Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s final scheduled bill signing ceremony came and went Thursday with no word on what he plans to do about legislation that would delay — and perhaps effectively kill — a proposed wind farm in Somerset County.
While O’Malley (D) has no more signing ceremonies planned, aides said that state constitution gives him until the end of next week to decide whether to veto the legislation, as environmentalist have urged, or to allow it to become law.
“The governor has not made a final decision on the bill,” spokeswoman Nina Smith told reporters following a morning ceremony at which O’Malley signed more than 200 other bills passed during the legislative session that ended last month.
At issue is a proposed wind farm with 25 towering turbines in Somerset County that would mean hundreds of construction jobs and extra cash for struggling farmers. But just across the Chesapeake Bay in Southern Maryland is the Patuxent River Naval Air Station, home to a highly sensitive radar system that tests the stealthiness of fighter jets and would be compromised by towering, whirling turbines.
After more than two years of meetings with military leaders, the wind farm developers thought they had reached a compromise: protect the radar capabilities by simply turning the turbines off during test flights.
But in the final days of the legislative session, lawmakers voted to delay all wind projects of a certain height within 46 miles of the base until June 2015 — effectively killing plans for the Great Bay Wind Center. Those backing the bill included U.S. House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and a coalition of Southern Maryland lawmakers who voiced concern that the military was not doing enough to protect its “Pax River” assets.
Proponents of the project, meanwhile, argue that the legislation could scare away wind developers and taint O’Malley’s reputation as a dedicated environmentalist as he contemplates a run for the White House.
Among the bills that did get O’Malley’s signature Thursday are a measure granting anti-discrimination protections to transgender people in the areas of housing, employment and public accommodations and four bills pushed by legislative leaders that are designed to improve the state’s economic development climate.
A progressive group had urged O’Malley to veto one of those four that provides a break in the estate tax.