Annapolis, MD – The battlefield over the proposed Eastern Shore wind turbine farm has returned to the Maryland General Assembly.
A bill was introduced Wednesday, March 4 to require the Maryland Public Service Commission before approving any wind turbines to “evaluate the extent to which an applicant’s plan for a specified proposed offshore wind project directly or indirectly encroaches on existing private , State, federal or Military infrastructure, resources, facilities, ranges or operating environments.” It prohibits the commission from approving the structures if the findings indicate an impact.
The bill, Senate Bill 899, was sponsored by Senator Steve Waugh (R – 29th District) and was cosponsored by Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller (D – 27th District) of Calvert County and Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton (D – 28th District) of Charles County, as well as 11 other senators.
St. Mary’s County public officials have expressed serious concerns about the impact on the operations of the Patuxent River Naval Air Station of the proposed Pioneer Green wind turbine farm in Somerset County near Crisfield. The Navy has logged in with their concerns about the effect of the turbines on radar and the base’s test mission.
A bill passed last year’s Maryland General Assembly session to put a moratorium on the turbines until the completion of a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on the impact of the project. That MIT study isn’t expected to be completed until the end of this year. But in the meantime then-governor Martin O’Malley vetoed the bill.
Subsequent to the bill veto U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski placed language in the federal defense spending authorization preventing the Navy from entering into any agreement with the wind turbine developer.
Waugh (shown above) told The Bay Net that Naval Air System Command (NAVAIR) Commanding Officer Vice Adm. David Dunaway told him in a recent meeting that the Mikulski amendment didn’t assure that the project would be permanently barred. As a result of the meeting, Waugh said he concluded, “The base and the test ranges are basically hanging out to dry.”
Waugh said he has been working on a bill to “permanently and completely” stop the project. At a recent Southern Maryland Delegation meeting, Middleton expressed reservations about any bill that would place a moratorium until completion of the study. But Middleton has signed onto Waugh’s bill to provide a permanent fix.
Waugh said he has run the text of his bill by Navy officials for a technical review and they agree that it would indeed provide a permanent stop to the project that so concerns them.
Waugh said he has been working hard since being elected last November to build relationships with the other senators in the overwhelmingly Democratic body. That included cosponsoring bills introduced by every other senator. He said that work has paid off because in his count of senators supporting SB 899, only 11 appear opposed, enough to get it out of the Senate.
A companion bill is expected to be introduced by the Southern Maryland Delegation on the House side. Since the deadline has passed for automatic acceptance of bills, both the Senate and House bills will have to go through their respective Rules committees before being assigned to standing committee for hearing. Waugh said he believes he has enough votes to get the bill out of the Senate Rules Committee,
“I lost a lot of sleep on the issue,” Waugh said over what he considers to have been the “hardest” challenge facing him for his freshman year. He said in the end he wrote the bill that was introduced. “The issue was complex, the job difficult,” he said. He added that it all boiled down to protecting the jobs at Pax River.
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