November 30, 2012

O’Malley to reintroduce offshore wind bill

by Holly Nunn Staff writer | November 28, 2012 |

Gov. Martin O’Malley plans to reintroduce a bill to provide funding for an offshore wind farm – legislation that has twice failed to make it out of the General Assembly, an administrations spokeswoman said Wednesday.

“We’re hoping to introduce something similar to last year,” said spokeswoman Takkira Winfield, noting that the details of the bill are still being hammered out.

“I had worked with the governor’s people on how to get that extra vote in my committee, and I think he’s optimistic that he has the votes to pass the bill,” said Sen. Thomas McLain Middleton (D-Dist. 28) of Waldorf, chairman of the Finance Committee, where O’Malley’s bill died last year.

Sen. Catherine E. Pugh (D-Dist. 40) of Baltimore, who opposed the bill last session, said she continues to have questions.

“I hope [the bill] in improved from the last time I saw it, but I still have concerns,” Pugh said, including whether minority businesses would be involved in the development of offshore farms.

“We’re asking the public, everyone, to pay to jump-start this industry,” Pugh said. “There ought to be some inclusiveness in ownership, given the diversity of the state.”

Also, Pugh said, she would like to see more movement on studying the state’s natural gas reserves, which are currently sitting idle due to an executive order stalling permits for drilling using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The controversial procedure pumps water and chemicals into the rock formations where gas is trapped.

Extensive studies on the health and environmental effects must be done before the state will issue permits, according to the executive order, but no funding mechanism for the studies has been proposed.

“Natural gas is going to lower utility bills more than any other method,” Pugh said. “It’s a job creator, and I would like to see Maryland get in on it.”

Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-Dist. 36) of Elkton, also on tshe Finance Committee, said he also would like to see O’Malley proceed on natural gas.

“The governor has got to have higher priorities in his portfolio than wasting billions of dollars on the most expensive form of energy there is,” Pipkin said.

“Since this was originally introduced, the price of natural gas has plummeted, making wind energy make even less economic sense … We need to take a hard look at natural gas.”

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