State, Constellation need to settle ASAP, Ehrlich says

Constellation Energy Group Inc. and Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration could be hammering out a deal to settle their dueling lawsuits as you read this blog post.

Former Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr. sure hopes the two sides will see eye-to-eye sooner rather than later. As he sees it, the lawsuits are “a loser for both parties and we hope it gets settled pretty quickly.”

Ehrlich was governor during the General Assembly’s special session in 2006 where the $386 million deal was sealed, but he wasn’t happy with it then, and he isn’t happy with it now.

“If the right thing would have been done in 2006 there wouldn’t be a lawsuit,” he told me.

In fact, Ehrlich vetoed the legislation in favor of giving customers $600 million, but only if Constellation’s merger with Florida Light & Power went through. As you might recall, that deal went up in smoke, which would have left ratepayers without any relief for the 72 percent rate hike.

What do you think? Was Ehrlich’s deal the better option?

DANIELLE ULMAN, Business Writer

Ill wind blows for windmills

The clapping and heckling at Thursday’s night’s meeting at the Arundel Center in Annapolis could have easily been mistaken for audience response to a stand-up comedy show.

That’s because the participants in the Department of Natural Resources’ public meeting on whether wind turbines should be built on state land are pretty emotional about the topic.

Many in the crowd booed, laughed and shouted commentary at the few supporters of the 400-foot tall “monstrosities” that are proposed for state forests in Garrett County.

One flustered wind advocate said to the tough crowd, “I’ll try not to laugh at you, please don’t laugh at me.”

When one supporter of the turbines suggested that tourism in Western Maryland won’t be affected by the energy suppliers, pointing to the interest in the turbines in Pennsylvania, laughter rumbled through the crowd and one woman shouted, “That’s because they’re freak shows!”

What do you think? Should wind turbines be allowed on state land? Can Maryland afford to shoot down another proposal for alternative energy when the state faces rolling blackouts in just three years?

DANIELLE ULMAN, Business Writer

Three… two… one… GREEN!

newyears.jpgTo those of you who cringe at the holidays’ blinding consumption of precious energy, you’ll be glad to hear that the 100 year-old Times Square ball is celebrating its centennial by going green.

Almost 10,000 energy-efficient replacement bulbs will use only about 10 toasters’ worth of electricity – and they are twice as bright as the previous lights.

And that’s not all: in the spirit of collaborative content, this year you can submit a wish to a Web site and have it printed on the multicolored confetti that is released at midnight.

Maybe Marylanders will ask that the jump in sales tax scheduled for Tuesday will magically disappear?

JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Is it Maryland’s responsibility to regulate emissions?

Maryland’s “clean cars” plan to cut vehicle emissions might have some obstacles to overcome if a decision from the U.S. Environmental protection agency holds up. The EPA has decided that state efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars prevent a consistent national standard for automakers to follow.

But some state officials, including many here in Maryland, say the government has been too slow to act, so it’s up to states. This argument is quite popular on the Web.

So what do you say?

Is this an arena that can be effectively regulated by states? After all, the gases that enter the atmosphere can’t be trapped by political borders.

Or do you think a state can play an effective, if symbolic, role in setting an example for the wider population?

—ANDY ROSEN, Business Writer

Have you switched to LED holiday lights?

The National Zoo is touting the use of environmentally-friendly LED lights in its holiday displays. “Zoolights,” which runs through Dec. 30, has “larger-than-life displays” of many of the Zoo’s popular critters.

And (wee!) sponsor Pepco “will educate visitors about simple practices they can adopt in their households to save energy.”

Have you used these LED lights on your home or Christmas tree? How do they look?

National Geographic says that if everyone replaced their conventional holiday light strings with LEDs, at least two billion kilowatt-hours of electricity could be saved in a month – enough to power 200,000 homes for a year.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Some companies find it easy to be green

Last night, the EPA honored 17 organizations and businesses that are voluntarily purchasing power from renewable resources.

To put these organizations’ contributions in perspective, the EPA estimates that their contributions will avoid the equivalent amount of CO2 emissions of 450,000 vehicles each year.

At the top of the EPA’s “Partners of the Year” list – surprisingly – I found a municipality: the city of Bellingham, Wash (you’ll find it practically in Canada). New Jersey’s own Johnson & Johnson, Texas-based Whole Foods, Massachusetts-based Staples and California’s Wells Fargo & Co. were also “partners,” as were New York’s Pepsi Co. and Mohawk Fine Papers. For the full release click here.

I perused the EPA’s Web site for Maryland interest, and discovered Montgomery County’s wind energy purchases landed it a #4 spot on the Top 10 Local Government list.

A few Maryland companies are also listed as 100% green power purchasers, including Cheverly-based MOSAIC (a print communication company), Rockville-based My Organic Market, and Annapolis’s Rockfish Bar and Grill.

What are some other local companies that you think deserve recognition? And how important is it for businesses to invest in green power?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor