Library filed under Energy Policy from Maryland
When his plan for clean energy ran smack into a rare habitat on a rocky Appalachian ridge, Annapolis businessman Wayne L. Rogers turned to people he knew could help: his contacts in the Maryland General Assembly. State law and the environmental protections it afforded all but scuttled his proposal last year for 24 windmills atop Backbone Mountain at the state's western edge. So Rogers waged a successful campaign to have the law changed -- and environmental review gutted -- for wind-energy projects such as his.
Legislators in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic passed a number of bills applying to the electric power industry, with several states committing to emissions reductions through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and other states making broad organizational changes to their regulatory processes.
The wind power law allows developers to build wind farms without a certificate of public convenience from the Maryland Public Service Commission. While critics argued it will cut out public input on wind projects, the law's supporters said the law only removes extra environmental reviews that were stifling wind power development in Maryland. Frank Maisano, a spokesman for a coalition of Mid-Atlantic wind-power developers, said the law was needed to help the state meet goals for Maryland-produced renewable power. But critics say that under the new law, strides toward renewable power could come at the expense of wildlife.
WASHINGTON - The House rejected a resolution Wednesday that would block government plans to spur construction of major new power lines in many states regardless of local opposition. The issue has been contentious in parts of the East Coast and in the Southwest, where two high priority transmission corridors for power lines were proposed. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., warned colleagues that unwanted power lines could come to their district.
A bill to reduce environmental reviews required of wind turbine proposals in Maryland has breezed through the General Assembly, a move lauded by industry leaders pushing for renewable forms of energy in the state. The House of Delegates and Senate passed identical versions of the bill by overwhelming margins Friday. Gov. Martin O'Malley is reviewing the proposed legislation and is inclined to sign it into law, his spokesman, Rick Abbruzzese, said yesterday.
Lawmakers agreed Friday on a measure that will make it easier to build large wind power projects in Maryland, after the Senate voted 40-6 to agree to a similar bill passed in the House with amendments. The measure would allow developers to build wind farms that generate electricity for the wholesale market by eliminating environmental reviews looking at the potential impact on wildlife, endangered species and forest fragmentation that currently are part of the Public Service Commission's approval process.
Long-stalled efforts to develop wind-powered turbine fields in Western Maryland have shifted this year to the state capital, where the firepower behind the proposed legislation is potent. The Senate earlier this week passed a bill that would streamline the public approval process for wind-generating stations, which proponents argue will put Maryland on par with other states that have already invested millions of dollars in renewable energy. The key figure asking the state to relax its regulations is Wayne Rogers, a well-connected entrepreneur who has been a generous donor to Democratic campaigns across the state and the country, according to campaign finance figures. Rogers, a former state Democratic Party chairman, led Gov. Martin O'Malley's transition team on energy. His Annapolis firm, Synergics Energy Services LLC, wants to build a wind farm on Maryland's tallest mountain ridge in Garrett County.
States with renewable portfolio standards have generated growth in the renewable energy sector, but many of the Appalachian states don't have one. Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and New York all have some fairly progressive goals, but West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee don't have a state RPS and wind projects often ignite battles.
Rube Goldberg would admire the utter purity of the pretensions of wind technology in pursuit of a safer modern world, claiming to be saving the environment while wreaking havoc upon it. But even he might be astonished by the spin of wind industry spokesmen. Consider the comments made by the American Wind Industry Association.s Christina Real de Azua in the wake of the virtual nonperformance of California.s more than 13,000 wind turbines in mitigating the electricity crisis precipitated by last July.s .heat storm.. .You really don.t count on wind energy as capacity,. she said. .It is different from other technologies because it can.t be dispatched.. (84) The press reported her comments solemnly without question, without even a risible chortle. Because they perceive time to be running out on fossil fuels, and the lure of non-polluting wind power is so seductive, otherwise sensible people are promoting it at any cost, without investigating potential negative consequences-- and with no apparent knowledge of even recent environmental history or grid operations. Eventually, the pedal of wishful thinking and political demagoguery will meet the renitent metal of reality in the form of the Second Law of Thermodynamics (85) and public resistance, as it has in Denmark and Germany. Ironically, support for industrial wind energy because of a desire for reductions in fossil-fueled power and their polluting emissions leads ineluctably to nuclear power, particularly under pressure of relentlessly increasing demand for reliable electricity. Environmentalists who demand dependable power generation at minimum environmental risk should take care about what they wish for, more aware that, with Rube Goldberg machines, the desired outcome is unlikely to be achieved. Subsidies given to industrial wind technology divert resources that could otherwise support effective measures, while uninformed rhetoric on its behalf distracts from the discourse.and political action-- necessary for achieving more enlightened policy.
Maryland may be lagging behind some Appalachian neighbors in terms of wind energy development, but officials, regulators and developers in the state are determined to improve the climate. There are no commercial wind projects in the ground here yet, though developers have proposed three projects that would produce 180 megawatts of power.
No matter what conclusions the PSC reaches, the fate of the commission's members seems to be sealed. Leaders of both the Senate and House want them replaced, and so does O'Malley. The second-ranking person on O'Malley's transition team is Baltimore City Solicitor Ralph Tyler, who represented the city in a lawsuit against the PSC. Legislation to reform and replace the commission seems like a certainty, and O'Malley aides are drawing up a list of potential replacements, according to political consultants and analysts. Neumann says she is drawing up a list of candidates for a new PSC. The candidates include a former Maryland state energy official, an expert on wind power and an expert on energy efficiency.
The state says it is now accepting applications for a new program that loans anemometers, or devices that measures wind resources. The Maryland Energy Administration hopes the devices will support landowners who are interested in wind energy as an alternative energy source.
"Renewable power mandates merely accentuate the inefficiency and cost premiums attached to so-called renewable power sources," said Jerry Taylor, director of natural resource studies at the Cato Institute. "If renewable power saved consumers money, created jobs, or carried any of the other economic benefits so frequently claimed by environmental activists, then government would not have to pass a law to force power companies to purchase it or consumers to buy it."
Conventional political wisdom is that the state legislative session preceding an election is a lame duck. Politicians shy away from legislation that might raise eyebrows except for a few measures that will make a political statement but have little hope of passing. Not much gets done.
Sen. Rob Garagiola, D-Montgomery, and a coalition of environmental advocates yesterday rolled out an ambitious legislative package to address energy conservation issues and increase the use of renewable energy in Maryland.
Jon Boone addresses wind power for the Mid-Atlantic region.
Eyesores or clean machines? Environmentalists are split over the giant energy-producing towers popping up in Maryland and other states.