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First Click, Maryland -- Oil and water

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Thursday, April 1, 2010:

The Agenda

Me in dots.jpgPresident 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.

Obama oil.jpgUnlike 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.

o'malley-serious.JPGSpeaking 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.

-- John Wagner

News You Should Know

Attempted impeachment of Gansler falls well short
Thumbnail image for DSC_0831.JPG"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
Thumbnail image for Metro funding.jpg"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
Thumbnail image for O'Malley-Ehrlich debate.jpg"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'
Jackson sheriff.jpg"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.

Quotables

Thumbnail image for luizSimmons.jpg"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.

Thumbnail image for Van Hollen flag.jpg"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.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for O'Donnell mug.jpg"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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Trust First Click for critical news and analysis you need to navigate Maryland politics. Each weekday, First Click brings you The Agenda, a concise, forward-looking analysis of the day's top development in politics or policy. "News You Should Know" breaks down top stories from across the state. And Look Ahead, Unspun, News Makers, and Week in Review keep you up to speed with power brokers in Annapolis and beyond. Want First Click on the go? Sign up for our free e-mail edition, and get the news delivered to your inbox or mobile device.

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By Aaron C. Davis  |  April 1, 2010; 6:45 AM ET
Categories:  Aaron C. Davis , First Click , John Wagner  
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Comments

O'Marxist is in a pickle. But he hasn't made ONE good decision yet. remember slots; campaigned one way then flip-flopped. This clown is a disaster for MD. Soon MD will rank eben behind DC in Jobs, growth, education. Voting for this guy again is compounding the problem. At least you know what your getting with that other guy.

Posted by: espnfan | April 1, 2010 8:07 AM | Report abuse

Risk the environment?

Of course not. But if we are to make reational decidssions we need to know how much risk and how much oil. Some exploration woould tell us how much oil. Looking at the Gulf of Mexico and setting rules for drilling would set the risk level.

How about a decision based on fact and not so much on emotions.

The oil money could pay for a real "Save the Bay" program and not just slogans on car tags.

Posted by: gary4books | April 1, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

We elect these guys to make decisions. Obama sees the whole picture, in a way we're, frankly, too intellectually lazy to obtain. I'm not happy with more nuclear, nor am I happy with more oil drilling anywhere (given the atmospheric and ocean carbon dioxide problem) but the alternative is Americans freezing to death in their homes next winter. It would be good for environmentalists to address this other side of the problem.

Posted by: DrZBen | April 1, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

I don't want to see the East Coast lined with oil rigs, but I do think the technology exists to obtain oil in a safe and clean manner. And anything to rely less on foreign oil is a good thing. Could create new jobs and as Gary4Brooks noted it could also help fund a more aggressive program to clean the Chesapeake Bay (which crabbers and fishermen can attest needs to be done because of the declining catches the last several years).

Posted by: DecafDrinker | April 1, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

OBama was against Drill Baby Drill on the campaign trail, now he's POTUS, my how thing s have changed. Exploration is fine, the more info we have the better. On the other hand if oil if ound out there, it will take years and years before it gets into the system, by then, gasoline could cost $10 or more. And there is no guarantee that any oil found will be used exclusively in the US, China and India have far bigger demands than we do. Then again, if oil is found, infrastructure on shore will be built, perhaps Ocean City could rival Houston someday.

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