First Click, Maryland -- Oil and water
Your morning download of Maryland political news
Thursday, April 1, 2010:
President Obama's decision Wednesday to open the door to new oil and gas drilling off U.S. coasts for the first time in decades clearly put some of his fellow Democrats in a bind. Not the least of them was Gov. Martin O'Malley (D).
O'Malley, who has won plaudits from his state's environmental community, including an early endorsement for re-election from the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, attended Obama's announcement at Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George's County, learning what the president would say only hours before he spoke.
Unlike top officials in Virginia, who are welcoming the news, O'Malley's administration has not embraced off-shore drilling, and the state's U.S. senators were among those warning Wednesday of the perils of the policy shift.
Shortly after Obama's event, O'Malley had a scheduled luncheon nearby, with members of the Andrews Business & Community Alliance, a group that focuses on issues related to Andrews Air Force Base and the surrounding community.
As the governor and group gathered in a back room at Mama Stella's Pasta House, aides started putting out the word to hovering reporters that O'Malley was "neutral" on Obama's announcement.
Speaking briefly to reporters after the event, O'Malley said that he thinks "the Obama administration is going to make sure they do all the preparation and research necessary to make sure they strike the appropriate balance" between energy exploration and environmental concerns.
O'Malley added that what Obama announced is "different than waking up tomorrow and seeing an oil rig off the coast of Ocean City."
But he said: "Environmental groups are right to be paying very, very close attention to this."
(No doubt, they are. Environment Maryland's Tommy Landers told The Baltimore Sun he was "outraged" by the proposal, adding: "There is no need to threaten our beaches, wildlife and tourism with oil spills and pollution when we have much better solutions.")
O'Malley's office also released a letter Wednesday that the governor wrote to the Interior Department in September saying "Maryland does not support offshore oil and gas activities ... during the 2010-2015 planning cycle."
The letter went on to say the state was willing to reconsider its position if a number of conditions were met demonstrating the need and the ability to do so without negatively impact the environment.
But, O'Malley said in the letter: "There is little or no economic benefit to Maryland from offshore oil and gas activities while there are risks to natural resources and tourism."
Moreover, he said there is "little or no existing infrastructure suitable to support oil and gas activities along Maryland's Atlantic coastline."
If locations are identified, the letter said, priority should be given to offshore wind energy development. Speaking in person Wednesday, O'Malley told reporters that was something he could enthusiastically support.
News You Should Know
Attempted impeachment of Gansler falls well short
"The Maryland House of Delegates' Judiciary Committee on Wednesday afternoon ended a Republican lawmaker's attempt to impeach Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) for directing Maryland agencies to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere," writes The Post's Aaron C. Davis. "In a series of votes, the committee first rejected an attempt by Del. Don H. Dwyer (R-Anne Arundel) to send the matter back to the full House. It then voted on whether there was sufficient evidence to go forward with an impeachment. One Republican, Del. Susan K. McComas (R-Harford), sided with Democrats in saying that there were not grounds for the charges. A third vote along party lines effectively ended the spectacle, which stopped and started after Dwyer began the hearing by telling reporters it was 'a kangaroo court of sorts.' "
Metro needs could undermine Purple Line and other priorities
"The deterioration of Washington's Metro system could jeopardize federal funding for new transit projects in the area, including a Purple Line light-rail system in Maryland and streetcar networks in Arlington County and the District," writes The Post's Katherine Shaver. "In awarding highly competitive funding for new projects, the Federal Transit Administration considers applicants' ability to maintain their current transit systems. Because governments in Maryland, the District and Northern Virginia are partially responsible for funding Metro, the FTA will weigh the safety and reliability of the Metro system before granting money for new transit lines, transportation planners said."
Trial lawyers, insurers fight over auto coverage bill
"Maryland's trial lawyers and insurers are squaring off in a politically charged duel over a bill that would increase, for the first time in almost 40 years, the amount of insurance a vehicle owner must carry to protect others in case of an accident," reports The Baltimore Sun's Michael Dresser. "The bill, which has passed the House of Delegates and is headed to the Senate, would almost certainly lead to higher premiums for tens of thousands of Marylanders who carry the minimum liability insurance required by law. Policyholders could see increases ranging from $60 for vehicles on the lower Eastern Shore to $300 in Baltimore, state officials say."
O'Malley won't handicap race against Ehrlich
"In the long run-up to Tuesday's confirmation of his candidacy, former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) has been remarkably candid about his thoughts on this year's political environment and how it affects his chances," writes The Post's John Wagner. "Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) took just the opposite approach Wednesday, telling reporters that he would 'leave the handicapping to others.' 'In these times, when the challenges are so enormous, it's not a time to stand around with your finger in the air,' O'Malley told reporters who caught up with him outside a lunch meeting in Prince George's County."
Jackson launches campaign against 'would-be competitors'
"Prince George's County Sheriff Michael A. Jackson kicked off his campaign for county executive Wednesday, saying he was the only candidate in a crowded field with 'executive-level management experience,' and casting his opponents as 'would-be competitors,' " reports The Post's Jonathan Mummolo.
"The people's House should not be transformed into the people's colosseum ... What about the validity of the petition? What about the basis of the charges? This should not be a dictatorship of who's got the loudest voice and who's the most extreme view."
-- Del. Luiz Simmons (D-Montgomery), arguing that it was right to refer Del. Don H. Dwyer's resolution on impeachment to the Judiciary Committee.
"I believe that if we begin to see positive job growth, people's confidence will return, and that will change the dynamic ... [But] the Democrats obviously face an uphill climb. The question is the steepness of the hill."
-- Rep. Chris Van Hollen, (D-Md.), head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee commenting on a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll that finds that a majority disapprove of both political parties, their leaders and most members of Congress, and that attitudes are reminiscent of those in 1994 and 2006, when control of Congress switched from one party to the other.
"There is ample evidence that things are not healthy [at the Department of Juvenile Services]. For Donald DeVore not to show up today, to have the courtesy, and the courage and the guts to answer some tough questions, it's just unexcusable, inexcusable."
-- House Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell (R-Calvert County), after DeVore declined to attend a hearing Wednesday called by O'Donnell and a Democratic senator in the wake of the slaying of a teacher at a state-run youth detention center. In a letter, DeVore said Democratic leaders of the House and the Senate had advised him "this hearing is not called by an official legislative body," and noted that it conflicted with other scheduled committee hearings.
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Aaron C. Davis
April 1, 2010; 6:45 AM ET
Categories: Aaron C. Davis , First Click , John Wagner
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