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Legislature approves offshore wind bill

The House of Delegates quietly gave final approval on Monday night to Gov. Martin O’Malley’s plan to subsidize an offshore wind energy industry.

The vote was viewed as little more than a formality, as small amendments tacked onto House Bill 226 by the Senate Finance Committee had been OK’d by the administration. The final House vote was 88-48.

In a statement, O’Malley — who has fought for the legislation since 2011 — called it a “win-win-win for Maryland.

“Today’s vote positions our state for greater job creation and opportunity, while moving us forward toward securing a more sustainable energy future,” O’Malley said. “By advancing this promising green technology, together, we have also chosen to do the right thing for our planet; every megawatt-hour of energy we generate from clean wind power, is a megawatt-hour of energy we are not burning into our atmosphere through dirty fossil fuels.”

The bill, which now goes to O’Malley for his signature, would increase businesses’ electricity bill by 1.5 percent and the average residential bill by about $1.50 each month to make up for the cost of forcing utility companies to purchase electricity generating by 40 wind turbines that could be built 10 to 30 miles off the coast of Ocean City.

While several businesses have expressed interest in building the turbines, O’Malley has admitted that developers may struggle to propose a project that holds down business and residential electricity rates to levels prescribed. The Public Service Commission cannot award a contract for the project unless those costs are under 1.5 percent for businesses and $1.50 a month for residential customers.

The bill had been held up in the Senate Finance Committee for the last two years, but Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert and Prince George’s, reshuffled the lineup of that panel to help ensure passage this year.