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Posted at 2:01 PM ET, 02/11/2011

Environmental groups back O'Malley's offshore wind plan

By Ann Marimow
Governor

A coalition of Maryland environmental groups are backing Gov. Martin O'Malley's plan to encourage the development of wind power off the coast of Ocean City. O'Malley formally introduced legislation Friday that would require the state's public utilities to enter into long-term contracts to purchase wind energy.

The proposal, one of O'Malley's most ambitious this legislative session, is being pitched by supporters as a way to use an environmentally friendly source of energy and to spur the creation of thousands of high-paying jobs.

"Offshore wind power is our best, most promising renewable energy resource," Malcolm Woolf, director of the Maryland Energy Administration, said in a statement. "If we act now, we can ensure long-term price stability, create jobs and generate much-needed clean energy to power the next generation of Maryland innovation."

The scope of the project envisioned under O'Malley's legislation could make enough energy to power half the homes in Baltimore, according to the governor's office, and could create as many as 2,000 construction and manufacturing jobs. The United Steelworkers in Maryland were among the groups to praise the project on Friday.

The co-sponsors of the governor's bill include House Majority Leader Kumar Barve (D-Montgomery) and Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola (D-Montgomery).

At a briefing on offshore wind last month, legislators appeared excited about the possibility of wind turbines spinning 10 miles off the coast of Maryland. But they also voiced deep concerns about the potential costs for consumers.

At least initially, wind energy would be more expensive than other traditional energy sources. The Maryland Energy Administration estimates that ratepayers would see an increase of about $1.44 per month.

O'Malley's efforts come as the federal government is trying to speed up the development of offshore wind. The U.S. Department of the Interior said this week that leases could be issued for four offshore sites, including one in Maryland, by the end of the year.

By Ann Marimow  | February 11, 2011; 2:01 PM ET
Categories:  Ann Marimow, General Assembly, Governor  
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