A bill imposing a moratorium on the permitting and construction of an electricity-generating windmill project in Somerset County has yet to be signed by Gov. Martin J. O’Malley and one question remains—which way is he leaning?
Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot Wednesday sent the governor a letter urging a veto for the bill saying it will harm the state’s ability to attract investors for similar projects as well as eliminate jobs in an economically depressed portion of the state. Not to mention the effect that killing a project like the Great Bay Wind Energy Center would have on the renewable energy goals championed by O’Malley himself.
In an interview with reporters on the last night of the General Assembly session 1o days ago, the governor said he was “trying to understand” the reasoning of those who support the moratorium.
“I understand there’s some that feel very passionately about it,” O’Malley said, adding that “windmills on the Eastern Shore would add greatly to our renewable energy supply and would be only an inconvenience, if that, to the operations at PAX River.”
The governor also said that the Navy already had the ability to stop the project by simply not signing a draft agreement in which the developer of the project agrees to turn off the wind turbines when the station is using a highly specialized and unique radar system that would be affected by the spinning blades of a windmill on the opposite side of the Chesapeake Bay.
So does that mean O’Malley is leaning toward a veto?
Nina Smith, an O’Malley spokeswoman, said Wednesday that the governor was still mulling over the bill. She declined to say what considerations would be taken into account when making the decision.
There is, of course, the obvious conflict between the bill that establishes a moratorium that would affect the Great Bay Wind Energy Center project and its expected $200 million in investments in an area of the state where one in five people live below the federal poverty line.
Then there is the issue of jobs—those created by the wind energy project would bring versus 22,000 workers related to the Patuxent River Naval Air Station and its $7.5 billion annual economic effect on the state.
And don’t forget the political, namely one U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer. The second most powerful Democrat in Congress personally came to Annapolis to testify in favor of the moratorium bill. Hoyer could be a potential ally to someone thinking of running for president in 2016.
Hoyer believes a failure to delay the permitting process for the Somerset County project could ultimately force the Navy to consider relocating operations from the station in a base consolidation effort that he said he expects to happen.