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Shot down

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s two big environmental pushes appear to have been rejected by lawmakers. For now, that’s a good thing for both our wallets and for rural areas of the state.

We can expect to see these measures return, either from the governor’s office, or under the auspices of other lawmakers acting by proxy in the next three years of O’Malley’s term.

O’Malley’s controversial legislation to ban septic systems was shot down last week, and looks set for a summer study.

That ban, which would shut down new developments of more than five houses if on septic systems, would unduly affect rural areas out of proportion to our urban neighbors. Understandably, this riled a number of powerful lobbies that persuaded cooler heads to prevail.

This week, O’Malley sat for several hours in the House Environmental Matters hearing room as delegates slated the governor’s plan to force energy utilities to invest in wind power. That, according to different estimates, will add to consumers’ monthly energy bills either $1.44, if you believe the administration, $2, according to a wind developer, or $3.61, according to state fiscal analysts.

O’Malley responded to the increased cost to ratepayers by saying that it was about the price of a couple of new light bulbs. That’s easy to say while living off a salary paid for with our taxes.

The measure, if enacted, would tie utilities into a 20-year contract to build a wind farm, 10 miles off the coast, that would provide enough energy to power 80 percent of Eastern Shore homes, or half of Baltimore.

We agree that this technology will be part of the country’s future for energy generation; wind power is free, and it is a reasonable alternative to pursue to offset the inevitable price increases that will follow as fossil fuels become harder to find and recover.

But the private sector needs to be encouraged to adopt these more environmentally sound options rather than having them jammed down their throats – and in turn the throats of customers – by state government.

Energy policy needs to be fixed at the federal level to ensure a level playing field for all.