O’Malley Reaches Out To Obama For Offshore Wind Support

OCEAN CITY — With another General Assembly session looming, and likely another battle over proposed offshore wind farms off the coast of Ocean City, Gov. Martin O’Malley last week appealed to a higher authority for support for his proposed alternative energy agenda.

In each of the last three years, O’Malley has pushed legislation aimed at fostering the development of offshore wind farms off the coast of Ocean City in order to meet Maryland’s long-term energy diversification goals and each year the bill has not been approved for a variety of reasons. Last year, the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2012 was passed by the House by an 88-47 vote, but never came to a vote in the Senate.

O’Malley has already said he will introduce similar legislation in the upcoming 2013 General Assembly session and battle lines are already being drawn on both sides of the aisle. In advance of the 2013 session, O’Malley is already attempting to line up support from some heavyweights. In a letter to President Obama last week outlining Maryland’s commitment to addressing global warming and climate change, O’Malley took the opportunity to make a plug for continued federal support for the state’s budding offshore wind energy program.

“As an example of how smart policy can incent economic development and reduce our carbon footprint, Maryland has chosen to aggressively develop our vast offshore wind resources,” the letter reads. “My administration has introduced legislation to make offshore wind power a reality off Maryland’s coast.”

In the letter to the president, O’Malley suggests Maryland is poised to be a leader in developing its offshore wind resources with a wind farm consisting of as many as 100 turbines just 10 miles off the coast.

“This has the potential to foster a $10 billion industry in our state, providing a significant benefit to the region’s economy,” the letter reads. “And offshore wind will confront climate change head-on, generating up to 1 GW of renewable electricity from a designated lease area off Maryland’s coast, enough to power nearly 400,000 homes.”

Finding a way to partner private investment with a commitment of public dollars continues to be a challenge for offshore wind in Maryland and in states up and down the coast. One of the casualties of the much-debated “fiscal cliff” the nation may be headed toward could be tax incentives for private investment in offshore wind set to expire Dec. 31.

O’Malley’s letter encourages the president to intercede to ensure those tax incentives for private investment in offshore wind don’t expire as expected, and for the administration to continue to be a partner in developing the resource off the coast of Maryland and beyond.

“The federal government has been a strong partner in developing this resource and we look forward to further collaboration,” the letter reads. “In particular, we encourage your administration’s continuing support for favorable renewable energy incentive policies and ask for your assistance in encouraging purchasing of offshore wind power by federal agencies and our armed forces.”

O’Malley’s comments about developing offshore wind energy in Maryland came as part of a larger appeal to the president to continue to focus on climate change and global warming, particularly after the staggering effects of Hurricane, and later Super Storm, Sandy in late October. The governor pointed to Maryland as a shining example on the front lines of those efforts.

“Maryland has adopted policies that leverage the strength of our people to build a brighter future,” the letter reads. “As your administration works to create jobs and protect the climate, we urge you to look to Maryland as an example or smart policy choices that help push our country forward.”

O’Malley said in the letter the destruction suffered in the wake of Sandy made climate change and extreme weather more pertinent now more than ever.

“The need and timeliness of preparing for the impacts of climate change, particularly those associated with extreme storms, has become more heightened following the devastation caused by Super Storm Sandy,” the letter reads. “While we were very fortunate to be spared the brunt of the storm, science tells us that we must continue to work hard to plan and prepare for the very likely possibility of more storms like Sandy in the future.”

The governor said in the letter to the president Maryland has been proactive on the issues of climate change and renewable energy alternatives even prior to Sandy in late October.

“To that end, I created a task force which issued a report entitled ‘Weathering the Storm’ in September 2012 that focused on specific steps that utilities, governments and other stakeholders could take to improve the resiliency of the state’s electric distribution system and emergency response,” the letter reads. “Federal, state and local government leadership is imperative if we are to adapt to the impacts of climate change.”