By Jessica Wilde and Lucas High
Capital News Service
ANNAPOLIS – Gov. Martin O’Malley took his third shot at sparking the state’s wind energy industry by introducing legislation Tuesday that would provide $1.5 billion in taxpayer subsidies toward the construction of a wind power farm 10 miles off the coast of Ocean City.
While last year’s bill, which is virtually identical to the current bill, garnered the necessary votes in the House, it failed to make it out of the Senate due to concerns about the added cost to consumers.
This time around, O’Malley is confident in his bid to “make Maryland the epicenter for offshore wind power in the Atlantic.”
The new bill has 24 cosponsors in the Senate and 58 in the House, and Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton, D- Charles, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, assured the governor the wind bill would have the votes from his committee this time around.
Like the Ravens, we can see the finish line in sight, said Thomas Hucker, D-Montgomery, comparing the wind energy bill to Baltimore’s Super Bowl-bound football team.
To finance the wind farm, Maryland taxpayers will see up to $1.50 per month added to their utility bills.
Delegate Aisha Braveboy, D-Prince George’s, called the legislation a “pocketbook issue” for Marylanders because of the utility bill increases. But she stressed that developing a renewable wind energy industry in the state would provide opportunities to regain some of the manufacturing jobs lost during the decline of the Baltimore region’s steel mills.
The bill would create 850 temporary jobs during the construction of the farm, and maintaining the facility would add another 160 permanent positions to Maryland’s economy, O’Malley said.
Not only would the wind bill bring jobs and economic growth to the state, it would also provide a source of renewable energy, O’Malley said.
“Climate change is a problem for this generation and an even bigger problem for the next generation,” O’Malley said.
“Seventy-two percent of Marylanders favor investments in offshore wind energy,” O’Malley said, citing a recent poll by the research firm OpinionWorks.
Sen. Ronald Young, D-Frederick, questioned whether the poll took into account the complexity of the actual cost to Maryland, at a Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee hearing Tuesday.
“I like the idea of wind,” Young said. “I just don’t like the idea of the cost for the benefit.”
Sen. Joan Carter Conway, D-Baltimore, the chair of the committee, said few Marylanders would actually benefit from the wind farms.
“Many people don’t like to pay for things that don’t benefit them,” Conway said. “All of us will pay, but all of us won’t benefit from it.”