Southern Maryland lawmakers will be reintroducing a bill to put a moratorium on a wind turbine project across the Chesapeake Bay that is viewed as a threat to radar testing at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, according to Del. Tony O’Donnell (R-St. Mary’s, Calvert).
“It’s going to virtually be the same bill,” O’Donnell said Friday afternoon, as the one passed by the Maryland General Assembly last year, but then vetoed by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).
“The entire delegation will be behind it,” he said.
St. Mary’s County sent two new delegates and a new state senator, all Republicans, to join O’Donnell in Annapolis after last November’s election.
Last year’s bill, which was also sponsored by Southern Maryland lawmakers, would have stopped Pioneer Green’s Great Bay energy project of 25 wind turbines in Somerset County until the Massachusetts Institute of Technology completed a $2 million study on its effect on specialized radar systems at Pax River.
Opponents of the project, including Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md., 5th), testified last year the tall wind turbines would interfere with the ADAMS radar system and could endanger jobs at the Navy base, which provides employment to 22,000 people.
Despite majority support of the bill in both houses, then-Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) vetoed that bill last May as a proponent of renewable energy.
“We worked it very hard,” O’Donnell said at a meeting of Southern Maryland legislators in Annapolis on Friday morning. “The entire delegation worked it very hard. We think we are OK, but we shouldn’t leave that to chance.”
Later asked if he expected another veto of the bill this session with a new governor, Larry Hogan (R), in office, O’Donnell said, “I do not. It’s important the state of Maryland not rely on external forces. We should make a policy statement. My hope is the bill passes and we offer that protection as a Maryland General Assembly.”
The reintroduced bill would call for another year-long moratorium while MIT completes its wind turbine compatibility study. Asked about the progress of that study, O’Donnell said, “I heard it’s moving along OK.”
St. Mary’s County Commissioner Todd Morgan (R), a program manager with a defense contractor, said the MIT study was expected to be completed this summer, but that date is now pushed back until December of this year.
Last October, the U.S. Department of Defense formally objected to the Great Bay wind turbine project in writing. The project is still on the table, but still needs local, state and federal approvals, sources say.
Those same sources say that with federal restrictions already in place on the wind turbines, the reintroduction of the state moratorium bill is unnecessary and mainly symbolic in nature.
The Navy cannot enter into negotiations with Pioneer Green on any agreement on the wind turbine project until the MIT study is completed, per federal congressional action.
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