Support For Wind Farm
I love walking down the Boardwalk in Ocean City and admiring the hive of activity during the busy beach season. Seeing folks from all walks of life enjoying our Eastern Shore of life brings joy to my heart.
One way to continue supporting Ocean City tourism is to bring new jobs to the Lower Shore. Offshore wind developers are required to open two new operations and maintenance facilities in the Ocean City area, which means more jobs, more worker income, more local tax revenue and more commerce for Ocean City businesses.
But as Mayor Meehan wails against the offshore wind developers over the height of their proposed turbines, he is doing a disservice to the residents of Ocean City. As Las Vegas, the tourism capital of the world can attest, a recession can be a downright disaster for an area that relies so heavily on tourism. Las Vegas saw almost three million less visitors between 2007-2009 during the Great Recession. Residents lost homes, businesses were shattered and families were decimated. Offshore wind will provide lower shore residents more job stability when the state and national economy inevitably cool off.
Ocean City has spent hundreds of thousands of tax dollars hiring hotshot attorneys and lobbyists to derail an industry that economists say will support an estimated 25,000 jobs in Maryland with more than $1.5 billion in worker and business income over the next twenty years.
Imagine if that money had been spent making safety improvements for bikes and pedestrians on Coastal Highway or combating the H20i car festival that frustrates residents and visitors each year.
Concerns about offshore wind and tourism are not supported by facts. Block Island in Rhode Island presents a lesson for Ocean City. The tourism-dependent island is home to the nation’s first offshore wind farm, and like Ocean City, some were concerned about the effect on tourism. Not only was tourism not impacted, it actually increased. The University of Rhode Island examined AirBnB data and found that occupancy rates increased 19 percent and added an extra $349 in revenue for owners. Block Island is proving that tourism and offshore wind can co-exist. Perhaps the mayor can use some of the money he is spending on lobbyists to visit block island and see the positive impacts for himself.
Economic opportunities like this come around once in a lifetime. We have an opportunity to help build a new American industry that will benefit Ocean City and the entire region. Our elected officials should stop, examine the situation and ask themselves if they want to go on the record as being against job creation for their own constituents. I certainly hope they think twice for the sake of our economy.
(The writer is the chair of the Lower Shore Progressive Caucus.)
Misleading Emotions Serve No Purpose In Wind Debate
(The following letter was addressed to the Maryland Public Service Commission.)
We had the opportunity to observe over three hours of the public hearing on Jan. 18, 2020. Because of other commitments, we could not stay and testify. The number of participants, including students, was impressive, as was the passion.
My spouse and I are property and business owners in Ocean City, committed to renewable energy. We are not “from here’s,” but “come here’s,” like so many residents. We are employers, members of community organizations and board members of charities.
Why is that fact important? Because we chose to live here. The same with most property owners on the OC island. They are either second homes, retirement homes or a combination of investment/vacation properties. The people who own real estate in Ocean City made a choice about where to own, where to vacation and where to invest. If the PSC makes decisions that devalue these homes and investments, if the PSC makes decisions that devalue national treasures like Assateague and the OC beach, those “come here’s” and their tax and room tax revenues and their discretionary spending will go elsewhere. That is an economic reality. Many of the properties the PSC may be impacting are owned by families who have options.
The Delaware testimony was incredible. However these windmills are constructed, there is no agreement about where this power is to come on shore in Maryland or Delaware. The wind energy has to be transferred from federal land (ocean) to state and local land. Delaware and Maryland have not agreed to permit a transfer station. Not only have the lessees requested to dramatically increase the size of the windmills, they do so without a contract or permit for a transfer station.
The PSC allowed two companies with signed leases and their contractors and stakeholders to portray opponents of the new windmill proposal as anti-green and anti-environment. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a false narrative. Ocean City residents support renewable energy. OC has always supported wind energy. OC supports green jobs. What they do not support is a project that doubles-triples the size of the windmills without studying the economic impact of such a material change. Just a 10% reduction in property values, rental incomes, tourist and discretionary spending would be devastating to the town, the county and the state. Commissioner Joe Mitrecic did an outstanding job explaining these economics.
The PSC has created this situation. The chairman acknowledged that the proposed changes are material. The county attorney clearly articulated that based on this material change, the PSC has no choice but to reopen the process for further study. But instead of simply opening up the process and obtaining independent research, the PSC permitted emotion to take over, making it an “us versus them situation.”
All parties point to studies, none of which are exactly “apples to apples.” European windmills are not located next to Big Ben or the Lourve and Deep Creek’s windmills were not built in the lake. But objective resources are readily available. BEACON at Salisbury University, economist Anirban Basu and numerous other experts can evaluate job creation, carbon footprint, property values and tourist dollars. And then we can pursue windmills that leverage current technology, create green jobs and protect property values and tourist dollars. That is exactly what Ocean City supported with the current leases for the 2-4 MW windmills.
False narratives and misleading emotional pleas need to stop. What the PSC needs to do is open up the process to facts and objective research and fashion revised leases and compromises which create the most efficient renewable energy and jobs, while protecting the property values and tourist revenues.
James and Kimberly List