Franchot urges O’Malley to veto Somerset windmill moratorium

Daily Record Business Writer//April 16, 2014

Franchot urges O’Malley to veto Somerset windmill moratorium

By Bryan P. Sears

//Daily Record Business Writer

//April 16, 2014

A bill imposing a 13-month moratorium on electricity-generating windmills proposed for Somerset County should be vetoed, according to Maryland Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot.

The comptroller, in a letter Wednesday, asked Gov. Martin J. O’Malley to veto House Bill 1168. The legislation imposes a moratorium on the placement of wind turbines in a 56-mile radius of the Patuxent River Naval Air Station while a mitigation study is completed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“This would be an egregious mistake to allow this bill to move forward,” Franchot said in an interview. “A study is a delay tactic. It ultimately becomes a (permanent) moratorium.”

Signing the bill would effectively prevent the turbines from being placed in an area equal to about 40 percent of the state, Franchot said.

The letter puts Franchot, a Democrat, at odds with U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, arguably the second-most powerful Democratic legislator in Congress. It also puts him in conflict with a bipartisan group of legislators from Southern Maryland who say the moratorium is necessary to protect jobs related to a specialized radar system at the station.

Hoyer, who served as president of the Maryland Senate, returned to Annapolis earlier this month to encourage legislators to pass the moratorium.

Franchot said the Great Bay Wind Energy Center project proposed for Somerset County would bring $200 million in new economic investment to an area where the unemployment rate exceeds 10 percent and one in five residents live below the federal poverty line.

“It’s crucial to this area of the state that this kind of investment move forward,” Franchot said. “Let’s not hijack it at the end.”

An O’Malley spokeswoman said no decision has been made regarding the fate of the bill.

“The governor continues to review this legislation to find the best path forward that both acknowledges the concerns of Pax River, and advances our goal of increasing renewable energy in the state of Maryland,” said Nina Smith, a spokeswoman for the governor.

04.14.14 Letter to Governor OMalley


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