Twenty-eight lawmakers have co-sponsored a resolution that recommends passage of an offshore wind power contract.
It was filed Thursday by Rep. Robert Valihura, R-Talleyville; half of the Republican-controlled House, including Speaker Terry Spence, had signed on as co-sponsors.
The resolution says Controller General Russ Larson should approve a 25-year contract for Delmarva Power to buy offshore wind power from Bluewater Wind. At a meeting with three other state agencies last month, Larson declined to sign the contract because of division among Legislative leadership.
The concurrent resolution’s lead sponsors are Valihura, Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark South, and Sens. Liane Sorenson, R-Hockessin, and David Sokola, D-Newark.
One co-sponsor, Rep. Peter Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, said he hoped the measure would pass in the House and move to the Senate.
“Hopefully, they can take the battle to the Senate, and have successful results,” he said.
But it faces an uncertain future there. While seven of 21 senators co-sponsored the resolution, including three Democrats, none of the Democratic majority leadership had signed on. Senate Majority Leader Anthony DeLuca could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Sen. Harris McDowell III, D-Wilmington, chairman of the Senate Energy and Transit Committee, said he will first hold hearings on a broad range of renewable energy sources. That could hold up consideration of the resolution.
This resolution has a bit less bite than the version Valihura was shopping around last week, because it “recommends,” rather than directs, Larson to approve the contract. The new resolution says the Public Service Commission should consider spreading costs of the wind power to all Delmarva customers, but doesn’t take a stand on how the PSC should vote. The PSC alone holds the power to spread out costs to all Delmarva customers.
Schwartzkopf said such strict language wasn’t necessary to get the lawmakers’ point across.
Valihura said not to read too much into the change in language. Larson will be responsive to the will of the General Assembly, he said.
“If it passes both chambers, he’ll know what he has to do. He works for us,” Valihura said.
Valihura said Spence has been a supporter from early on, and that getting his name on the resolution “makes it a little easier to bring on other members of the House.”
Rep. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said he’d give the resolution a fair hearing during the upcoming six-week break. Hocker said he’d bring the resolution to a vote in committee, but wouldn’t speculate on the outcome.
Hocker said he has some personal concerns about the power purchase agreement since it ties Delmarva to a long-term contract. Deregulation hasn’t been given enough time to spur competition in Delaware, and forcing all Delmarva customers to pay would discourage competition, he said. But Hocker said he’d keep an open mind.
If the resolution passes both chambers, Larson would respond and if he signs off, it would be brought back to the four agencies for reconsideration.
Schwartzkopf said the purpose of the resolution was “so that we can send a signal, loud and clear, we want to complete House Bill 6 and move forward.” Schwartzkopf was referring to the law requiring the state to pursue homegrown sources of electricity. “I know we can get bogged down in technicalities, but right now we need to make a decision. The nuts and bolts can be worked out.”
Schwartzkopf said he expected more lawmakers to sign on, and some to drop off, the resolution. “They might have second thoughts at some point in time, and that’s fine,” he said.
Kowalko said the resolution is a way for people to hold their representatives accountable. If the resolution gets to the floor, members of both chambers would have to go on record as for or against the contract, Kowalko said.
“It would be hard to explain to voters why you would vote against this,” Kowalko said.
By Aaron Nathans
18 January 2008
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