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Somerset Co. Commissioners delay decision on wind energy project

PRINCESS ANNE, Md.- Somerset County Commissioners have not reached a decision on whether to approve a contentious wind energy project proposal.

Commissioners convened for an open session to discuss a letter, from the Department of Defense, that objected to the Great Bay Wind project. In the letter, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said the project poses an “unacceptable risk” to national security and would “impair or degrade the capability of the Department of Defense to conduct research.” Concerns about the cluster of turbines interfering with the radar system at Patuxent River Naval Air Station were addressed by Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD 5) as well.

Earlier this week, Pioneer Green Energy’s Vice President, Adam Cohen, said in a statement “the Navy has never presented any data to contradict the agreement they originally approved.” In a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration, the company explained its ongoing efforts to mitigate DOD concerns. An agreement was reached with the agency in January of 2014, according to the letter.

Commissioner Charles Fisher spoke out against the project and voted to kill it. He said ” Somerset County can’t fight Washington and the Defense Department is much bigger than we are.” Like Fisher, Rex Simpkins voted to kill the proposal and said “this project is over.”

Commissioner Craig Mathies and Randy Laird voted to table the request until the FAA reaches a decision about the issue. Laird said he does not want to deter other businesses from coming to the county. He also acknowledged that Pioneer Green Energy has spent the last four years trying to turn their plan into reality.

Commissioner Jerry Boston abstained from voting.

Some people were not happy with the outcome.

“They would have been wise to go ahead and kill this,” said Ronald Declement, who lives in Westover.

“The commissioners just seemed to avoid reaching a decision; they just kind of punted this,” said Harvey Kagan, who lives near Princess Anne.

According to Pioneer Green, $2.9 million dollars will be generated for the county during the first year of the project, and 529 jobs will be created during the construction phase. County commissioners said six to eight jobs will be permanent during the operation and maintenance phase.

Somerset County Planning and Zoning Director Gary Pusey said the commission will submit its draft ordinance to county commissioners next week.