Tax Dollars, Wind Turbines Don’t Mix

Where is the legendary Don Quixote when you need him? The fabled slayer of wind mills may soon find ample targets off the coast of Maryland if Governor O’Malley gets his way and the House approves the Maryland Offshore Energy Act.
So, what is wrong with harnessing the winds off our coast and converting it to energy to power our homes?…absolutely nothing. The use of wind for power is certainly nothing new. We have used it to conquer ocean travel and draw water on the prairie. As our technology has advanced, we now convert it to electricity with which we power our homes. All of this is good news. In fact, many rural folks who live in decent wind prone areas are installing wind turbines, which ultimately pay for themselves, the energy usage of the owner and provide an economic return from the sale of excess energy to the power company.
If it is so lucrative, why does Maryland need to pay millions of tax dollars to subsidize the industry, or, better yet, one particular company? If it is such a great technology, why do we need to demand that our energy companies purchase 20% of their required energy from Off Shore Wind? Why is our government meddling in our free market economy?
Looters like to pick the winners. They enjoy providing government handouts to one business to which they have held out the scepter, while denying any tax breaks to other companies. Why cut taxes across the board when there are so many friends to be gained through exclusivity? It is their way of controlling the future, and, thereby, the flow of money. Those who feed at the government trough tend to throw money in the direction of those who do the feeding.
In America, if a product or technology is good and affordable, it will produce consumers. If somebody can build a better, more affordable mouse trap, we buy it. We now live in a country controlled by those who will not allow us to develop our own vast oil reserves; put roadblocks up for tapping our incredibly rich natural gas reserves; block the development of new coal reserves, perhaps our greatest asset; and have not allowed a nuclear plant to be constructed since 1979.

The economic engine that fuels our economy needs cheap energy costs. The response from the governor and our president is to block access to cheap, readily available resources with proven technology in favor of subsidizing a technology that cannot make it in the free market. It is ethanol all over again.
What incentive is there in Maryland to produce energy from wind turbines at a competitive rate if the government is willing to subsidize your current efforts? We all know these costs must be borne by the tax payer. So now we will pay for the turbines through higher electric bills, and then pay higher taxes to cover the government’s electric bill. You can’t make this stuff up.
To add to this debacle, the governor’s former Chief of Staff, Michael Enright, being a principle involved with Beowulf Energy directly benefiting from this $1.5 billion deal, the stench is unbearable.
The market has shown that wind turbines work best when located on land as close to the power grid as possible. Used appropriately on the Eastern Shore by individual farm operations, homeowners, and many of our municipal governments, the return to the power grid could be tremendous without the need to subsidize.
The practical application of off-shore wind turbines will never be known so long as tax payer dollars are being used to prop up the industry. Currently, the winds blowing in Annapolis are moving our state in the wrong direction.

Mike McDermott
(The writer is the Republican Delegate for District 38B).

Wind Will Help Reduce
Fossil Fuel Dependence

(The following letter was addressed to Senator Jim Mathias and Delegates Norm Conway and Michael McDermott.)

As the Executive Director of Assateague Coastal Trust, in Berlin, I am writing to thank Senator Mathias and Delegate Conway for your sponsorship of HB1054/SB861, the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act, and urge Delegate McDermott to support the bill.

The Board of Directors of the Assateague Coastal Trust have taken the position that offshore wind development, properly regulated, is necessary on the Delmarva Peninsula in order to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels, decrease our dependence on coal burning energy plants, and move forward to a more sustainable future.

The Coastal Bays watershed is already facing impacts from sea level rise and by switching to more sustainable energy sources, such as offshore wind farms, we will help protect this watershed for future generations.

The Maryland Energy Administration estimates that a transition to wind generated electricity will cost homes $1.44 a month starting in 2016 decreasing over time. We question the cost statistics being quoted by oil and coal industry lobbyists as dubious, at the very least.

Delaying this bill another year will only increase the costs of offshore wind development. It is time for Maryland to stop finding excuses and move forward, for the sake of our communities and our natural resources.

We thank Senator Mathias and Delegate Conway for your leadership and urge Delegate McDermott to vote favorably on HB1054/SB861 the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act.

Kathy Phillips

Defending School Board
In Bus Driver Squabble

Although it is not my intent to be drawn into a protracted debate in the editorial section of this newspaper, I feel compelled however to respond to Mr. Elder’s view of the facts as they pertain to school bus contractors. Because, as with all "who doth protest too much", there is more to the story.

In his last letter to the editor, the Maryland law that he cited, clearly reflects the position of the Board of Education. As the contracting authority, the school board can set the "applicable" school bus safety standards. It should be noted that these standards can exceed those standards set by the state. The law states that a bus that meets these standards "may" be operated for 15 years. Clearly the law says "may”, it does not say "shall".

Mr. Elder wrote that I "mistakenly quote[s] the law as stating something about an extension". My exact words were, "the law provides that the useful life [of a school bus]…..may be extended". I was not quoting the law, I was referring to the outcome of the law’s intent. If and when the Board of Education votes to allow a bus to operate for 15 years rather than 12 years….I don’t know what else you would call it… is extending the bus’s active years of service…it is an extension.

The Worcester County Board of Education has the legal authority to set the standards for the buses that transport our students. Currently, 92% of our 6,699 students qualify for bus transportation. We need bus drivers to safely get our children to and from school. However, contrary to Mr. Elder’s assertion, no one is forcing the bus contractors to enter into an agreement. In order to assist with their fixed costs, a Worcester County bus contractor receives the per vehicle allotment, reimbursement for mileage, an administration fee, and an hourly fee. When comparing what we call a base contract, Worcester County drivers would receive $63,595 per year, Wicomico County drivers $57,527 and Somerset County pays $55,640.    

Mr. Elder also mentions the increase in the Board’s fixed cost category in our proposed budget. This category includes but is not limited to money allocated for liability insurance, employer paid social security and Medicare tax, criminal background checks, employee tuition, and re-certification expenses. Most notably this category provides for an estimated 5% increase in FY12 to continue the current health care plan that covers 1,052 employees. Yes, I am a member of that group plan and I pay my share of the premium just like the other group members. But by his statement, I am uncertain if Mr. Elder is advocating for his association’s membership to be employees or to remain as contractors.

While we do agree on the quality of the bus contractors, I do not feel that I have created a "chasm". The conversations I have enjoyed with bus contractors confirm that fact. If anything, it is simply a chasm in ideologies between Mr. Elder and myself.

I am unaware of any other private contractor who attempts to address a concern with the Board of Education through letters to the editor. These types of exchanges, this "tit for tat", while entertaining to some, does nothing to benefit the children in our schools. Discussions such as these deserve to be on record in the appropriate setting with proper notice to the public of the pending issue. Should anyone wish to discuss this further, a request can be made to place the issue on one of our regular monthly meetings. Please also know that I am more than willing to speak personally with anyone, one on one, regarding this topic or any other matter pertaining to our school system.  

Robert A. Rothermel, Jr.
Ocean City
(The writer is vice president of the Worcester County Board of Education.)

Council Must Rethink
Street Performer Issue

I have just read your articles in both the Ocean City Today and Maryland Coast Dispatch. I think first you should ask yourselves, “who created this problem.” “You did” by not limiting the amount of permits you give out to the street performers — 555 permits in one year, that is irresponsible. What were you thinking or were you? Did you monitor that, did you see if there were too many of one type of street performer? No, you didn’t.

We are in the computer age, a program can give you that information on permits given and type of permits. Once the quota is reached on amount of permits or types, your quota is reached and no more are given out. It is simple mathematics, too much of any one thing is not good. You are all business people. Is this good business?

Now on a more personal note. My husband has been on the Boardwalk for five to six years doing balloon art for the children. He enjoys talking and interacting with the children and their parents. This is a pleasure for him. Yes he does earn a small amount of money over the season, but that isn’t as important as him being able to contribute something and that is entertaining children. He has entertained children most of his life, now due to health reasons his only outlet is doing balloon art on the Boardwalk.

You have had some very beneficial performers over the years that people look forward to from year to year, Elvis and the sand sculptor to name a few. These performers will long be remembered. Now you want these street performers to run to City Hall daily to see where you will allow them to be. Come on, as a business person what would that do to your business if you had to not work until you took half to one hour or more from time you could be earning money to find out if there was a place for you that day, and if not, time wasted and money spent on gas and parking. Rethink your actions and make this work, be fair in your decision for all.

Rosalee J. Campion

Generosity Appreciated

I would like to thank all those that donated to my 20-year-old grandson Tyler Smith’s Silent Auction. December 29, 2010 was Tyler’s new beginning. The silent auction in March was a great success and will help with medical expenses which he will have the rest of his life.

His body is accepting the new heart and we pray that continues.

This is such a loving and giving community and the prayers and well wishes have meant so much to all of the family. God Bless you and yours.

Love to all,
Nancy Smith
Ocean City

Smoking Ban Not Enough

The ban on smoking did not go far enough. Ban smoking in all public places in Ocean City. Are you worried about a few dollars you might lose because the smokers would stay away? What about the damages of second hand smoke to the people living and vacationing in the resort?

Let’s get on board with the rest of the country. Even New York City banned smoking in Times Square. If it can be done there, it can be done on our beaches.

Stu Shinnick
Ocean City