Offshore Wind Again Falls Short

OCEAN CITY — Despite coming much closer to prior efforts, the latest effort to develop a vast offshore wind energy farm off the coast of Ocean City failed to pass again this year.

The House of Delegates had approved Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2012, which would open the door for the development of a wind farm including as many as 40 turbines off the coast of Ocean City, but the Senate never took up the debate and the legislation died. However, it remains possible the issue could resurface in a special session.

Last week, offshore wind enthusiasts staged a huge rally in Annapolis attended by hundreds, who circled the historic State House to urge lawmakers to pass the legislation. O’Malley urged them to press their representatives in the Senate to follow the House’s lead.

“It’s very, very important that you talk with them and that you ask them to support wind power now,” he said. “It would be absolutely nuts for us, as an Atlantic state, not to want to be one of the first to harness the most available, renewable resources we have out there.”

By “out there,” O’Malley was referring to the proposed 40-turbine wind farm roughly 10 miles off the coast of Ocean City. The original legislation proposed by the governor last year called for as many as 100 wind turbines off the coast of the resort, but the economic realities and concerns over taxpayer investment in the largely private sector project caused the administration to scale back the 2012 incarnation of the bill somewhat.

For example, amendments attached to the bill approved by the House last week reduced the maximum monthly surcharge on electric power bills to $1.50, although detractors argue the figure is not a cap and could go up. Another amendment reduced the maximum surcharge for commercial and industrial customers from 2.5 percent of their monthly bill to 1.5 percent.

Sen. Jim Mathias, who represents Ocean City, supported the bill, but never got a chance to vote on it.

“I was prepared to vote for the wind bill,” he said. “We just never got a look at it once we got caught up in the budget debate.”

Delegate Mike McDermott, who also represents Ocean City, called the legislation a “feel good” bill without substance.

“I was really glad to see it didn’t make it out,” he said. “They have to put out something reasonable, not just a shingle on the governor’s green resume. The shame is, the governor really had a chance to lead this state’s renewable energy efforts without such a grandiose proposal.”

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