The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee offered up the classic Annapolis solution to the politically tricky off-shore wind legislation that Gov. Martin O’Malley is pushing this year: Transform it into a study.
Sen. Thomas M. Middleton said Monday that the proposal to build a wind farm off Ocean City is still encountering stiff resistance in his committee, despite a flurry of one-on-one meetings with the governor and key Senate and House members.
“Some people believe there should be a study,” said Middleton, who said he hopes that issues can be resolved. But time is running out: The general assembly session ends in less than three weeks.
To build momentum for the bill, O’Malley is set to hold a news conference at City Dock in Annapolis today. He’ll stress the the 2,000 jobs he believes it would generate.
Joe Bryce, O’Malley’s top lobbyist, said Tuesday that Maryland is “in a race” with other states that are angling to host off-shore farms and therefore can ill afford to delay action for a year.
The bill is one of several key pieces of the governor’s legislative agenda to face tough scrutiny from lawmakers. O’Malley’s plan to limit septic systems at new developments has been stopped up in the House and a proposal to create a $100 million investment capital fund hasn’t reached the floor of either chamber.
The wind legislation would direct the state’s utilities to enter 25-year contracts with energy firms to build a wind farm in the Atlantic Ocean. The cost could exceed $1 billion and would be borne by the state’s ratepayers.
The governor has stressed that the charge to ratepayers would be negligible: The administration estimates it would be $1.44 a month, but other estimates are higher.
But Middleton said the bulk of the opposition is centered on the costs to ratepayers. After facing tough elections and angry votes last November, many senators and delegates are particularly sensitive to pocketbook issues.
House Speaker Micheal E. Busch did not sound as rushed. “It is a distance run, not a sprint,” he said. Complicated legislation, like the wind bill, can benefit from “thorough dissection,” he said.
“Sometimes it takes more than one session,” Busch said.
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