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O’Malley’s New Bid For Offshore Wind Power
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January 23, 2013
For the third time in three years, Governor Martin O’Malley has launched an ambitious bid to locate giant wind turbines off the coast of Ocean City. WYPR’s Karen Hosler reports that the breeze may finally be at his back, though rough weather still threatens.
Karen Hosler: Flanked by a coalition of business, labor, civil rights and environmental activists, Governor O’Malley took up the cause of offshore wind power once again today—this time amid assurances that he finally has enough support for General Assembly approval.
Governor Martin O’Malley: Sometimes big, challenging ideas take more than one session to get accomplished.
Hosler: But Senate Republican Leader E.J. Pipkin, a long-time critic of the project, was unmoved.
State Senator E.J. Pipkin: Look this is just the dumbest idea ever because each year the governor brings it back, the economics get worse.
Hosler: Prospects for the wind power bill brightened recently after a reshuffle of committee assignments in the Senate, where the measure fell one vote short last year in the Finance Committee. Committee Chairman Thomas Middleton predicted that would not be a problem this year.
State Senator Thomas Middleton: I feel very, very confident that we will get the bill out of my committee and there will be successful passage of it this year.
Hosler: O’Malley acknowledged, though, that winning approval of the legislation would only be the first step. Over the next few years, state officials would try to join with other public and private partners to create a financial structure that attracts investors while protecting utility rate-payers against a big boost in fees.
O’Malley: And that’s going to be real challenge given the legislature’s tight constraints that they put in place to protect consumers from and rate increase…any significant rate increase.
Hosler: The governor and his allies argue that launching a wind farm with 30 to 70 turbines 10 miles off Maryland’s Atlantic Coast would pay a double dividend of cleaner air and hundreds of new jobs. Senator Paul Pinsky, a Prince Georges County Democrat and leader on environmental issues, says it’s time Maryland pushed harder to wean off carbon-based fuels.
State Senator Paul Pinsky: The more we have power from renewable, from sustainable energy sources, the less we’re going to have to rely on energy sources that despoil the air and the water.
Hosler: Yet, wind power remains very expensive. Sen. Pipkin said recent estimates suggest it costs four times as much as conventional fuels, such as coal and natural gas. So far, after years of effort, not one off-shore wind project has been constructed in the United States—though projects are pending in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Jersey. With the $10 million in financing offered in Governor O’Malley’s bill, he hopes to make Maryland a national leader in the field.
O’Malley: What we will be able to do is as we move forward is to make Maryland the epicenter of this movement to off-shore wind in the Atlantic.
Hosler: A successful wind power project would also likely enhance O’Malley’s national standing as he contemplates a possible bid for higher office when his term ends next year. He says his chief concern is global warming.
O’Malley: There are no guarantees in life. The only thing that’s guaranteed is if we do nothing, things get a lot worse.
Hosler: With an ambitious proposal like this, though, the governor is at least assured a fair amount of attention. I’m Karen Hosler, reporting in Annapolis, for 88.1 WYPR.
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