Lawmakers and a spokesman for the governor said the offshore wind proposal will be studied for the rest of the year and probably reconsidered when the legislature returns for its 2012 session in January.
“It’s sort of pointless” to vote, said Del. Derreck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s), Economic Matters committee chairman, who in recent days had committed to voting for the plan.“I had resisted [a study] for a while because I wanted to allow for as much time as possible for the administration to present their case and to see if they could get everyone comfortable, but now, in these waning days, that’s no longer a realistic option.”
Despite broad support from a coalition of environmentalists and labor unions, O’Malley’s plan to create a subsidy for developers to construct 100 or more massive wind turbines off Ocean City ran into stiff resistance from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers.
For much of the session, their concern centered on the cost of a subsidy. The subsidy, which resembled systems in other states and in Europe , would have increased electric bills for almost all ratepayers across the state by imposing a surcharge. The governor’s office eventually allayed the concerns of some lawmakers by promising that the surcharge would be capped at $2 a month for residents and 2 percent for the state’s largest businesses.
But in a measure of the uncertainty about the plan, lawmakers in recent days had begun worrying that the legislation didn’t even spell out that the wind farm would have to be built off Maryland’s coast and that it could be located hundreds of miles away and benefit another state’s economy.
Despite O’Malley’s insistence in recent weeks at public rallies that lawmakers pass the bill, his spokesman Shaun Adamec on Thursday cast the decision to shelve the bill as a minor setback and not unexpected.
“Since the beginning of this process, since the beginning of the session, this has not been an entirely unexpected result. . . . History has shown that complex issues like this tend to be multiyear efforts,” he said. “This is essentially the creation of a multibillion-dollar industry for the state of Maryland. . . . If a study helps do that, then, you know, the governor is eager to use the results to bring the bill up again next year.”
O’Malley’s setback on wind power came as the House of Delegates took a step forward Thursday on a scaled-down version of another core element of O’Malley’s agenda.