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O'Malley Makes Pitch For Offshore Wind Power
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February 15, 2012
Governor Martin O’Malley continued his push for offshore wind power yesterday, appearing before a skeptical Senate finance committee. WYPR’s Joel McCord reports.
Senate Republican leader E.J. Pipkin, a long time critic of offshore wind, ticked off a list of East Coast projects that failed to get off the ground and posed a question.
“Why are we going to be so different when all the rest of these projects it seems that without federal loan guarantees and federal credits have crashed and burned?”
Kathy Klausmeier, a Baltimore County Democrat, questioned O’Malley’s optimistic prediction of job growth given that the component parts for the giant turbines that would go 15 miles off Ocean City already are being manufactured in the Mid West.
“Are we really going to have the manufacturing jobs here. I think that is the utmost importance that we do that and not just have assembly jobs.”
O’Malley said offshore wind would help Maryland reach its goal of generating 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. But Delores Kelley, a Baltimore County Democrat, worried that it would only amount to three percent of the goal.
“To use the most expensive form of renewable to get such a limited amount of additional generation is a problem for a lot of people. What do you have to say about that?”
O’Malley said he doesn’t know how else to get the last three percent if not through offshore wind.
“What I do know is that it’s our most abundant renewable energy source.”
He told the committee if members believed the costs of fossil fuel will go down, they should do nothing.
“If, on the other hand, you believe that we can actually create a more sustainable energy future with all of the environmental costs hard to calculate, then you have to do something.”
The governor’s bill 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. Among the requirements is to add no more than $2 a month to residential utility bills.
While critics say that cap is unrealistically low, Catherine Thomasson, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility countered there are more costs involved than the cost of building offshore wind farms. She said at a demonstration before the hearing that Marylanders spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year in public health costs because of the pollution from coal fired power plants.
“Every household, four person household in Maryland is paying $73 a month for public health costs that they wouldn’t have to pay if we substituted 310 megawatts of offshore wind.”
The governor’s testimony and the demonstration of health care professionals were part of a concerted effort to get the offshore wind bill through the General Assembly this year.
Monday a coalition of more than 30 Prince George’s County clergy delivered letters to Senators and Delegates urging passage.
Rev. Kip Banks, pastor of the East Washington Heights Baptist Church said in a telephone interview that generating electricity through offshore wind would reduce the reliance on coal fired power plants, many of which are in poorer neighborhoods. He called it a moral issue.
“We have to do things to protect the low income community. And that is our principal argument, that this legislation will protect and help the least of those of our brothers and sisters.”
Advocates argue that once the turbines are built, the wind is free, unlike fossil fuels.
I’m Joel McCord, reporting in Annapolis for 88.1, WYPR.
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