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Wind farms in state forests: decision looms  

Gov. Martin O’Malley is to announce his administration’s long-awaited decision on Saturday in western Maryland about whether to allow wind farms in state forests.

State officials won’t say what the decision is in this long-running debate, which has divided environmentalists and drawn overflow crowds to public meetings in western Maryland and in Annapolis. But the governor has arranged to make his announcement at the breathtaking Monroe Run overlook in Savage River State Forest in Garrett County.

Some think he may announce a “split decision,” saying that wind turbines may be permitted on state lands but only if they pass strict environmental review. The head of the Maryland Energy Administration, Malcolm Woolf, will be with O’Malley for the announcement, according to an invitation e-mailed to one person by Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin. That makes some think O’Malley’s likely to give a nudge of some sort to wind power – particularly since he succeeded in getting legislation passed in Annapolis doubling the state’s long-range goal for renewable power produced in the state.

But others take heart from O’Malley’s choice of locations for his announcement, and from the fact that he’s making it personally and inviting vocal opponents of wind farms on public lands. As of late Wednesday, at least, David McAnally, CEO of US WindForce, one of the companies looking to build turbines in western Maryland, said he’d received no invite to the event. Nor had Mike Tidwell, head of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, who favors alternative energy to fight global warming, but qualifies support for wind on public lands to say they should be carefully sited.

“The venue, Monroe Run Vista, coincidentally is my favorite section of the Savage River State Forest,” John Bambacus, former state senator and retired Frostburg State University professor, wrote me in an e-mail yesterday. He is one of a bevy of current and former public officials in western Maryland – many of them Republicans, if it matters – who oppose putting wind farms in state forests.

“I took environmental field trips with my state and local government students for over 30 years,” Bambacus wrote. “It is one of the most beautiful segments of the forest, so I can’t believe he would make an announcement to place them in our state forests, but who knows for sure.”

No one who’s talking publicly, anyway. Keep an ear cocked to catch more whispers on the wind.

Bay & Environment

weblogs.baltimoresun.com

11 April 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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