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Energy companies contribute thousands to Maryland Democrats

Energy companies have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Gov. Martin O’Malley and other Democrats in their attempts to build political support for wind farms, solar projects and other energy-related initiatives.

Constellation Energy, a large Baltimore power company that started construction Thursday on what will be Maryland’s largest solar energy plant, has contributed nearly $1 million in the last decade to various lawmakers, candidates and political groups in the state.

Constellation’s contributions to the state’s Democratic Committee alone total a quarter million dollars since 2000 – $180,000 of which was donated in the last election cycle, according to campaign finance reports. The state is planning to buy the energy produced by Constellation’s new solar plant.

The Fortune 500 company, which owns Baltimore Gas and Electric, has been lobbying Maryland officials for years to build a third nuclear power plant at Calvert Cliffs through a joint venture with EDF Group of France. That venture fell through, however, and now the company is battling Maryland leaders over its planned purchase by Chicago company Exelon.

Another major contributor to Maryland officials has been Energy Answers International, a New York company that is planning to build a controversial waste-burning power plant in Baltimore.

In June 2009, the company applied for a license to build the plant. Over the next two years, Energy Answers, Chief Executive Officer Patrick Mahoney and owner

Covanta Energy gave roughly $30,000

to the O’Malley administration and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

O’Malley in October 2010 praised the planned plant as a national model for green energy. Ten days later, the companies heaped $16,000 on him and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown through campaign donations.

Two other companies with interests in the planned plant – Curtis Bay Energy and Old Fairfield LLC – have contributed an additional $20,000 to O’Malley, Brown and Rawlings-Blake.

One of the top campaign contributors in Maryland’s wind energy industry is Synergics Energy Development, which contributed more than $36,000 to Maryland Democrats before receiving state approval to build its farm in Garrett County.

Major utility companies such as Pepco and Allegheny Energy have historically made hefty campaign contributions. But smaller utilities, such as Reliant Energy, also have given money.

Reliant, which recently began selling electricity to Maryland customers, has given roughly $10,000 to state officials over the last two years. The independent Maryland Public Service Commission approved the company’s application for a state retail license in October 2010.