Maryland residents to foot the bill for offshore wind development

Michael Bastasch | Contributor

The Maryland state Senate passed legislation Friday to subsidize the development of 200 megawatts of offshore wind power, which would charge residents and businesses to offset the higher costs of wind power.

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s offshore wind plan would charge each Maryland residential ratepayer about $1.50 per month or a 1.5 percent surcharge for most businesses. This would cost $1.7 billion over 20 years, reports The Washington Post. However, billions of dollars in federal tax incentives would also need to be extended to make O’Malley’s plan viable.

“It seems Martin O’Malley’s priority is to make electricity and motor fuels more expensive,” said Larry Hogan, chairman at Change Maryland. “He wants an increase in the gasoline tax while simultaneously pushing a wind energy policy that is not cost effective and guarantees that electricity will be more expensive for ratepayers.”

To gain support from lawmakers, O’Malley had to pare down his original wind plan to about a third of its original size in order to get the cost to ratepayers to $1.50 per month. The bill passed 30 to 15 in the state Senate.

The Maryland House passed the bill by a wide margin last month, but changes to the bill in the state Senate mean it must pass through the House again.

“In Maryland, our emerging green sector is a critically important part of our Innovation Economy, and therefore our ability to create jobs and compete globally,” O’Malley said. “By choosing to move forward with this legislation, we’re not only creating jobs, but we are also laying the groundwork for a better, more sustainable future for our children.”

Maryland Republicans criticized O’Malley’s promises to have minority businesses involved in the construction and investment of offshore wind in order to secure votes

“We all admit, we all agree, it’s the most expensive energy out there,” said Democrat state Sen. Thomas Middleton, who led the support for the bill on the senate floor. “But this bill has had so much scrutiny that … the developers will have to demonstrate in the end that they provide a net benefit to the state.”

However, Republican state Sen. E.J. Pipkin called the legislation “corporate welfare” and said that the subsidies from Maryland residents would likely benefit one wind power developer.

“There are no assurances that this offshore wind proposal will not devolve into crony capitalism that reward friends of the governor and political donors,” said Hogan.

“While there may be political support for offshore wind among narrow special interest groups, 96 percent of Marylanders are opposed to higher taxes,” Hogan added. “And make no mistake, the Governor’s offshore wind proposal is simply a tax by another name.”

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