Frostburg resident John Bambacus wrote Delegate Wendell Beitzel in February, asking him to sponsor the repeal of a law passed in 2007 that exempts industrial wind farms from public scrutiny.
He asked again this week in light of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s apparent willingness to consider being a part of an industrial wind energy facility off the shores of Ocean City. This time, the former state senator received the answer he wanted.
Off-shore wind farms would be required to go through a heavy regulatory process facilitated by the state Department of Planning – much like on-shore projects were to undergo until the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 566 during the 2007 session.
The law, argued by Paula Carmody and the Office of the People’s Counsel, eliminated “a comprehensive government review, evaluation and comment process” as well as “requirements for public notice in local newspapers and an opportunity for public comment and, in particular, the requirement for a public hearing to be held in the (jurisdiction) where the generating facility would be located.”
Beitzel said he voted against the bill initially – as did Delegates Kevin Kelly and LeRoy Myers, along with Sen. George Edwards. He told Bambacus he’ll “take a look” at introducing or co-sponsoring a bill to repeal the law. The bill passed 40-6 in the Senate and 124-14 in the House.
Beitzel called the law “a step backwards” and its pitfalls are highlighted by the fact that off-shore projects will still go through the full regulatory process. He said he understood the bill’s intent, which was to encourage companies to consider Maryland for wind energy facilities.
In an e-mail to Bambacus on Wednesday, Carmody said should a bill be introduced to repeal SB 566, “I will support it.”
She said her office fully supports the state’s efforts to find renewable and more affordable energy sources. At the same time, regulatory proceedings, including public comment, should not be abandoned, she said.
Bambacus said there shouldn’t be a difference between land-based wind turbines and off-shore projects.
“Our mountain ridges are every bit as important to us as the (Chesapeake) bay and (Atlantic) ocean are to those who live on the Eastern Shore,” Bambacus said.
Right now, “land-based wind turbines are on a fast-track (approval process). They get no environmental, health or safety review” from the Maryland Public Service Commission, the Department of the Environment or other agencies, much less the general public.
“In this case, I think people who think their property could be damaged or adversely impacted should have the opportunity to comment,” Beitzel said. “SB 566 took that right away from them and it ought to be restored.”
He said he’d confer with his District 1 delegation colleagues before taking action next session.
20 July 2008
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