Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley faced stiff opposition Tuesday from a key Senate committee over his offshore wind energy proposal, which would force utilities to buy more wind power.
Lawmakers on the state’s Senate Finance Committee, which is charged with deciding whether the bill will get a full vote in the Senate, grilled O’Malley for nearly an hour over how much the proposal would end up costing ratepayers.
The bill was tabled last year because of similar concerns.
“We need offshore wind,” O’Malley told the committee. He estimated that the legislation, which supports the development of an offshore wind farm off the coast of Ocean City, would bring 6,000 jobs to Maryland.
He also added a safeguard to this year’s bill that would ensure no ratepayer pays more than $2 a month for utilities’ investments in wind power, he said.
“Some people can’t even afford those $2,” said Sen. Catherine Pugh, D-Baltimore City.
O’Malley said that in 30 years, the cost of burning fossil fuels will end up being higher than wind energy.
“We are already going to be incurring costs moving forward unless you believe the price of energy and the price of burning fossil fuels is going to be going down by itself,” O’Malley said.
“Ratepayers wouldn’t be charged for wind energy generation until the turbines start spinning. … The soonest that would happen would be five years away.”
Republican Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin said other states that are developing wind power, such as New Jersey and Massachusetts, have had to rely heavily on loan guarantees and tax credits from the federal government. Many of those federal programs are set to expire soon if they haven’t already, he said.
“Clearly it would be very, very helpful if the federal government would renew the offshore wind energy credits,” O’Malley said. “I don’t have a crystal ball that can see how all of this comes together.”
Other lawmakers questioned the accuracy of O’Malley’s estimates regarding how many jobs the legislation would bring to Maryland.
The bill does not require in-state hiring for the construction of Maryland’s proposed offshore wind farm.
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