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Martin O'Malley proposes round three for Maryland wind farm legislation

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Photo - Wind turbines farm in sea near Denmark
Wind turbines farm in sea near Denmark
Local,Maryland,Andy Brownfield

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley hopes the third time's the charm for approving an offshore wind farm in the Free State.

O'Malley's legislative priorities include a bill to incentivize the construction of such a farm, which would be 10 miles off Ocean City and produce enough energy to power a quarter of the homes in Baltimore.

It also would increase fees for ratepayers.

Similar legislation passed the state's House of Delegates last year 88-47 but has stalled in Senate committees for the past two sessions.

"It's got a lot of support this year," said Tom Carlson, Maryland campaign director for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. He said it's not uncommon for major pieces of legislation to take a few years to get approval from both houses of the General Assembly.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's and Calvert counties, said the governor's proposal has enough support in his chamber to pass.

Maryland wind energy has been a priority for O'Malley. The governor's energy adviser, Abigail Hopper, said the new legislation would closely resemble the past proposals. She declined to give details but said the bill would be introduced Monday and the governor would outline the proposal for reporters Tuesday.

Last year's bill would have created a bid process that would afford the winning developer a tax credit in exchange for the power it generates. The credit would finance the construction of the wind farm.

The winning developer would have to meet a number of criteria, including capping any rate increases at $1.50 a month and proving the farm would provide benefits to the state -- such as creating jobs and reducing pollution that comes from burning fossil fuels.

However, opponents say a wind farm would only cost ratepayers and the state can't afford to offer those tax credits.

"When you look at the forecasts that are out in terms of the budget, [the state is] still not out of the weeds, the economy is still edging along," said Christopher Summers, president of the Maryland Public Policy Institute. "It's sort of like giving someone who's just learning how to swim a cinder block."

Carlson said it's true that wind energy currently costs more than fossil fuels, but last year's bill would have locked in the $1.50 rate increase for 20 years.

abrownfield@washingtonexaminer.com

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