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Gov. O'Malley proposes amendments to revive offshore wind energy bill

The governor proposed adding a threshold test in which state regulators would kick out proposals projected to raise an average family's electricity bill by more than $2 a month in the first year. The administration anticipates the financial impact will decrease after the first year if fossil fuel prices continue to rise.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Gov. Martin O'Malley on Wednesday proposed some changes to try to revive his bill to develop offshore wind energy in Maryland.

The governor has struggled to advance his idea to make state utilities enter into 25-year contracts to buy energy generated by wind turbines planned for 12 miles off the coast on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf. Democratic and Republican lawmakers have said they are concerned with any increase in how much homeowners would pay each month on their utility bills

O'Malley - looking to salvage a cornerstone of his legislative agenda before lawmakers leave town in less than three weeks - gathered a group of union members and environmentalists at Annapolis' City Dock. Standing by three model wind turbines, O'Malley led the group in a chant: "Pass the bill! Pass the bill!"

"Little Delaware, little Delaware - Roughly what? One-eighth the size of Maryland, I think, they have one Congressional district - Delaware has already done this," O'Malley said. He was referencing a long-term contract Delmarva Power signed in 2008 to buy energy generated by wind turbines off that state's coast.

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Gov. Martin O'Malley on Wednesday proposed some changes to try to revive his bill to develop offshore wind energy in Maryland.

The governor has struggled to advance his idea to make state utilities enter into 25-year contracts to buy energy generated by wind turbines planned for 12 miles off the coast on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf. Democratic and Republican lawmakers have said they are concerned with any increase in how much homeowners would pay each month on their utility bills

O'Malley - looking to salvage a cornerstone of his legislative agenda before lawmakers leave town in less than three weeks - gathered a group of union members and environmentalists at Annapolis' City Dock. Standing by three model wind turbines, O'Malley led the group in a chant: "Pass the bill! Pass the bill!"

"Little Delaware, little Delaware - Roughly what? One-eighth the size of Maryland, I think, they have one Congressional district - Delaware has already done this," O'Malley said. He was referencing a long-term contract Delmarva Power signed in 2008 to buy energy generated by wind turbines off that state's coast.

The governor proposed adding a threshold test in which state regulators would kick out proposals projected to raise an average family's electricity bill by more than $2 a month in the first year. The administration anticipates the financial impact will decrease after the first year if fossil fuel prices continue to rise.

Another amendment would require a developer to pass along savings from federal tax incentives to ratepayers. A developer's plan also would have to include minority, women-owned, and small businesses.

"I think it (the amendments) will help overall, I think many of them are still so skittish over the deregulation vote that many of them cast years ago that had the unintended consequence of a big spike in energy costs and they wanted to make sure they are guarded against that happening again," O'Malley said, referencing the state's deregulation of utilities in 1999 and massive rate hike for BGE customers in the Baltimore area.

O'Malley ran for governor twice on the issue - in 2006 and 2010 - beating former Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich both times. O'Malley blamed Ehrlich for allowing electric rates to skyrocket, although he was unable to stop that when he became governor.

Lawmakers have raised a series of concerns - from the cost increase to the possibility of Maryland ratepayers effectively subsidizing the construction of a private, for-profit energy operation - as they have vetted the governor's wind bill over the last month.

O'Malley spent last week lobbying members of the House Economic Matters Committee to help move his bill. He also met with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Thomas "Mac" Middleton, D-Charles, Tuesday night shortly before hosting a delegation of Eastern European diplomats.

"We had a very frank and candid discussion," Middleton said as he walked from the governor's mansion Tuesday night. "At the very minimum I'd like to see a study on this. I think this has the potential of being a very good thing for Maryland."


Source: http://www.washingtonpost.c...

MAR 24 2011
http://www.windaction.org/posts/30400-gov-o-malley-proposes-amendments-to-revive-offshore-wind-energy-bill
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