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March 23, 2011

O'Malley continues wind energy push

With lawmakers on the fence about one of his signature legislative issues this year, Gov. Martin O'Malley today made the case that investing in offshore wind would help create jobs in the short term and stabilize energy rates over the long run.

The Democratic governor urged the General Assembly to pass his offshore wind plan because "if we don't make the right choices," he said, fossil fuels will continue to rise, global warming will continue and other states will jump ahead in the country's relatively new push to harness wind for electricity.

O'Malley spoke at Annapolis' City Dock, surrounded by environmental activists and building trades workers who stand to benefit from new jobs if the state adopts a plan to build and install steel wind turbines more than 10 miles off the coast of Ocean City.

But lawmakers have been reluctant about the plan and its associated costs, which would be passed along to utility customers across the state. Sen. Thomas "Mac" Middleton, chairman of the Senate committee considering the proposal, recently suggested it may need a study before lawmakers embrace it.  

To allay fears about rate increases, O'Malley today suggested an amendment limiting the added cost to a maximum of $2 per month in the first year. Sen. Paul Pinsky, who has pushed for wind energy the past two years, said he's not sure if the one-year cap would be enough to move the bill forward.

Less than three weeks remain in the 2011 legislative session.

The wind legislation would direct the state's utilities to enter 25-year contracts with energy firms to build a wind farm that could produce about 500 megawatts of power. The cost could exceed $1 billion and would be borne by the state's ratepayers.

The governor has stressed that the charge to ratepayers would be negligible: The administration estimates it would be $1.44 a month, but other estimates are higher.

Both senators and delegates have expressed concerns about the potential costs.

Del. Dereck Davis, chairman of the House committee vetting O'Malley's wind bill, predicted the $2 cap would "certainly be helpful" in winning over lawmakers, though he, too, was unsure if it would be enough to get the bill through this year.

Told that the proposed cap is for Year One only, Davis asked, "What about the other years?"

O'Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec said the legislation provides several safeguards about ratepayer costs in future years.

The Public Service Commission is required to reject wind proposals that are not comparable with other offshore wind projects, and must evaluate "lowest cost impact over the term of the power purchase agreement on ratepayers."

Building trades leaders stressed the jobs that offshore wind could bring. Maryland has lost 85,000 manufacturing jobs over the past two decades, one speaker said.

Jim Strong of the United Steelworkers of Maryland said the state would not be able to revive its employment base "until we start making things."

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 4:49 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: 2011 legislative session
        

Comments

O'Malley should stop focusing on wind energy and start focusing on things that matter like lighters.

Why not just take our money and give it directly to the people who would of built the windmills? Then we won't have to look at the ugly windmills and we'll still make omalleys friends happy!

What this windmill caper is really about is the Gov looking for his next job-- as EPA Administrator. Since the Senior Senator ain't goin', the Gov is in the political equivalent of a box canyon, as he tries to navigate a path out of Annapolis....

Done deal, Mike Enrights company will get the job.

Move on to something else.

O'Malley's "jobs" plan:

-Increase fees (read: taxes) AND the cost for a good (electricity) to create temporary jobs.

Someone should tell O'Malley the goal is to create more jobs than he can lose with policy-making decisions. He's stuck on simply creating jobs without realizing his policies often lose more jobs.

We are on the race to the bottom on the issue of energy. Annapolis with there lack of wisdom, has decided to not allow drilling for natural gas in Western Md. Never mind the funds that the state could bring in to help with the over blotted budget! But here is another missed opportunity for badly needed jobs within the State.

I was speaking to a friend and he informed me, he has a friend in Okalahoma with four oil wells. The Federal Government pays him not to drill. So much for energy independence!

The far left is on a quest to drive the energy prices up, with the brunt of the pain by the middle class and the poor in the country. Yet these same folks in Washington have the nerve to send one billion to Brazil to drill for new oil. Which in return will send the oil too China. You know the place. Where a lot of our manufacturing companies now make!
The Once Proud Made In America Products. The energy policy of wind mills is a good form of energy, but it is not enough to cover the needs of the American People.

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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