.”

If the wind energy bill isn’t passed, environmentalists hope that it, like others on O’Malley’s green agenda, will return next year.

“There’s a couple different ways to look at a big bill like this because they often do take multiple years,” said Kim Coble, executive director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “In some ways that’s common practice and that could be what’s happened.”

Reader Comments - 1 Total

captcha 267f971b16c145998536a5e404a6f831

Posted By: M Sweet On: 3/25/2011

Title: Windpower is a Win-Win for Maryland

At a Candidates’ Forum last October, Delegate Herb McMillan expressed his frustration at the Maryland government’s failure to take concrete steps to reach environmental goals like the State’s 20 percent by 2022 renewable energy portfolio standard.
It is ironic that the very same delegate now decries the Governor’s wind bill as an “expensive” proposal that would do “little…to help the environment.”
The Governor’s wind bill is exactly the kind of policy Delegate McMillan called for: it will cut air pollution, reduce congestion charges for importing electricity from out-of-state, provide a hedge against rising fossil fuel prices, and generate thousands of green jobs for MD workers.
According to the MEA, a 500MW wind park off our coast will prevent 945,000 tons of carbon emissions annually - equivalent to taking more than 180,000 cars off the road. On the health front, it would save 20 to 30 lives and over $160 Million in health costs every year.
Given these benefits, the price for wind is absolutely reasonable too. Under a recent administration amendment, proposals will be rejected if they are projected to cost the average ratepayers more than $2 per month in 2016. Compare this to fossil fuels, which have doubled in price in the last decade and are still rising. If volatile fossil fuel prices continue along this trend, the comparable price of offshore wind will steadily decrease and could eventually result in a rebate.
And wind energy jobs are already on their way. AC Wind, a Maryland company, recently announced plans to invest $10 Million to build a turbine blade manufacturing facility that will provide steady employment for hundreds of Maryland’s unemployed composite workers.
Protecting the ratepayer and our environment by investing in offshore wind power is a clear win-win for Maryland.




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