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Defense bill requires study on Md. wind farm

ANNAPOLIS — A proposal to build a wind farm on Maryland’s Eastern Shore within 56 miles of the U.S. Naval Air Station Patuxent River could still be delayed and potentially jeopardized, despite Gov. Martin O’Malley’s veto of a bill passed by the Maryland General Assembly that would have created a similar delay.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, has included an amendment to a defense appropriations bill in the U.S. Senate that would require the Navy-commissioned study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory to be completed to further evaluate how radar use at the base could be affected by the wind turbines.

“The study is not yet completed. Therefore, the committee directs the Navy to refrain from executing any agreement with respect to the operation of the proposed wind energy project until the study is provided to the congressional defense committees,” according to the bill language.

The amendment was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee two weeks ago. The measure now goes to the full Senate for a vote, which has not yet been scheduled.

Supporters of the wind farm have argued the delay could jeopardize its development, because it may not be able to meet a deadline for federal tax credits. But supporters waiting for the study say the state must consider the needs of the base, which is an important economic engine in southern Maryland.

The Maryland Legislature approved a 13-month moratorium on building the wind farm in April to wait for the study. In May, however, O’Malley vetoed the bill. In a veto letter, O’Malley wrote that the moratorium would effectively kill a $200 million investment in on the Eastern Shore, along with needed jobs and local tax revenue. O’Malley also noted that developers of the Great Bay Wind project have engaged in years of painstaking negotiations and played by the rules after investing millions of dollars.

“If this moratorium were to take effect, it would send a chilling message to clean energy investors, developers, manufacturers, construction firms, engineers and sustainable businesses that the state can change the rules at the eleventh hour,” O’Malley wrote in a veto letter.

The issue has put the Democratic governor on the opposite side of the issue than leading Maryland Democrats in Washington, including Mikulski and U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, a leading Democrat in Congress whose district includes the base.

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