Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley on Wednesday attributed the prolonged power outages that left hundreds of thousands of Marylanders in the dark to global warming, saying the state's electricity grid could not handle stronger storms caused by climate change.
"A grid that was resilient for the weather of [the past] is not resilient enough to withstand violent storms that climate change and global warming in our atmosphere are causing today," O'Malley said during a Board of Public Works meeting, at which he called for an enhanced power grid but praised the state's emergency response.
The Maryland governor -- and possible Democratic presidential contender -- has built much of his political brand on green energy efforts and tighter environmental standards in the liberal-leaning state. O'Malley this year called for wind farms off the Maryland coast and successfully pushed through a higher "flush" tax to help Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts.
Yet, some analysts said O'Malley should refrain from grouping global warming into the debate about improving electricity performance.
"All he's doing is muddying the message," Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary's College, said. "There's nothing special about the storm. You have a perfect message that our infrastructure desperately needs to be upgraded. He's trying to serve too many constituencies."
Most Marylanders have directed their ire at Pepco, the Washington region's largest power provider and one of the least popular companies in the nation, according to surveys. Yet, O'Malley refrained from blasting the electricity provider, instead saying the state needed to lessen its dependence on traditional energy sources.
"Because of our reliance on the exponential increase in fossil fuels, we have the added variable of much more violent weather than what our parents and grandparents faced," O'Malley said, adding the state would not become "slaves to circumstance."
O'Malley's Republican critics pounced on the remarks, accusing the governor of deflecting blame for yet another power debacle in the Old Line State.
"He's more 'Looney Tunes' now than ever," said Maryland House Minority Leader Anthony O'Donnell, R-Calvert County. "He's trying to pull a storm out of where the sun doesn't shine. He's trying to raise a fear factor because of his own inadequacies."
O'Malley is responsible for appointing members to the Public Service Commission, which oversees Pepco and other power providers. That commission has admitted Pepco was deficient in keeping the lights on throughout the D.C. area.