ANNAPOLIS – Maryland’s Democratic gubernatorial candidates all agree that alternative energy resources are important for growing a sustainable economy.
But Attorney General Doug Gansler and Del. Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery, are calling for the state to develop more alternative energy resources than Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration has planned.
The O’Malley administration’s goal is to have the state spending 20 percent of its electricity purchases on renewable sources by 2022, including 2 percent from solar energy.
“But when it comes to protecting our environment and investing in Maryland’s renewable energy economy, we must aim higher,” Gansler said in a written response to a Capital News Service questionnaire for major Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates.
Gansler and Mizeur both said they want to see 40 percent of Maryland’s electricity purchases being for alternative sources, including solar, biomass and windmills, by 2025.
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said that the O’Malley administration has already made significant strides in promoting alternative energy, including the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act.
The act incentivizes developing up to 500 megawatts of offshore wind capacity.
Brown also said the effort to increase solar energy has already resulted in 2,000 new jobs and by 2018, he expects another 8,000 jobs.
“We will continue to promote the growth of both of these industries, which protect our environment while creating domestic employment,” he said.
Gansler said he thinks one way to promote renewable energy in Maryland is to provide incentives for utility companies to create or purchase certain kinds of renewable sources.
He said he would do this by allowing a company’s use of certain types of energy to count extra towards that company’s compliance with the state’s renewable energy standards.
Gansler also said he would encourage more use of chicken waste as an energy form.
He said that resource has been untapped and would give farmers on the Eastern Shore an additional income source while helping reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay through the animal waste’s nutrients.
Mizeur said she would push to make Maryland a wind energy manufacturing hub and develop a loan program to encourage environmentally-friendly construction through combustion.
While the Democratic candidates agree that alternative energy will help the state’s economy, many of the Republican candidates question its cost.
Harford County Executive David Craig said offshore wind is an expensive option and he has concerns about potential bird deaths and interference with the ocean bed.
Other Republicans said they did not want the state to invest in these resources without proof that the resources are economically strong options.
Charles Lollar, a Charles County businessman, said he does not think these sources have shown to be competitive in the market yet.
“I do not want – and it is not fair – to use the power of government to saddle Maryland taxpayers with additional costs to subsidize those who have made their own investments in developing these alternative energy mechanisms,” he said.
The Republican candidates showed more confidence in allowing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas in Maryland.
“We have an opportunity to revitalize our struggling communities, employ tens of thousands of unemployed workers and help make America energy independent,” said Del. Ron George, R-Anne Arundel.
“The new technology for extracting natural gas is the most cutting-edge, environmentally safe method ever invented,” George said.
O’Malley issued an order in 2011 that prevents the Maryland Department of the Environment from approving drilling permits until the end of a scientific study examining fracking.
The study is planned to be finalized later this year.
Larry Hogan, an Anne Arundel County real estate broker and leader of the conservative advocacy group Change Maryland, said he thinks states throughout the country have been safely and efficiently developing their own gas for decades.
“Maryland is definitely behind the curve because this administration has decided to politicize the issue rather than take a balanced approach to ensuring we have access to clean and affordable energy sources to power our homes and businesses and grow our economy,” Hogan said.
The Democratic candidates all said they want to approach fracking more cautiously than the GOP candidates.
Brown said he would carefully consider the results of the study issued by O’Malley before he would take any steps further towards allowing fracking.
“While the energy potential of the Marcellus Shale represents an enticing economic opportunity, we will not accept a process that jeopardizes our families or environment,” he said.
Gansler said he would also look carefully at the study and would build on his previous environmental work as attorney general.
Gansler said he went after Chesapeake Energy in 2011 for a well blowout that spilled fracking fluid into a tributary that feeds into the Susquehanna River.
He said his enforcement led to a $500,000 donation from the company to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission for water-quality monitoring and the company implementing to minimize the impact of drilling on water quality.
Mizeur said the studies of fracking in the state have been underfunded and behind schedule.
She said that as governor she would strongly consider the science when looking at fracking and demand more government oversight in examining the process.
“Second chances are expensive,” she said. “We have to get this one right the first time.”
The Maryland primary elections are June 24.
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