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First Click

Your Daily Download of Maryland's Top Political News and Analysis

Friday, September 25, 2009:

PSC Likely To Delay Vote on Constellation Nuclear Deal
   The state's Public Service Commission plans to meet today and discuss a request made Thursday by Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) to push back a planned mid-October vote on Constellation Energy's multibillion-dollar deal to sell half its nuclear business to a French firm.
   Gansler balked Thursday after he said Constellation and Electricite de France revealed important details of their planned transaction only after the commission this week wrapped up a series of hearings. Constellation and EDF have argued the commission has no jurisdiction over the deal and that the $4.5 billion transaction is necessary to build a needed third nuclear reactor in Lusby.
   The Baltimore Sun's Laura Smitherman quotes a letter from Gansler's office to the commission, which "called the late disclosures by the two energy giants 'litigation-by-ambush' and said the final terms appear to increase EDF's power in Constellation's corporate structure and may alter the Maryland tax consequences of the transaction. Both issues have been at the forefront of discussions about the deal's implications."
   Rob Gould, a spokesman for Constellation, tells the AP's Brian Witte the new details do not change the price of the deal. Constellation "provided drafts of the documents to the parties during the discovery process." Gould tells the AP. "The value of the transaction has not changed."
   Gansler is seeking at least a two-week delay, a move Gov. Martin O'Malley's office appeared to back yesterday. Rick Abbruzzese told Witte that "at first glance, the changes in the deal appear to be significant" and that the PSC needs time to determine the impact.
   O'Malley unsuccessfully has sought concessions for BG&E residential customers as part of the deal.

Fundraising Roundup: GOP Up, Dems Down, New Round Beginning in Md.
   National Democrats have been jarred in the last six months by a drop in fundraising compared with the same period two years earlier, writes The Post's Paul Kane: "As the battle over President Barack Obama's effort to overhaul the health-care system reached a fever pitch this summer, the three national Republican committees combined to bring in $1.7 million more than their Democratic counterparts in August."
   The flip side, writes The Sun's Paul West, has been good news for Maryland's former lieutenant governor. The Republican Party and its national chairman, Michael S. Steele, have collected $6 million more in total receipts than the Democratic National Committee since Steele took charge of the party in late January.
   In Maryland, a new fundraising push is beginning before lawmakers are banned from raising money during the legislative session that begins in January, writes The Post's John Wagner.
   "O'Malley (D), who remains without a big-name opponent next year, has a fundraiser scheduled at private home in Potomac on Saturday night. Tickets start at $500.
   "Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, has a $1,000-a-head event scheduled Wednesday at Pazo, a restaurant on the fringes of Fell's Point in Baltimore -- well outside his legislative district. And House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) is raising money the following night at a cocktail party at a private residence closer to his home, in Annapolis. Tickets start at $250."

MDOT Wide-Eyed for Road Widening?
   "I-270 is not the only road widening project under consideration by the state," writes Adam Pagnucco at the blog Maryland Politics Watch blog. "The Maryland Department of Transportation is proposing to widen I-97 between Baltimore and Annapolis and to widen part of the Baltimore Beltway. Howard County Executive Ken Ulman wants the state to widen US-29 near Columbia. And the state is spending $830 million to install Express Toll Lanes on I-95 northeast of Baltimore."

Federal Warning prompts MTA to check Baltimore Subway
   The Maryland Transit Administration says it will begin checking the control system for Baltimore's subway system after federal officials warned that a problem with a similar system may have caused the fatal crash on Washington's Metro.
   MTA Engineering and Construction Deputy Director Vern Hartsock tells The Sun's Timothy B. Wheeler that similarities in the systems are "very limited."
   The cause of the crash that killed nine people and injured dozens has not yet been determined, but the National Transportation Safety Board says it found that a failure occurred in the control system just before the crash.

EPA Official: Federal Takeover of Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Could Be National Model
   Scott Fulton, the Environmental Protection Agency's Acting Deputy Administrator, says the Obama administration's Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts could serve as a model for restoration efforts nationwide, writes the AP's Alex Dominguez.
   "This is worth watching not only for purposes of understanding the administration's approach to the bay, but also as a possible harbinger of new approaches to water quality management more generally across the country" Fulton told a group of environmental lawyers gathered on Thursday.
   The federal agency is developing a restoration strategy in response to an executive order earlier this year by President Obama, who put the federal government at the head of efforts previously led by the states.


  • O'Malley today is hosting Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy as part of a six-city tour the drug czar is making to assess drug-control policy.

  • Maryland supporters of Creigh Deeds, Virginia's Democratic gubernatorial nominee, plan to meet Saturday in Kensington. (Full coverage of that race here.)

  • Joe Steffen is the latest to weigh in on the meaning of this week's Gonzales poll.

  • Barry Rascovar blasts O'Malley's "piecemeal" budget.
  • And, a light note to end on for Friday:
       It appears Gov. O'Malley narrowly missed getting caught up in the scandal surrounding Del. Jon S. Cardin's mock-police-raid-marriage proposal.
       Cardin had invited O'Malley to make a surprise appearance following the raid, which drew widespread criticism for its diversion of a Baltimore Police Department marine unit and helicopter.
       "As it turned out, O'Malley had a prior engagement and wasn't able to meet the couple that fateful night," writes Smitherman in The Sun.
       "An e-mail inviting O'Malley was released to fulfill a request under the Maryland Public Information Act. Rebecca Mules, director of scheduling in O'Malley's office, fielded Cardin's inquiry that begins with the phrase "confidential - secret" and asks whether the governor could stop by Roy's restaurant if he happened to be in Baltimore that evening.
       " 'If everything works out, we will be doing a late dinner (8:30) at Roy's after all the funny business,' Cardin wrote. 'But it will be weather dependent and if I can get all my ducks in a row to pull it off. So... shhhhhh because if it doesn't happen, I didn't want to let the cat out of the bag.' "

    A Note: First Click will be in the trusty hands of my colleagues on the Maryland politics team until Oct. 12. Have news? Let them know.

    By Aaron C. Davis  |  September 25, 2009; 8:19 AM ET
    Categories:  Aaron C. Davis , First Click  
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    Next: Two Former AGs Joining Gansler at Fundrasier


    what world is the EPA living in? How can they say the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup could be a model for the country when nothing has been done on the Bay? Until polluters like farmers, developers, factories, sewage treatment plants etc. are taken into court and fined or jailed, nothing will change on the Bay. I think this illustrates an old cliche when it comes to the Bay cleanup, there are far too many Chiefs and not enough Indians.

    Posted by: VikingRider | September 25, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

    Constellation wants to sell their nuke plant to the French? HELL NO! Make them clean up their own mess.

    Posted by: free-donny | September 25, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

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