Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – July 21, 2017

Congressman Andy Harris has been taking fire from environmental groups ever since introducing an amendment tying federal funds for critical offshore wind farm site reviews and permits to the distance the turbines be located from Ocean City. The amendment prohibits any federal dollars spent on site assessments and construction and operation plan reviews if a single wind turbine is less than 24 nautical miles from shore.

The timing of the amendment is bizarre. Additionally, the distance of 24 miles is also odd because the Town of Ocean City just this week agreed to send a letter to the two approved offshore wind developers stating its desire the turbines be at least 26 miles from the water’s edge. Aside from an obvious communication issue between Ocean City officials and Harris, the major takeaway for me is the uncertain nature of the entire wind farm project as a result of the amendment. US Wind, Inc., one of the two companies approved to build wind turbines off the mid-Atlantic, made it clear this week it can’t build 62 turbines 24 miles off the coast. The company was willing to compromise and build 17 miles off the coast but going any further seems to be economic peril, according to previous statements.

“I’ve met with Harris’ legislative people and none of this was made clear during those discussions,” he said US Wind Project Manager Paul Rich. “It kind of came from out of left field. We’re confident if we had the same kind of discussions we have had with Ocean City, his position on this might be different. Our project is effectively killed, or at least put on pause, while we’re having a constructive dialogue with Ocean City.”

In predictable fashion, environmental groups have cried foul over the Harris amendment. Some comments, like those from the local Assateague Coastal Trust, were reasonable, while others resorted to scare tactics and political hot potatoes to get their points across.

“Congressman Harris is ignoring the will of Marylanders and his constituents,” said Karla Raettig, Executive Director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. “Our state and especially Congressman Harris’ district is particularly vulnerable to climate change and this amendment is just willful ignorance to move our state into a clean energy economy.”
In a prepared statement that included a number of assumptions, David Smedick, Campaign and Policy Director for the Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club, said “Offshore wind has broad public support in Maryland. Congressman Harris has put his fringe, personal agenda ahead of the interests of his constituents and the state. Offshore wind is going to be an economic driver for Maryland, and is wildly popular. We’ve seen supporters come out to events and hearings across the state for many years, including In the Lower Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Baltimore. As we work to clean our air and protect our communities, and climate from fossil fuels, we need to move to our abundant clean energy resources like offshore wind.”

The good news is there is time to work through these distance issues. My guess is the answer will lie in a compromise and the amendment approved this week will be revised to a shorter distance from shore in the coming months.

While the proposal’s intentions may be sound, Worcester County was right to not hand out naloxone — the opiate overdose reversal medicine — to at-risk inmates on their release dates.

County Commissioner Joe Mitrecic was on the money when he said “this is sending the wrong message.” His fellow commissioners ultimately agreed and the pitch was denied unanimously.

Over the last year or so, it’s occurred to me on several occasions that eventually naloxone is going to need heightened regulations. It’s giving addicts a free pass of sorts to overindulge and it’s being abused by many. More oversight is needed.

Law enforcement agencies are running across “naloxone parties” where opiate drug use is rampant and the overdose reversal drug is nearby as a security blanket in the event someone goes too far. It’s becoming a crutch for addicts.

Providing inmates with community resources to help them stay clean after their release is one thing, but giving them naloxone as they leave prison would cross the line and probably do more harm than good.

As soon as the fireworks displays ended on the Fourth of July in Ocean City, questions were asked why the finales were so short. If you have been to either of Ocean City’s fireworks — downtown or uptown — you know the finales are usually impressive and memorable highlights. Not so much this year as the shows appeared to be cut short mysteriously.

The explanation finally came this week after Ocean City Councilman Wayne Hartman began asking questions about it. The short answer is there were issues with fuses that required each firework be lit by hand, which poses numerous safety threats and causes delays in between launching.

What can be done? The city is seeking compensation from the provider. That’s all well and good, and may or may not come, but this type of mistake is inexcusable and should cost the vendor the resort’s future business.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.