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Washington Post poll finds majority support in Md. for offshore wind energy

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A majority of Maryland residents support Gov. Martin O’Malley’s plan to subsidize development of giant windmills in the Atlantic Ocean, according a new Washington Post poll.

And there is growing momentum for the bill to pass the Maryland General Assembly this year.

O’Malley’s offshore wind bill, which has died in two previous sessions on concerns about cost, on Tuesday cleared a key Senate committee vote. It now heads to the full Senate, where a majority of lawmakers have already signed on as cosponsors to pledge their support. A similar version of the bill passed the House of Delegates last week.

Support has grown in Annapolis in the past year as the governor has sought to downsize the scope of the plan to limit the cost per household to a projected $1.50 a month. That cost would be tacked onto residents’ electricity bills once the project is constructed, perhaps by 2017. The surcharge would last 20 years, offsetting the higher-than-market cost to produce about 200 megawatts of electricity.

Fully 58 percent of state residents support the green-energy plan, to 39 percent opposed.

Last year, with the monthly household surcharge projected to be slightly higher, at about $2 per month, 55 percent were in favor to 42 percent opposed.

Tuesday night’s 7-4 endorsement by the Senate Finance Committee was expected after Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) shuffled committee assignments to ensure the bill would make it to the full Senate for an up or down vote.

Last year, three African American lawmakers blocked the measure in Senate Finance, citing concerns that the surcharge would be a burden on households that could least afford it. One of those lawmakers was removed by Miller.

Of the remaining two African American lawmakers on the committee, both Baltimore Democrats, Sen. Catherine E. Pugh voted in favor; Sen. Delores G. Kelley voted against.

The new Post poll shows weaker support among African Americans than whites, 51 to 60 percent respectively.

O’Malley says the 40 or so turbines that would be built off the coast of Ocean City would create 850 construction jobs, and position Maryland as a leader in the offshore wind energy market.

No offshore wind farm has yet been built in the United States, and major federal tax incentives would still be required to make any project viable, industry analysts say.

Backing for the plan is strongest among Democrats, with 64 percent supporting and 31 percent opposed. Republicans split about evenly, with 49 percent in support and 50 percent opposed.

The Post poll was conducted Feb. 21-24 among a random sample of 1,156 adult residents of Maryland. The results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

© The Washington Post Company