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Maryland House passes governor’s wind energy plan

The Maryland House of Delegates has approved Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposal to add fees to electric users’ bills to help draw developers to build a large wind farm off Ocean City.

The bill passed 88-47 on Friday morning.

During floor debate Thursday, the House adopted an amendment from House Minority Whip Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio (R-Dist. 37B) of Newcomb to exempt ratepayers who farm their land from paying the extra fee on the first 3,000 kilowatt hours of electricity they use in a month.

Before the bill went to the floor, the Economic Matters Committee reduced the average fee that would be added to residential ratepayers’ bills from $2 per month to $1.50 per month and lowered the percentage added to large commercial users’ electric bills from 2.5 percent to 1.5 percent.

The committee also exempted the first 750 million kilowatt hours of annual electricity use by an industrial concern from the added percentage fee.

Proponents of the legislation applauded its passage Friday.

“Maryland voters support offshore wind because it works for ratepayers, workers, our health and our climate,” Jen Brock-Cancellieri, deputy director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement.

“With today’s vote, the House of Delegates harnessed the winds of constituent support and took a significant step towards developing homegrown energy off the coast of the Eastern Shore.”

A January OpinionWorks poll of 1,405 registered voters found 64 percent of Marylanders “strongly” or “somewhat” favored paying a $2 surcharge on their electric bills to pay for offshore wind development.

On Monday, up to 600 supporters are planning to create a circle around the State House to show their support for the legislation in the Senate.

The bill was not voted out of the Senate Finance Committee earlier this year. A hearing on the House bill has not yet been scheduled in the Senate.