Garagiola Promotes Wind Power Use in Maryland
Maryland Sen. Robert Garagiola said the challenge of gaining support for wind power use in the state will come from utility companies who will lobby against the bill, and legislators opposed to the short-term costs of building the farms.
Maryland Sen. Robert Garagiola (D-15), who represents Potomac, spoke at Centreville Elementary School in Urbana Thursday night to promote the use of wind power in Maryland.
Several special interest organizations, including the Montgomery Countryside Alliance, sponsored the event, which included presentations from Trans-Elect CEO Bob Mitchell, National Wildlife Federation representative Lise Van Susteren and Chesapeake Climate Action Network lobbyist Keith Harrington.
Harrington stressed the urgency of using wind turbine farms to combat climate change and avoid spills similar to the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico last year. Van Susteren's presentation focused on the effects of coal and oil on human health and animal safety.
Speakers also highlighted the economic benefits of using wind power. Construction and manufacturing the turbines would create thousands of jobs and would save energy consumers money in the long run, they said.
"America, as you know, is falling way behind in so many manufacturing areas," Mitchell said. "Here is an opportunity, if we can reach a scale where we have a big enough wind industry, we will be able to attract new factories and jobs to our shores."
His company's project, the Atlantic Wind Connection, aims to build a $5 billion transmission backbone along the Atlantic coast for future offshore wind farms. Several companies, most notably including Google, have invested in the project. Mitchell said it is now a matter of receiving government support to ensure the farms will be used and attract more investors.
As Maryland representatives in the General Assembly prepare for the beginning of the next legislative session on Jan. 12, it is highly likely a major offshore wind power bill will be voted on before the session's end, according to Garagiola.
"I'm hopeful," Garagiola said. "I think we can do something this year." The challenge will come from utility companies who will lobby against the bill, and legislators opposed to the short-term costs of building the farms.
Specifically, legislation would create a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) for wind power. It would require utility companies in the state to get a certain percentage of their energy from wind turbine farms. The state has already enacted standards for different sources of renewable energy, including solar power.
A wind power bill has been on the legislature's book for a number of years, but has failed for different reasons. Last year's bill, sponsored by Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-22) and Del. Tom Hucker (D-20), failed to pass because the bill's language was too broad and applied to all types of energy.
"I think if one were to move something through the General Assembly, it would need to be narrowly tailored to renewable energy," Garagiola said. "I don't know if we should require utilities to do long-term contracts with coal power plants."
Garagiola expects the next bill will either come from Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration or be a tweaked version of the Pinsky-Hucker legislation.