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Offshore Wind, Health Exchanges, Move Forward In The General Assembly
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Tuesday, March 27, 2012
A House of Delegates Committee approved a measure to boost the development of offshore wind power yesterday and sent it to the full House. The action came as each house of the General Assembly steamed toward a deadline to send its bills to the opposite chamber. WYPR’s Joel McCord reports.
The bill, an important piece of Governor Martin O’Malley’s environmental agenda, would require utilities to get two and a half percent of their renewable energy from offshore wind, provided the projects meet the standards of an elaborate evaluation process.
The original bill required that the project could add no more than $2 a month to residential utility bills. The committee cut that to $1.50 a month and reduced the size of a wind farm from 60 turbines to 40. Mike Tidwell, of Chesapeake Climate Action Network, praised the move.
“It means that Maryland looks that much closer to actually helping to develop an offshore wind industry, which is really the future of clean energy in this state in terms of jobs and clean, renewable, clean energy.”
But Delegate Neil Parrott, a Washington County Republican, called it a “colossal waste of money.”
“This is going to harm Maryland’s taxpayers and anyone who pays utility bills cause it’s going to increase the rate of utility bills for very little return.”
Parrott said the money could be better spent on sources such as coal or nuclear.
“It’s not right it’s not fair, and this needs to be stopped so that one corporation who happens to build windmills doesn’t get our business on the backs of state tax payers and state people who pay utility bills.”
Tidwell, however, argued that wind power is a more stable source of energy than the others and that the costs will even out over time.
“We have been advocating all along that wind power is a more stable energy source in terms of price over time than natural gas and coal and oil. So although it might be a little bit more expensive in the early years, over time, the 20 year span of the wind farm, consumers are actually going to save money.”
Thomas “Mac” Middleton, who chairs the committee handling the Senate version of the bill, said the House action may shake something loose in his chamber.
“The administration’s working closely with a couple key people to address their concerns, and hopefully at the end of the day, especially since it’s moving on the House that we’ll be able to move it out of the Senate.”
While lawyers were arguing the fate of President Obama’s health care reform law in front of the Supreme Court, both houses of Maryland’s General Assembly adopted matching bills to lay out the policies for health insurance exchanges required under that law. Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, who led O’Malley administration efforts on the bill, issued a statement in which he called the Health Benefit Exchange a “critical component” to expanding access to health insurance.
After each house passes the other’s bill they will go to the governor for his signature. The Senate also passed bills requiring lawmakers’ ethics forms to be posted online and to raise the estate tax exemption on working farms from $1 million to the federal level of $5 million.
Both houses will be back today to race toward the close of session at midnight April 9.
I’m Joel McCord, reporting in Annapolis for 88.1, WYPR.
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